Deshaun Watson and the Clemson Tigers beat Louisville 42-36 Saturday night, but Cardinals QB Lamar Jackson drew the most attention. Determining a Heisman winner this early into the season is foolish, so I won’t, but even the “bad” version of Jackson was fantastic.
Clemson jumped out early and had a 28-10 lead at halftime. The defense did everything to contain Jackson, and then some. Near the end of the first half, Tigers linebacker Ben Boulware wrapped his arm around Jackson’s neck after taking him down on a run play.
Jackson was pissed at officials for not flagging the MMA move, but he got revenge on the field. The QB led his team to five straight drives with points in the second half, giving Louisville a 36-28 lead roughly halfway through the fourth quarter.
Of course, Jackson does not play defense for the Cardinals. Watson, an excellent quarterback in his own right, took advantage of Artavis Scott’s 77-yard kick return and threw a touchdown pass to Mike Williams in two plays, cutting the deficit to two. After Louisville went three-and-out, Watson orchestrated a three-minute, 85-yard drive for the game-winning touchdown (and two-point conversion).
With 3:14 left in the game, Jackson and the offense took the field and ended up at Clemson’s nine-yard line. The drive stalled there, although Jackson was doing his best to complete a pass. He smoothly evaded two defenders while maintaining his form and keeping his eyes downfield:
After all that effort, the pass was incomplete, and the fourth-down play was even more frustrating. Jackson threw to a wide-open James Quick, who needed 12 yards to keep the Cardinals alive. He was short:
(There was a lot of blame on Quick for going out of bounds, but to me, he was running towards the sideline in order to get separation between him and defensive back Marcus Edmond. It might not have been a flashy defensive play, but Edmond did a great job of containing Quick and pushing him out before the first down.)
Jackson threw for 295 yards with one touchdown and one pick; he also ran 31 times for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Watson threw for 306 yards, five TDs, and three picks. Could these teams play each other for the rest of the season?