Deshaun Watson looked like an elite QB versus NC State
The Clemson Tigers are one step closer to where they want to be at the end of the season after a high-scoring win over NC State. Not only was the win critical for the Tigers’ playoff hopes because it kept them undefeated, but it involved a breakout performance from their quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Watson put on the performance of his season so far, throwing for a gaudy 381 yards and 5 TDs without any interceptions and producing by far his highest game grade of the year (+6.4). Watson had very few poor throws in the entire game, and almost no poor decisions aside from a fumble in the red zone which he quickly recovered.
The deep ball was his best friend against the Wolfpack (he was an excellent 6 of 7 for 231 yards and 4 TDs on throws of 20-plus yards), and it showed up when the Tigers needed it the most. NC State had just scored on a drive in the third quarter to make it a 5-point game, and momentum was starting to tip in their favor. Watson responded by leading a drive that would culminate in the throw of the game. Watson threw a 40-yard bomb to WR Deon Cain (+1.0) in which the receiver never broke stride. Wolfpack CB Jack Tocho (-1.4) could not have had much better positioning on the route, it was simply too good of a throw to stop and the Tigers were able to retake the momentum.
Although Watson’s arm was impressive, his legs helped propel the offense as well. He had 60 yards and 1 TD one the ground, with all but one of those plays coming on designed runs. RB Wayne Gallman (+1.5) helped carry the load on the ground, with 170 yards on 31 carries and 1 TD. He forced an impressive 12 missed tackles on the day, and led the rushing attack early and often to open up many of the plays Watson made later in the game.
Watson has been good so far this season, only earning one negative grade through eight games so far, but this was an outstanding performance by him. He didn’t just rack up big numbers – many of his throws, particularly his deep passes, were pinpoint accurate. This is the kind of game that puts him in the discussion of the nation’s elite players, and offers promise that Clemson is one of the top contenders to make the College Football Playoff.
The Tigers’ explosiveness was on full display Saturday night, but with big games looming ahead, including Florida State next week, they will need to keep their offense rolling. Florida State’s athleticism on defense is a step up from NC State, so Watson must continue his superb play.