Watson all smiles after the win over Louisville
|Monday, October 3, 2016, 7:01 AM- -|
A banged up right knee.
Still, Deshaun Watson was all smiles after Clemson’s 42-36 win over Louisville on Saturday night.
Watson had four turnovers – there also was a fumble – but the junior quarterback and the Tigers found a way to overcome those mistakes to win the top-five showdown with the Cardinals.
“It’s great. It just shows, even with the hiccups, how good we are and how good we can be,” Watson said. “Things like that happen, but we battled through it, and it’s what we believe in. We believe in winning regardless of the adversity.”
And there was plenty of adversity.
Clemson led 28-10 at the half only to see Louisville score 26 straight points to lead 36-28 with 7:52 to play. Watson and the Tigers responded, however, two scoring drives in the final 7:05, and the defense held off the Cardinals on fourth down deep in the Tigers’ territory.
“It was fun, just playing, in general,” Watson said. “You get 12 opportunities a year. We put in so much work in the offseason and just throughout the week just for this one moment. We had a great time. You gotta enjoy it because we love what we do; we’ve been doing it our whole lives.
“Who wouldn’t enjoy moments like this?”
Watson finished with five touchdown passes, including one to Mike Williams with 7:05 left and one to Jordan Leggett for the lead with 3:14 to play. The Tigers’ quarterback completed 20-of-31 passes for 306 yards.
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson did his part, as well, to make the game live up to the pregame hype. He completed 27-of-44 passes for 295 yards and rushed for 162 yards. Jackson accounted for three touchdowns, two rushing and one passing.
“That’s for the fans and the media and people to talk about,” Watson said of the pregame talking focusing on himself and Jackson. “My focus was trying to get a win, finding a way to win. We knew that their team was very good, and they were going to come hard and play and try to take it away from us. But at the end of the day, we got the W, so I was just going to do my job and try to get a W.”
Watson has gotten plenty of wins during his time with the Tigers, and many of those have been in showcase games. This one may have included the most adversity, including a little bit of a knee problem in the second half, but the Tigers recovered to score the game’s final 14 points and remain undefeated.
“Here’s what’s great about (Saturday),” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “A lot of adversity. You’ve got balls that are tipped, perfect throws, interceptions, it’s a crazy thing. You throw a touchdown pass to Leggett, he gets a fumble, but they kept playing. We always talk about just play the next play. But at the end of the day, us coaches get way too much credit. This is a game. Players make plays. That’s how you win football games.
“We didn’t make enough of them in the third quarter. I love my staff because they put the players in position to be successful in the fourth quarter when you have to have it. ‘Clemson tough.’ We’re built for this. We’re built for games like this. Those guys have got the heart of a champion, and they showed it (Saturday). I love my staff, love my team, love these fans. This is what it’s all about. It doesn’t get much better than this.”
Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Midday Sports Zone on Middle Georgia’s ESPN, 93.1 FM and 99.5 FM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at macon.com/peachsports