Sometimes statistics can be overblown.
Granted, there were a couple of throws in the first quarter of No. 2 Clemson’s 19-13 win over Auburn on Saturday night that Watson knows he could have thrown better. But for the most, especially when going back and re-watching the game, you can see Watson was on point with a lot of his throws.
“I thought my performance was solid,” Watson said on Monday.
Watson, who was everyone’s favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this season, completed just 19 of 34 passes (55.9 percent) for 248 yards to go with one touchdown and one interception. Those, coupled with just 21 rushing yards on 11 carries, are not Heisman worthy numbers.
However, when going back and looking at some of his passes, Watson was throwing the ball where it needed to be. Auburn was either in good coverage and made some nice plays to break things up or the Clemson receivers dropped the pass.
Auburn also did a great job of containing Watson, not allowing him to get outside and use his legs to extend plays or have big scrambles. Watson also admitted there were very few designed runs called for him in the game because of the way Auburn was defending him.
But when things mattered the most, Watson made the plays when he had to.
On the Tigers’ final touchdown drive, following an Auburn field goal that cut the lead seven points, Watson completed 5 of 6 passes for 62 yards on the 10-play, 75-yard drive. He finished the drive with a perfect pass in the left corner of the end zone to Hunter Renfrow, who made a great catch while falling down backwards.
Auburn called an all-out blitz on the third-down play, and Watson had to throw the ball off his back foot to get it to Renfrow for the 16-yard touchdown.
“I say my best throw was the Renfrow touchdown,” Clemson’s All-American quarterback said. “I would probably say that was it.”
Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott believed Watson’s best pass came two plays before when he hit wide receiver Mike Williams right in the hands on a slant in the end zone, but Williams dropped the ball.
Williams also had his hands on a possible touchdown pass in the second quarter, but an Auburn defender was able to break the catch up and prevent the score.
“The best throw was one of the touchdowns that was dropped, going in toward their scoreboard on the left side (in the fourth quarter). I think it was a slant-and-go to Mike, and he dropped it in the bucket. That was probably his best throw, I thought,” Elliott said.
Elliott said the touchdown pass to Renfrow was the best play Watson made in the game.
“He knew that it was an all-out blitz, and he had to buy a little bit of time. He maneuvered in the pocket, he backed up and he threw the strike out there for Hunter to make a big play,” the Clemson coach said.
Watson finished the fourth quarter 6-for-7 for 82 yards as he threw a perfect back shoulder fade to Williams for 20 yards on a third-and-seven play from his own 37 with under two minutes to play. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound quarterback just got the ball away from cornerback Carlton Davis’ hands on the near sideline. Davis had perfect coverage on the play, which allowed Clemson to run off another 1:30 off the clock.
The point of all of this – Watson’s performance was solid, and in the fourth quarter, when the game was on the line, he was brilliant once again.