After taking grief repeatedly from the Ohio State crowd over his first-possession interception Saturday, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson decided it was time for some payback.
So the first time he scored, he gave the Buckeye cheering section a prolonged, "Shush" motion, holding index finger to lips. On another touchdown, he faked shooting a bow-and-arrow. Later still, he did a "hold down the house" signal he learned from watching LeBron James.
Watson said after this 31-0 blowout of Ohio State that he knows James is a Buckeyes fan, so he couldn’t resist.
For most of this season Watson has come off as super-serious and understated, almost to the point that others have wondered if the joy was lacking in his last season of college football.
Let the good times roll: As former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith always said, it’s so hard to get into the end zone you’ve earned the right to bask in the celebration.
As former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith always said, it’s so hard to get into the end zone you’ve earned the right to bask in the celebration.
Watson ran for two touchdowns and threw for another. He was far from perfect Saturday, having thrown two interceptions. But that didn’t stop Clemson coach Dabo Swinney from repeating (as he does after nearly every game) that he believes Watson is the best player in college football.
You know who might endorse that? Alabama coach Nick Saban, whose team the Tigers will face in a second consecutive championship game Jan. 9 in Tampa. Saban said before the season started that, based on last season’s 45-40 victory over the Tigers, that Watson is the best college quarterback since the Panthers’ Cam Newton at Auburn.
Suddenly, those months-old quotes from Saban take on extra heft. So I asked Watson post-game if he felt like the dominant player Saban described.
My job is to make good decisions whenever adversity hits, make sure all my guys are poised and calm – and make sure I’m poised and calm, because they go the way I go.
"I appreciate Nick Saban for the compliment," Watson said. "I just try to play my best and win games.
"My job is to make good decisions whenever adversity hits, make sure all my guys are poised and calm – and make sure I’m poised and calm, because they go the way I go."
Watson said he always keeps a smile on his face. That’s the one thing I might disagree with about his self-description. There were times this season when he looked like all the expectation was getting to him.
Former Duke star Mike Gminski said he empathized with Deshaun Watson because nothing short of greatness would be the standard.
I’m not alone in that opinion. Former Charlotte Hornets and Duke center Mike Gminski called me a couple of months ago, reacting to a column I wrote off Clemson’s narrow victory over Louisville. Mike shared that his senior season at Duke was never as joyful as it should have been because he was expected to be so good at basketball every single game.
Gminski said he empathized with Watson because nothing short of greatness would be the standard.
Watson said Saturday he had no problem not winning the Heisman Trophy, that he felt Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson earned that honor. Watson’s team is still in the running for the national championship, and only two teams can say that.
Wasn’t it just destined this is how it would turn out? A rematch of a national championship game that was as compelling as any in recent memory ...
Wasn’t it just destined this is how it would turn out? A rematch of a national championship game that was as compelling as any in recent memory: Clemson’s collection of offensive weapons versus the suffocating defense that has been Alabama’s trademark under Saban.
Good as the undefeated Crimson Tide is, Swinney sounds confident so long as No. 4 is under center at Clemson.
"He’s a winner. He’s 31-3" as a starter, Swinney reminded. "He’s hard to beat – HARD TO BEAT – because he just handles everything with such great poise."