Deshaun Watson threw for five touchdowns, including two in the final seven minutes, as fifth-ranked Clemson rallied for a 42-36 victory over No.3 Louisville on Saturday. The comeback came after the Tigers lost an 18-point lead to Lamar Jackson and the high-flying Cardinals.
The Tigers (5-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) looked like they had this one wrapped up before halftime, scoring four touchdowns in the second quarter to lead 28-10 at the break. Jackson got moving after intermission and the Cardinals (4-1, 2-1) scored on five consecutive possessions to take a 36-28 lead with 7:50 left on the game clock.
Artavis Scott began Clemson’s comeback with a 77-yard kickoff return, and Watson found Mike Williams for a 20-yard scoring pass two plays later. Clemson forced Louisville to punt for the only time in the second half and Watson guided the game-winning drive, ending on a 31-yard TD catch by Jordan Leggett.
Jackson had one last surge, leading Louisville to Clemson’s 9. But James Quick was knocked out of bounds by safety Van Smith on fourth down with 33 seconds left to seal the win.
The victory signaled that Watson’s slow start is over. Nationally, many thought he was a victim of the preseason Heisman hype.
Watson’s late heroics reminded me of last season when he was at his best when his offense needed him to come up big. He came up big and quick in the second quarter when he had touchdown drives that took two, one, three, and four plays. Yes, at one point Clemson scored three touchdowns in six plays. And Watson came through late after the Cardinals took their fourth-quarter lead.
As productive as Watson was, Jackson was even more productive. Louisville’s signal-caller registered 447 yards of total offense. Jackson threw for 295 yards and ran for 162 more yards.
Clemson escaped and now controls its own destiny in regards to a national playoff berth in the surprisingly strong ACC this year.
Tar Heels Have A Quarterback
Just in case you missed it, Mitch Trubisky is turning out to be a pretty good quarterback for North Carolina. In the Florida State victory last week, Trubisky completed 31 of 38 passes for 405 yards and three scores. He also ran for another touchdown. Over the past three weeks he has averaged 430 yards and 3.6 TDs per game.
Don’t Count Miami Out
I would not rule out a run by Miami in the ACC. The Hurricanes took care of Georgia Tech last week by a 35-21 count. The U is now 4-0 under Mark Richt, the first time it has reached that mark under a new coach since 2001 with Larry Coker. That team went 12-0 and won the national championship.
SEC fans remember how successful Richt was when he first took over the Georgia program over a decade ago.
A Team Of Destiny
Tennessee is 5-0 for the first time since its 13-0 national championship season in 1998. This 5-0 start, however, was unlikely as impressive as the 1998 start. The Volunteers have rallied from a double-digit deficit in four of their five wins, including three such deficits that lasted well into the second half. The most improbable of Tennessee’s comebacks occurred Saturday night in one of the wildest endings in college football history. The Vols had virtually no chance to win after Georgia scored a touchdown and took a three-point lead with 10 seconds remaining. After a short kickoff and a penalty on the Bulldogs, Joshua Dobbs heaved the ball 43 yards for a game-winning Hail Mary touchdown as time expired.
As I mentioned, that wasn’t Tennessee’s only improbable comeback this season; the Vols trailed by 21 against Florida, 14 against Virginia Tech and 10 against Appalachian State.
Comparably, the 2015 Vols, who finished 9-4, might actually have been better than their 2016 counterparts. In 2015, Tennessee often dominated but struggled to put teams away. The Vols’ four losses were by a combined 17 points, and they had the ball with a chance to win in all of those games.
It is easy to see that Tennessee is back in the national limelight but it has a tough couple of weeks coming up. The Vols will travel to Texas A&M this week before hosting Alabama the following week.
I Love These Chains
Notre Dame lost to Duke, who turned around and lost to Virginia, who opened the season by losing to Richmond, who lost to Stony Brook, who, as Duke was beating Notre Dame, lost to Sacred Heart 38-0. So, if you’re a Sacred Heart Pioneer fan, feel free to tell your Irish mates that Sacred Heart is better than Notre Dame.
Phots: Deshaun Watson; Mitch Trubisky; Joshua Dobbs