Deshaun Watson and Tigers’ offense have dominant first half

It was a night of broken win streaks for the Yellow Jackets.

Since 2003, Georgia Tech had won every game against Clemson hosted at Bobby Dodd Stadium, but on Thursday, the Yellow Jackets fell to the Tigers 26-7 in an conference matchup led by Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson, who completed 32 of 48 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns.

Even Watson’s only interception on the night benefited the Tigers. Near the end of the second quarter, Watson’s fourth interception of the season turned into a safety.

“That was a crazy scenario. I told Deshaun that’s the best interception he’ll ever throw in his life. He got two points for it,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.

The Tigers got the ball back after the unexpected play only to score a touchdown with four seconds remaining in the half off a 9-yard pass to Jordan Leggett.

Watson threw to nine different receivers on Thursday night with the most notable being Ray-Ray McCloud with 90 yards. Mike Williams also had receptions totalling 61 yards and one touchdown and Leggett had 31 yards and one touchdown.

The Tigers (4-0, 1-0) also broke a series streak where the home team has won the past seven times. Last season, Clemson won in Death Valley 43-24 and the Tigers had 537 total yards.

Although Clemson gained fewer yards (442) than last season, Swinney sees Thursday’s win as bigger than last year.

“Clemson folks know how hard it is to win down here,” Swinney said. “I love our guys. They were locked in, they had a great mentality and really bought into what we needed to do to get ready for this game from fall camp on.”

Clemson reached the red zone on their first three possessions of the game, with a chance to score inside the 5-yard line each time, but missed a 27-yard field goal on second possession.

For Swinney, the Tigers’ first drive of the game of 75 yards and a TD on a 4-yard pass from Watson to Williams, was the game’s most important drive.

“I told the offense I thought they set the tempo for the whole night on that drive,” Swinney said. “They just really picked up where they left off. We had 10 straight scoring drives the last three drives of the Troy game and the first seven of South Carolina State. It was good to see them come right out and boom, boom, boom, create that type of movement in the first half.”

The Tigers were quiet in the second half, earning 95 total yards and scoring a 47-yard touchdown off of an interception.

Watson had a monster first half, completing 24-for-35 for 262 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in Clemson’s 41st consecutive win over an unranked opponent.

“The first half, outside of a couple of missed cues, was just a dominant performance,” Swinney said. “That was a weird second half and that’s what happens sometimes when you play this group.”