With game on the line, Watson clutch in fourth quarter yet again
TAMPA, Fla. — They were standing on the national championship stage together, a coach and his quarterback, when Dabo Swinney grabbed Deshaun Watson for one more moment between just the two of them.
“I said, ‘I love you,’” Swinney revealed after the game.
“I said, ‘Man, this is what you came here to do, and so proud of you. We did it.’”
It was Swinney and Watson’s plan all along for the Tigers to go out on top in Watson’s final game of his Clemson career, and indeed they did. A 35-31 win over Alabama in the national championship did the trick with Watson going down as one of the heroes.
With one second remaining on the clock, the quarterback unleashed a perfect throw to Hunter Renfrow in the right corner of the end zone to win the game and deliver Clemson its first title since 1981.
The stadium erupted and Clemson fans were sent into a frenzy, but for the Tigers players on the sidelines, no one was surprised.
By now, they’re used to what has become a common theme: Watson is the most clutch in the tightest of situations. He owns the fourth quarter.
“When the offense is on the field and the ball’s in No. 4’s hands, we’ve got a lot of trust in him. We’re very confident that he’s going to take care of business and that’s what he did,” said Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware.
“You won’t play with a better guy than No. 4 and the rest of the guys on our team”
In Monday night’s championship game, in the final 15 minutes alone, Watson threw for 120 yards and two touchdowns, including one to Mike Williams before the game-winner to Renfrow.
On the night, the quarterback passed for 420 yards total, meaning nearly 30 percent of his total production came in the fourth quarter by itself. Of his 12 fourth quarter completions, three were good for double-digit yardage pickup.
The same sentiment rang true for Watson this time a season ago, when in a 45-40 loss to Alabama in that title game, he torched the Crimson Tide in the fourth with two touchdown passes. One was a 15-yard pass to Artavis Scott. The other a 24-yard pass to Jordan Leggett in the final 12 seconds.
It was that performance that prompted Alabama coach Nick Saban to call Watson the best quarterback in the country.
And Monday, Watson pulled through with the late-game heroics one last time for good measure.
“I couldn’t hear the crowd. I couldn’t really – I was just in my zone. I just felt just at peace,” Watson said of his mindset before the biggest throw of his life delivered Clemson the title.
“At that moment – honestly, it’s like a blur ... It just happened so fast. It’s just incredible.”