Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said after the Tigers’ opening loss at Georgia in August that the moment wasn’t too big for true freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Watson, a Gainesville High graduate, shined on an even bigger stage Saturday night.
He entered then-No. 22 Clemson’s game at top-ranked Florida State late in the first quarter and never came back out of the contest in a 23-17 overtime loss.
Watson was 19 of 28 passing for 266 yards while also tallying 12 carries for 30 yards and a touchdown. His 2-yard touchdown run pushed the Tigers to a 17-10 lead with 11:44 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The freshman’s presence gave Clemson a boost. The Tigers totaled 70 yards on three drives without scores before Watson took the field. They finished with 407 total offensive yards, 89 more than the Seminoles.
His first drive Saturday covered 10 plays and 75 yards to set up a field goal that tied the contest 3-all early in the second quarter.
Watson had four completions of at least 20 yards. Two went to Germone Hopper (24 and 28 yards), with the other two to Mike Williams (33 and 39 yards).
Watson’s go-ahead touchdown run in the fourth quarter came on the play after his 39-yard pass to Williams.
The freshman from Gainesville had played in each of the Tigers’ previous two games, the loss to Georgia and a victory against South Carolina State.
Clemson (1-2, 0-1 ACC) hosts Atlantic Coast Conference opponent North Carolina at 7 p.m. Saturday. The Tar Heels are coming off a 70-41 loss at East Carolina, which entered the Associate Press Top 25 at No. 23 on Sunday. The Tigers fell out of the poll for the first time this season.