Try as I might, the hashtag #c’mondeshaun failed to trend. Deshaun Watson had a similar Herculean effort fall in vain as he broke Vince Young’s record for total yards (478). Alabama won 45-40 despite Watson’s brilliance, and without having the best player on the field (sorry Derrick Henry).
Alabama won yet another national championship, now four in seven years, all under Nick Saban. However they still weren’t clearly the better team. They made plays when they needed to, but the Clemson attack led by Watson was the more relenting and the less challenged of the two. The Tiger defense also bottled up Henry for the majority of the game, save for two big runs.
The real story was Watson and a Clemson offense that I wasn’t sure wouldn’t suffer the same fate as Michigan State. Maybe the only certainty given Clemson’s underdog status was that few had actually seen them play. Sure, I had a little, but just like FSU the past few years much stock can’t be put into blowing out the likes of NC State and Wake Forest. Yes, the ACC has lost credibility in my mind, as it should.
What Watson did with less (a receiving corps so depleted he threw 2 touchdown passes to a walk-on) reminded me of the Patriots’ injury struggles and what a Thomas Brady has done in a similar spot. Clemson’s receiving corps is always loaded and this year is no exception but it is tough to not envision how this game plays out with Mike Williams at receiver and a healthy Shaq Lawson, not to mention shutdown corner Mackensie Alexander essentially missing the entire contest.
Both sides of the ball held up fine in the end, but Watson’s play amazed me for a different reason. In a spread attack against a brick wall of a defensive line, it quickly became apparent the ball would be in Deshaun’s hands every play. The running game was abandoned eventually, in fact later than it should’ve been. The wear and tear on Watson had to be insurmountable but he made throw after throw and scrambled for first downs when he had to, converting on third down time and time again.
As much as I was a believer he would’ve been deserving of the Heisman this year, not convincingly, I am now. And thankfully he’ll get his shot next year with Christian McCaffrey in what will be a hotly contested race.
What I really want to do, and often proves impossible, is to inquire into Watson’s NFL potential. Could he be the first true dual threat quarterback to experience long-term success? Mike Vick comes to mind but with a more recent batch of NFL quarterbacks, they quickly, if not immediately become dispensable. Cam Newton may be the lone wolf in that department. I never imagined guys like Vince Young and Robert Griffin (speculation) being run out of the league before their careers even began. Being a mobile quarterback takes a toll on your body which makes me glad to see Watson display poise in the pocket as a true pass-first player and to run when things break down.
With another year left, here’s to hoping Deshaun and the Tigers make another run at a national championship. This coming from a fan of another team in the Carolinas. For a fan of the sport, you had me on the edge of my seat; which is all we can really ask for.