Prior to last Saturday’s win at Auburn, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Mike Williams had not been on the field for an entire game since the Tigers’ win over archrival South Carolina on November 29, 2014.
In that game, the two connected three times for 59 yards as Clemson rolled to a 35-17 victory that afternoon in Death Valley. The two connected for a touchdown on the Tigers’ opening drive in the 2015 season-opener, but Williams injured his neck on the play and was lost for the entire season.
With Watson’s freakish injuries in 2014, and then Williams’ neck injury last year, the Watson-to-Williams connection has occurred in just seven games in the previous two years. In those seven games the two hooked up a total of 20 times for 457 yards and five touchdowns, an average of 22.9 yards per play.
“It is always good to have Mike out there as you have seen before,” Watson said on Monday.
It was definitely good in No. 2 Clemson’s win at Auburn. Watson found his 6-foot-4 target nine times for 174 yards in the 19-13 victory.
“This past weekend he showed he is a ball player. He makes plays. He is another talent on the field that defenses have to worry about,” Watson said.
Williams’ nine catches matched a career-high he set in the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl against Oklahoma, while the 174 yards set a high mark, too.
“We have so much depth and so many guys that are capable of making those plays, but having him back with his leadership and his experience has been great,” Watson said.
When he needed a big play, Watson was not afraid to look for Williams. The biggest perhaps came late in the fourth quarter when he found the junior for a 20-yard gain on a big third-down play that kept a drive alive and allowed the Tigers to take another minute and 30 seconds off the clock.
The play was a throw to Williams’ back shoulder on the near sideline. It was the two’s bread-and-butter play the entire game. Watson went to the back-shoulder fade five times to Williams, completing four of them as each went for big gains on crucial plays.
“It just depends on what the DB is trying to do. He has to make a decision to play over top or play behind,” Watson said. “It is just something over the course of the spring, summer and even training camp we worked on. It just depends on what the corner is doing.”
Whatever was happening, it worked and it played a big role in why the Tigers escaped Jordan-Hare with a victory last Saturday night. It’s a connection Clemson is glad to finally have again.
“It is a good way of connecting together and making sure that we were on the same page,” Watson said.