Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?


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Lawrence chases down Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson
Lawrence chases down Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson

Early in the hours of Sunday morning, long after the fans and teams had left Jordan-Hare Stadium, tired and sleepy members of the media trudged out of the press box, fought for elevator space with workers transporting seat backs from the upper levels of the stadium, and made the long walk back to their cars.

We were lucky enough to be picked up by a media shuttle and as I rode back to the parking space near the Auburn softball fields, I looked at social media and was shocked to see hundreds if not thousands of Clemson fans still awake at 3 a.m. Not only were they awake, they were angry. Mad. Frustrated. Irate. Throw your own word in there.

Head coach Dabo Swinney’s decision to not kick a field goal late in the 19-13 win over Auburn created a firestorm of emotion. What I couldn’t get my head around – and maybe I was too tired to really get it – was that it was a moot point. We will never know for sure what the right call would have been. The field goal could have been blocked. The snap could have been fumbled. The field goal could have been good. We will never know for sure, and Swinney’s decision – whether you like it or not – worked.

I think the debate over the call has overshadowed some of the things we saw and some of the moments that mattered, including the fact that Clemson went into a hostile road environment and came out victorious. There were mistakes aplenty. The play calling was perplexing at times. There were mental miscues and drops and Clemson got lucky in the fact that Auburn’s coaching seemed even more perplexing (what in heck is Gus Malzahn thinking?).

It was also the first game of the season, when mistakes are a common occurrence. There are no preseason games in college football, and coaches never really know what they have until the scoreboard turns for real. Clemson escaped a road SEC environment against a determined and talented opponent (at least on SEC) that has coaches that make a lot of money and happen to recruit very well.

The big questions now are can they get those things fixed and can they get quarterback Deshaun Watson back into some kind of groove? They have two weeks before a short week trip to Atlanta and a Thursday night date with Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech.

Some other thoughts:

*I wonder if some of Watson’s troubles didn’t stem from the fact that Cam Newton was in attendance. Watson is friends with Newton and looks up to him, and it would be understandable if he wanted to impress the one quarterback he really looks up to. When Watson threw the touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow he pointed at Newton, so he was very well aware of Newton’s presence.

*Brent Venables’ defense was better than I expected. This group is fast, and I think it has a chance to be good when it’s all said and done. There were some blips – pass interference penalty, the late hit out of bounds and the problems at the end of the game – but they held Auburn to under 100 yards rushing and just three of 17 third down conversions. And there were 13 tackles for loss.

*Dexter Lawrence is going to be fun to watch. It was evident early in the game he was going to be a force, and it didn’t look like the moment fazed him in any way. In the postgame interview area, Lawrence was all smiles (he has a baby face to go with his large frame) and looked very much like a kid who had just opened a new toy.

*The team word for the game was “dominate.” The Tigers didn’t dominate offensively, and a lot of that had to do with what Auburn was doing defensively. Kevin Steele ran more man coverage than I’ve seen him run in the past, and it took a while for Clemson to adjust. Once they did, the throws to Mike Williams were open and Watson and company took advantage. Williams dominated. The rest of the offense has to catch up.

*Speaking of Williams, he put the rest of the country on notice that he wants to be the best wide receiver in the country this season. Even Williams had a few moments, however. A fumble on third down and a dropped pass in the end zone were just as important as some of the other gaffes.

*For the record, I get the fans’ disappointment. Clemson has been a media darling since the end of last season, and when you get that kind of love it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you are going to win every game by three touchdowns. And then, when your team plays a tight game against a talented opponent, it’s a bit of a wakeup call. This team isn’t the best team in the country right now. But it’s week one.

*This game was eerily reminiscent of the game at Louisville last season. Even the stats were similar, and that game seemed to serve as a catalyst for Clemson’s offense. Perhaps this one will do the same. The coaches have plenty of tape to show the offense that they aren’t the best in the country, and it’s not even close.


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Subject (Replies: 51) Author
spacer New Story: Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?
TigerNet News
spacer Re: New Story: Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?
TennesseeLadyTiger®
spacer Glad we got the win, still think we should have kicked the field goal though!***
Clemson_Orange
spacer Let it go!!!!
TigerSilas
spacer Re: Let it go!!!!
spoon501
spacer Re: Let it go!!!!
PetesPonies
spacer Re: New Story: Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?
lhaselden
spacer USC has started in the top 25 polls...
ClemsonTiger1988®
spacer Impatient Fans
ptctiger93
spacer a win is a win and I understand why the decision was made in
ragtop
spacer Re: New Story: Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?
ClemKing
spacer The message to the field goal team is
TigerSilas
spacer ^^^ Eactly ^^^***
Tiger8693
spacer heres the rub with your argument
sbrooks®
spacer That removes any hope of a first down.
ClemsonTiger1988®
spacer Gallman probably has a pretty sizeable sense
vlastimil_hort
spacer Re: heres the rub with your argument
clemson7024
spacer Wow on that picture
thollin
spacer Here's why I was ticked about the no FG:
FootballFan36
spacer So proud of our Tigers
HJ4CU
spacer Hey, we stole our special teams coach from Duke....snicker***
41rcook
spacer From 23 would have been a 40 yard FG, not a chip shot.***
josephg®
spacer Re: From 23 would have been a 40 yard FG, not a chip shot.***
PAWsitively AllIn
spacer Re: From 23 would have been a 40 yard FG, not a chip shot.***
OneJedi
spacer Re: Here's why I was ticked about the no FG:
1273carson
spacer Re: New Story: Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?
pracey
spacer Auburn was 3 of 17 on 3rd down conversions ... but
apextiger®
spacer Re: New Story: Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?
OwRhAiNtGeE
spacer Re: New Story: Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?
OwRhAiNtGeE
spacer Re: New Story: Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?
tigerinaiken®
spacer As stagnant as we were
JGT®
spacer Re: New Story: Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?
I bleed orange
spacer Cam needs to just worry about the panthers.
tigerrag100
spacer No, Cam was there to support DW4.***
CoolBreeze864
spacer Re: No, Cam was there to support DW4.***
OneJedi
spacer This is why teams used to open with nothing but cupcakes
Tim317®
spacer Re: New Story: Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?
Cryptidcat
spacer I'm with you David on not kicking the field goal being a
Tiger5
spacer I think Auburn being in the backfield every snap distracted DW.
Hi Cotton Tiger®
spacer Re: New Story: Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?
powerman®
spacer Re: New Story: Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?
BerlinSPY73®
spacer Re: New Story: Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?
allorangeallthetime52®
spacer Re: New Story: Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?
N507114
spacer Clemson's Offense
Prime T. Tiger
spacer Re: Clemson's Offense
N507114
spacer The Cam Newton hate continues...LOL
JeffersonStTiger
spacer Qeusrionable call was 3rd down
RC Tiger®
spacer Re: New Story: Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?
1273carson
spacer Re: New Story: Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?
jdtiger98
spacer Re: New Story: Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?
N507114
spacer call timeout before 3rd down run
njones63®
spacer Re: New Story: Monday thoughts: Did Newton's presence distract Watson?
dabreeze71
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