Georgia Tech was the beneficiary of a game-ending knee injury to Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who left the game in the first quarter after planting awkwardly on his left knee. Watson, from Gainesville High, was making his return after sitting out the previous three games with a broken hand.
“We’ve got to go and get an MRI and try to get some confirmation,” coach Dabo Swinney said.
An Internet outlet covering Clemson reported that Watson tore his ACL.
Cole Stoudt replaced Watson and, three plays later, threw an interception to Tech safety Jamal Golden that was returned for a touchdown. Including a three-and-out to open the game, Clemson averaged 4.1 yards per play with Watson on the field, although the offense appeared to be finding its rhythm as Watson found yardage on quarterback draws. After he left, Clemson averaged 3.2 yards per play.
Including the series where Watson was hurt, Clemson scored three points on its final nine possessions. Tech often brought safety Jamal Golden into the box to defend the run and dare Clemson to throw the ball, which the Tigers could not. Stoudt was eventually taken out in favor of Nick Schuessler.
“It was a big game-changer,” linebacker Quayshawn Nealy said of Watson’s injury. “With Watson being as athletic as he is, dual-threat quarterback, he can run and pass the ball. When he came out, their backup quarterback doesn’t run as hard as him and it definitely changed the game.”