The Clemson Tigers earned bragging rights over their instate rivals, the South Carolina Gamecocks, with a 35-17 victory in Death Valley last Saturday. The Tigers earned the victory behind the gritty performance of Deshaun Watson and a few other freshman on offense.
Watson, who left Clemson’s game at Georgia Tech with what was ruled a sprained PCL and bone bruise, was Clemson’s biggest talking point going into the game, because of the question of whether he would be able to play against the Gamecocks or not. Watson was upgraded to probable Friday and then announced the starter on Saturday morning. Watson went on to throw for 269 yards and 2 touchdowns, while rushing for 13 yards with 2 touchdowns.
After the game, it was revealed that Watson had torn his ACL in practice, and the the brace he was wearing was acting as an ACL for him. Coach Dabo Swinney praised Clemson’s medical crew for being able to outfit Watson and getting him game ready. It was noticeable that Clemson limited Watson’s running on Saturday. The Tigers utilized a wildcat package with Wayne Gallman and Artavis Scott taking turns in the shotgun. Watson’s 2 touchdowns were short, goal line runs.
Watson wasn’t the only freshman to step up for the Tigers, though. Gallman pounded the Gamecocks for 191 yards and a touchdown, while Scott tallied 185 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. Scott’s 2 touchdowns and the bulk of his receiving yards came on a 2 forward pitch jet sweep plays where Artavis took one for 53 yards and one for 70 yards.
The Tigers D held SC’s offense to 17 points and 63 rushing yards. Clemson sacked QB Dylan Thompson 5 times on the day. The Tigers finish the regular season at 9-3 with a 6-2 ACC record, and will learn of their bowl destination on Sunday. Georgia Tech’s victory over Georgia makes it a lot harder for Clemson to jump them in the race for an Orange Bowl bid, so most projections have the Tigers in Orlando, either playing in the Russell Athletic Bowl or in the Citrus Bowl. Watson will have surgery after the Tigers’ bowl game, and will be playing in whichever game they are selected for.