If the Tigers’ 56-7 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks did indeed mark Watson’s final game at Death Valley, at least his Memorial Stadium swan song was perhaps the most complete performance of his college career, a career that has been defined by consistency.
Going 27-33 for 347 yards and six touchdowns, Watson was practically flawless through the air, producing touchdown drive after touchdown drive at will. Watson was pulled from the game with Clemson leading 49-7 in the third quarter, but not before he strung together his most efficient outing of 2016.
The bevy of NFL-caliber wide receivers at Watson’s disposal aided in his jaw-dropping stat line, but the poise and intelligence with which the junior gunslinger performed has solidified him as one of the greatest Tigers of all time. The presence that he showcases in the pocket is purely natural for Watson, yet totally unnatural in general, as it is an innate skill befitting of an uncommon talent.
Highlights plays have been mainstays of Watson’s career at Clemson, only adding to the lore of the DW4 legend. Despite the cascade of attention, both locally and nationally, his football acumen and consistency have gone largely underappreciated. History has shown that defeating USC three consecutive times is not a simple task, but Watson has done so with ease, stamping a legacy on the longstanding rivalry.
Under the brightest of spotlights, Watson has lived up to the billing and then some, and Saturday’s near-perfect showing was no exception. Surpassing 100 career touchdowns, of both the passing and rushing variety, something that only two other ACC quarterbacks have done, Watson flashed the impeccable brilliance that has etched his name permanently into the monument of Clemson football legends.
Arguably no college quarterback in recent memory has played as consistently well from start to (near) finish of a career like Watson has. Yes, the tools are all there. Speed, agility, accuracy and arm strength. But what has allowed Deshaun Watson to lead the Tigers is his attitude. Few are as unflappable and humble as Watson, and his work ethic and commitment to winning are byproducts of that.
Aside from the dominant display by Clemson’s stars in the most meaningful game of the season, the storyline of Saturday’s drubbing was the entire team’s play from start to finish. A marvelous four-quarter showing, the Tigers fed off of Watson’s consistency by being sound in all three phases of the game.
The Tigers were 10-15 on third down and 2-2 on fourth down against the Gamecocks, and many of those conversions were of Watson’s doing. Clearly unfazed by the intensity of the moment (playing against USC in a game rife with College Football Playoff implications), Watson was as poised as ever, which has been the theme for three straight seasons.
If college football fans remember nothing else about Deshaun Watson, they should always remember his consistency. With DW4, the calm, mature demeanor off of the field translates to calm, mature play on the field. And that level-headed style of play that he is famous for has enabled him to manufacture one of the greatest college quarterbacking careers in recent memory. Consistency is vital for sustained success, and, combined with Watson’s right arm, his consistency has been the driving factor behind Clemson’s three consecutive wins over the Gamecocks.
“Deshaun (Watson) was unbelievable,” head coach Dabo Swinney said after the game. “He played lights out.”
The lights may have in fact gone out on Saturday night as far as Deshaun Watson’s career at Death Valley is concerned, and, if so, what a magical ride it was. A consistently magical ride.