CLEMSON, S.C. — It took 19-year-old quarterback Deshaun Watson just one game to start rewriting the Clemson record book.
Watson, a Gainesville High graduate, set a school mark with six touchdown passes and his 435 yards passing were the second best day in Clemson history as the Tigers (2-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) beat North Carolina 50-35 on Saturday night. The last quarterback to throw six touchdowns against North Carolina was Boston College's Doug Flutie in 1984.
The six touchdowns also tied an ACC record. Asked his favorite scoring throw, Watson hesitated, then admitted he couldn't recall them all.
"If I sit down and think about it I can. But not off the top of my head," Watson said.
For North Carolina (2-2, 0-1), the defensive woes and mistakes continue. The Tar Heels gave up 528 yards, and have allowed their opponents to gain more than 500 yards in the past three games.
North Carolina coach Larry Fedora wanted to make Watson beat him with his arm. The freshman did just that.
"If we could stop the run and make them one-dimensional, we'd have a shot at winning the football game," Fedora said. "But you can't give up those big plays."
Watson's second play was a 74-yard TD pass to Germone Hopper. He also threw touchdown passes of 50, 33, 33, 24 and 5 yards.
"You kidding me?" coach Dabo Swinney said when asked about Watson's night. "Six touchdowns in your first career start? Just amazing. He makes the game look easy."
Watson played on Sept. 27 last year too, leading his high school in Gainesville, Georgia, to a 41-point win. He enrolled at Clemson in January and coach Swinney made sure he got significant playing time in the Tigers' first three games. He took the majority of the snaps in last week's overtime loss to No. 1 Florida State and Swinney tapped him as the starter before the team left Tallahassee.
Offensive coordinator Chad Morris is keeping his usually expansive playbook simple for Watson. His instructions are for the freshman to go out and make things happen and don't be afraid to throw the deep ball.
"I'm not going to screw him up. We're going to do what he can do. And the thing he can do is play fast. He can make plays for you," Morris said.
Mike Williams had six catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns for Clemson, which has scored 49 or more points in five of its last 10 ACC games.
Artavis Scott had eight catches for 66 yards and a touchdown and Hopper caught three passes for 139 yards and two TDs.
Ammon Lakip hit a 27-yard and a 45-yard field goal. Swinney stuck with the junior kicker after he missed two field goals in last week's loss.
If there was one bit of bad news for Clemson, it was their running game. The Tigers rushed for just 92 yards, and are averaging just under 94 yards a game in their three games against Football Subdivision teams.
Saturday's game was a bit better for North Carolina, who gave up school records with 70 points and 789 yards in a loss to East Carolina last week. This week, the Tar Heels tried to set a school record with 15 penalties, one off the school record, losing 130 yards, which was 20 yards away from their worst game ever.
"We've got a lot of issues. We're still working on a young offensive line," Fedora said. "They're not the only problem. We have a lot of problems."
Marquise Williams was 24-of-38 for 345 yards for North Carolina and threw to 13 different receivers. Elijah Hood ran 13 times for 71 yards.
Watson took over as starter from senior Cole Stout. Swinney promised Stout would play, but he took just four snaps before Morris asked him to go back in late in the fourth quarter because the game seemed out of hand and he wanted to rest Watson, who was just 21 yards from beating Tajh Boyd's single-game passing record.
After the game, Swinney was asked who his starter would be next week against North Carolina State.
"Really?" he said, his eyes growing wide.