Watson throws for 3 TDs in No. 5 Clemson’s 34-17 victory
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Deshaun Watson finally had the performance many had expected from the Heisman Trophy candidate all season.
The Clemson quarterback passed for three touchdowns and a season-best 420 yards, helping the fifth-ranked Tigers roll over Boston College’s top-ranked defense for a 34-17 victory Saturday night.
Watson came into the season with high expectations piled on his shoulders. Voted the favorite to take Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year this summer, Watson was on the short list for the game’s biggest individual prize.
His play has been steady, but without the ”wow” moments – until Boston College.
Watson hit touchdown throws of 21 yards to Zac Brooks, 6 yards to Jordan Leggett and a spectacular, high-arching ball to Artavis Scott from 51 yards out – and all against the best statistical defense in the country.
”Not every team can say they’re playing the No. 1 (defense) in the country,” Watson said. ”We wanted to score points and show them what we had.”
Clemson finished with 532 yards against an Eagles defense that came in allowing just 140 yards per game. Boston College hadn’t allowed so many yards since losing the Independence Bowl to Arizona State after the 2013 season.
Watson added a rushing touchdown and the Tigers improved to 6-0 (3-0 ACC) for the third time in five seasons. Watson finished 27-of-41 and Scott had 10 catches for 162 yards.
”Man, we came alive,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
The Eagles (3-4) opened 0-4 in league play for the first time since 2012, when they finished 1-7 in the ACC. Jeff Smith, Boston College’s first true freshman to start since Chase Rettig in 2010, struggled throughout to move the offense against Clemson’s defense.
Smith finished 7-of-22 for 87 yards and a 1-yard touchdown run in the game’s final two minutes.
”I thought we came out hard, playing hard,” Boston College coach Steve Addazio said. ”I thought we made some strides in certain areas. We thought we could move the ball against a great defense.”
Instead, it was Clemson’s defense, which ended last year No. 1 overall, that proved to be better.
”I definitely think we made that case,” Clemson safety Jayron Kearse said.
Watson was far from perfect – he threw two interceptions that led to the Eagles’ first 10 points – and was off target on his long throws early on. Still, the sophomore steadied himself and led the Tigers to their 34th straight win over an unranked opponent and a school-record 14th consecutive win at Death Valley.
Watson’s long scoring throw to Scott in the third quarter was a perfectly lofted pass that the speedy receiver easily ran under and brought into the end zone.
Watson ended up 15 yards shy of his career-best 435 yards passing in a win over North Carolina last season in his first Clemson start.
”I was just really amped up,” he said. ”I settled down in the second half and had fun.”
The first interception by Justin Simmons set up the Eagles on Clemson’s 20 and they quickly cashed in on Smith’s 5-yard TD pass to Bobby Wolford.
Linebacker Steven Daniels had the other right before halftime, leading to Mike Knoll’s 21-yard field goal that drew the Eagles to within 17-10 at the half.
Clemson has spent all but one week of the season so far at home. Things will toughen up the next several weeks. The Tigers play at Miami and at North Carolina State the following two weeks before returning home Nov. 7 for a showdown with undefeated Florida State.
Swinney said the Tigers are gaining momentum and respect with each victory. ”You get what you earn,” he said. ”If we take care of business, we’ll be just fine.”