By William Qualkinbush.
A week ago, Mike Williams was not having a ton of fun. He was certainly not alone.
“Everybody was frustrated,” Williams said of his brethren following last week’s loss to Georgia Tech. “The offense didn’t play one of our best games.”
Williams made no impact on the game, literally. The sophomore wideout had zero catches for the first time in 2014, and Clemson’s downfield passing game suffered the consequences.
Much was different in Saturday’s 28-0 coasting victory over Georgia State. Williams was targeted by quarterback Cole Stoudt from the outset and finished with one of his best games of the season.
Williams finished with team highs in receptions (7) and yards (87) against the Panthers. Six of those catches came prior to halftime, which coordinator Chad Morris says was part of the plan once they saw what the Panthers were doing defensively.
“A lot of it had to do with what they were giving us,” Morris said of Williams’ starring role. “So yes, we were going to take advantage of that.”
In all, Williams was targeted nine times during the afternoon. Stoudt hooked up with him for an eight-yard touchdown pass late in the first half that ended up being the final scoring play of the game.
Williams says he made a concerted effort to connect with Stoudt all week long in practice, and he thinks that effort directly paid off on the field.
“I’m just looking at Cole before every snap,” Williams said. “I’m telling him to take the little short throws and just get the ball in my hands and get a few yards. I’m telling Cole to just give me the ball when it’s one-on-one.”
Morris says he involves Williams with a bigger picture in mind. He understands the relationship between his healthiest quarterback and his most consistent deep threat and how their performances affect one another.
“We needed to get Mike going,” Morris said. “Getting Mike going develops confidence in Cole trusting in Mike. It kind of works hand-in-hand.”
After a goose egg in Atlanta, Williams’ performance in a tune-up for rivalry week was encouraging to Morris. He understands the importance of having a vertical passing threat in his scheme, and he also realizes the urgency of having that element dialed in once the Gamecocks come to town.
“We’ve stretched the field every year I’ve been here,” Morris said. “This is probably the fewest passes we’ve thrown down the field in the four years that I’ve been here, if you charted us. I think it’s important to keep people honest. We don’t have a problem going deep.”
The Georgia State game represents an opportunity for Williams to leap forward into South Carolina preparations on a positive note and with the momentum of a strong showing as the featured receiver under his belt. In retrospect, the sophomore wideout was pleased with the way Saturday’s contest prepared him to do just that.
“We needed a game like this just to get back in a rhythm,” Williams said. “We’re going to take this game and get prepared for South Carolina.”