Deshaun Watson spent last December and January becoming a workhorse that Clemson could ride right to the national title game. Much like Clemson’s gameplan against Virginia Tech in Orlando on Saturday night, the search for the Player of the Game began and ended in his hands.
The Heisman contender played one of his best games in a tough spot. Tasked with moving the football against a Bud Foster-coached defense, Watson accounted for more than 370 yards of offense in Clemson’s 42-35 victory over Virginia Tech to earn his second consecutive ACC championship as the team’s starting quarterback.
Watson was brilliant for much of the game. He completed 23 of his 34 pass attempts for 288 yards and three touchdowns. The junior spread the wealth around, involving eight players in the passing game. The difference for Watson came on the ground. He rushed the ball 17 times for 85 yards—both team highs—and two touchdowns.
Watson muscled in from three yards out to begin the scoring, then he found Jordan Leggett for a pair of touchdowns from 21 and 10 yards away, respectively, as the Tigers built a two-score lead early in the second quarter. His second rushing touchdown—a two-yard run where he bulldozed his way into the end zone and flexed his muscles in celebration—capped a drive that was particularly Watson-centric in the third quarter. Then, when Clemson needed a score once Virginia Tech cut the lead to seven points late, Watson found Hunter Renfrow on a run-pass option for a 15-yard touchdown that capped the scoring.
For Watson, it was a fitting way to close the season, as well as his Heisman campaign. His performance on Saturday might not be quite enough to completely close the gap for the nation’s highest individual honor, but Clemson fans will probably be content with the trophy he earned on the field and held in his hands in Orlando on Saturday—the ACC Championship Trophy.
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