During the month between the Palmetto Bowl win and the Russell Athletic Bowl kickoff, we've been subject to articles and Dabo soundbites about how Cole Stoudt plays well late in games or how he plays well when he knows he is starting. At STS, we try to be objective. That's a lot of fun when things are going well.
When things are going poorly, as they have for Stoudt for the last three games, that means being brutally honest. It's not my preference to be negative, but when our QB goes 23/42 for just 148 yards, 1 passing TD, and 5 INTs against Georgia Tech, Georgia State, and South Carolina (bad defenses) that's what we have to do. Coming into the bowl, Stoudt had 1,573 passing yards on 266 pass attempts for 6 TDs and 10 picks.
In the preamble to the Russell Athletic (Tangerine) Bowl gamethread, we said:
It's absolutely a legacy game for the senior QB. Will he be remembered as the stop-gap that managed to keep Clemson's steak of 10-win seasons and bowl wins alive or one of the least effective Clemson QBs in the modern era?
The game started with a dominant three-and-out by the Clemson defense. Then, the senior quarterback came out and threw a little screen pass three yards behind the line of scrimmage to Artavis Scott who turned it into a 65-yard touchdown. Maybe that was the boost he needed to get his mind right. Maybe Brandon Streeter did one heck of a coaching job. Maybe Tony Elliot is a genius player-caller. Maybe (as commenter "mdlusk" opined) his shoulder was worse than let on in earlier games. Whatever it was, Cole Stoudt looked like a different man.
If you told me Clemson would average just 1.6 yards per carry, I would have guessed we got shutout. The Tigers finished with that minuscule average and only 42 rushing yards, but Cole Stoudt racked up 319 passing yards and three passing TDs on 26/36 passing. They weren't all easy screens either, as he connected with Germone Hopper with a 24-yard over-the-shoulder gem. He had no turnovers and also had a rushing touchdown. Oh, and the rushing touchdown was a thing of beauty - a fake pitch and powerful drive into the end zone to put Clemson up 34-0. From there, Clemson would salt the game away and win 40-6.
So to answer the question posed in the gamethread, Cole Stoudt was the stop-gap that managed to keep Clemson's steak of 10-win seasons. He was gritty and loyal. Dabo said it best in the postgame interview:
"What a fighter man... [Cole] kept his class the whole way. Kept his faith. And had a stage like this too probably play the best game of his whole career."
We will always be objective and give our writers the truth with no sugar coating. Right now, it's nice to be able to say Cole was excellent and we couldn't be happier for him.