Without Kelly Bryant this past Saturday, Clemson might be staring at a 1-1 record and wondering what went wrong at Texas A&M.
But the second-ranked Tigers did have Kelly Bryant, and after watching the first two possessions from the sideline to start the second half, the senior came off the bench to lead the Tigers on two touchdown drives, keying Clemson’s 28-26 road-win over the Aggies.
Head coach Dabo Swinney said without Bryant’s leadership, toughness and his poise down the stretch the Tigers would have been in trouble.
“It was awesome. It was exactly what we needed in that moment. He gave us a chance,” Swinney said.
Bryant led the Tigers on back-to-back touchdown drives in the third quarter, which gave Clemson a 28-13 lead at the time. He came out and immediately hit Tee Higgins for a 50-yard gain down the sideline and then threw a dart to Doindre Overton for a touchdown.
On the next possession, he opened with a 40-yard pass to Hunter Renfrow down the sideline and then found him again on a key third down play which moved the football inside the 10-yard line. A few plays, Travis Etienne scored on a one-yard run for what turned out to the game-winning touchdown.
“I thought Kelly did a great job of just being composed and poised. He played well,” Swinney said. “Focus on your job when you play. He has been great. He has been a true example to everybody. You stay focused on the things that you control.”
Bryant finished the day 12-of-17 for 205 yards. He also ran for a game-high 54 yards and scored on a one-yard run.
“It’s a long game. On the road, there can be a lot of ups and downs, especially when you’re playing a good opponent like A&M,” Bryant said. “You’ve got to give credit to those guys. They made plays as well. Communicating on the sideline and making sure the guys stay up. We were going three-and-out for some series, so being engaged with the guys and making sure the morale is up on the sidelines.”
For a guy who led his team to the College Football Playoffs last year and now is sharing time at quarterback with a true freshman, it would have been easy for Bryant to sit off to the side and get mad, especially when Lawrence went out onto the field with those first two possessions to start the second half.
But that’s not who Kelly Bryant is.
“I just think that kind of speaks for itself. Everything in life is about how you respond,” Swinney said. “He has responded well.”
Even when others might not have, Bryant continued to believe in himself and his performance in the second half last Saturday was a prime example of that.
“There were always questions brought up about my game… I can’t do this, can’t do that. I just stayed the course and continue to just grind and just do my job. Being a leader on this offense and to continue to work.
“That’s always been my story and the story for this offense. I’ve always been questioned and doubted, but I just find the ways to get the job done.”
That is just who Kelly Bryant is.
“The way that he’s handled the situation is just a reflection of his character,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “He’s an unbelievable human being, an unbelievable young man, and he’s found a way to not let what’s going on outside around him infiltrate his mind. He’s able to stay focused and just focus on himself.”