Watson's performance was Heisman-worthy
|Sunday, December 4, 2016, 8:01 AM- -|
ORLANDO, FL – Deshaun Watson proved Saturday night why he’s the best player in college football, and he did it as Heisman Trophy frontrunner Lamar Jackson looked on from the sidelines.
Watson completed 23-of-34 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns while adding 85 yards on 17 carries on the ground. Watson became the first-ever player to capture Dr. Pepper ACC Football Championship Game MVP honors in back-to-back years and joins Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor (2008, 2010) as the only players to win MVP honors twice.
As Watson exited the field, he grabbed one media member and asked them if they would be in New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation next Saturday, but the bigger question is this: Will Watson be there?
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said the margin between Watson and all of the other players in the country isn’t even close.
“So this guy right here is the best player in the country and it ain’t close. I’ve seen it the last two years and proof is in the pudding,” Swinney said early Sunday morning. “12-1 this year. 13-0 last year in our regular seasons. There’s just nobody better. And it was on display tonight in big time, big time plays in crucial moments, the turn he made on 2nd and 19 to (Hunter) Renfrow, which was a great catch, the plays to Deon. I mean, just over and over and over. He had to really come to work with his legs tonight.”
Watson has accounted for 11 touchdowns in the last two weeks, and Swinney said when the game was on the line his junior quarterback made the plays to win the game.
“Oh, shoot. We had five touchdowns, so he was pretty consistent all night long, three passing and two rushing, I believe. But I tell you what, right there at the end of the game when you’ve got to have the first down and he went and got it to put us in victory formation, that’s about as good as it gets right there,” Swinney said. “The throw he made to Renfrow. I mean, he made big throws all night long, just critical plays. The throw to Deon, just a tremendous play and great effort by Deon as well. The play to on the last touchdown to Renfrow, zone lead concept and, you know, he read it out and then he felt the defense support from the perimeter so he took the screen and we walk in for a touchdown.
“It was a lot of moments. He rushed for 80 something yards, averaged five yards a carry. He’s been unbelievably consistent, you know. This is a guy that since October or November and now in December ain’t nobody better than this guy right here. This is championship football time and we’re here and we’re able to finish tonight. He’s the big reason why. He certainly doesn’t do it by himself, but when you’ve got a quarterback like what we got, you have you have 13-0 and 12-1 type seasons, so sure. I am glad that he’s been playing for the Tigers.”
Watson, undoubtedly knew his Heisman chances hinged on Saturday night’s performance. He told the media following the game that he came to Clemson for the biggest moments in the biggest games.
“Just coming in, just treating it like another game. It’s a one-week season,” Watson said. “And just for us, you know, just go out there and play ball. Don’t play tight. Don’t overthink the game. It’s really simple. We have been doing this our whole life, and we came to Clemson for these moments like this, playing championship games and playing on the big stage.”
Wide receiver Deon Cain said Watson has proven all of the doubters wrong time and time again.
“He deserves to win it. He's been rising up since day one,” Cain said. “Everybody doubted him, but I believe he's the best quarterback and player in the country right now.”
Tight end Jordan Leggett – who returned for his senior season to for one last run with Watson – said there’s no question who the best player in the country is.
“I don't see why he wouldn't. I think he's the best in the nation,” Leggett said. “He has one loss, so there is no reason for him not to be there.”