Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson finished third in the voting for the 2015 Heisman Trophy, but his coach isn’t buying that judgment at all.
“Deshaun Watson is the best player in the country,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “People can have their opinions, but there is not a better one than No. 4.”
Led by Watson’s 332 combined yards (passing and rushing), the top-ranked Tigers defeated the No. 4 Sooners 37-17 in a College Football Playoff semifinal on Thursday at Sun Life Stadium.
Clemson (14-0), which outscored Oklahoma 21-0 in the second half, will play for the national title on Jan. 11 in Glendale, Arizona. The Tigers won their only national title in 1981.
“It was an awesome second half,” Swinney told fans on the field after the game. “It’s been 34 years since Clemson played for the national championship, but we don’t have to wait much longer!”
Watson ran 24 times for 145 yards and one touchdown. He also passed for 187 yards and one touchdown, completing 16 of 31 attempts. He was intercepted once, which was the first time in his career he has thrown a red-zone pick.
“This is nice,” Watson said of his offensive MVP trophy. “But we want the big award — the national [championship].”
Watson had plenty of big plays on Thursday.
In the second quarter, with his team trailing 7-3 and backed up at its own 4-yard line, Watson broke off a 46-yard run around the left end. That play helped set up Clemson’s first touchdown, although the Tigers needed a fake punt to make it happen.
In the third quarter, Watson buried the Sooners with a 35-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Hunter Renfrow in the right flat. Renfrow broke a tackle, and the Tigers took a commanding 30-17 lead.
Watson, though, deflected any praise intended for him. He said his receivers, the offensive line and running back Wayne Gallman, who ran 26 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns, were huge factors.
“We’re pretty balanced,” Watson said. “We have a great running game and a great passing game. If you want to stop the passing game, we can run the ball. If you want to stop the running game, we can pass. It doesn’t really matter what the defense does.”
Despite trailing 17-16 at halftime, Watson said the Tigers’ mind-set was that the score was 0-0.
“We get in the huddle, and we tell each other, ‘Let’s go dominate,’ ” Watson said. “The first half, we didn’t finish drives [settling for three field goals in addition to the interception].
“But we didn’t let that stop us.”