Lamar Jackson is a damn good football player. He is a video game character come to life. He reminds of the quarterbacks I would make in the old NCAA video games with every stat at 99 overall. When Jackson takes off to run it looks like everyone else is in slow motion. He could probably throw a pass from midfield, run into the endzone, and catch it. Jackson is one of this sport’s rising stars and creates a feeling of awe in anyone who watches, even opposing players.
But facts do not care about your feelings.
And the fact is Deshaun Watson outplayed Lamar Jackson on Saturday night.
“But Spencer, Jackson had 457 total yards. Isn’t that more impressive than Watson’s 397?” Well sorry, it isn’t. And I’m not just saying that because I’m bad at math. In fact, the math backs me up.
Jackson’s passing stats were 27/44 for 295 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. That is a 61.4% completion rate and a mere 6.7 yards per passing attempt. In fact, his completions only traveled 5.9 yards in the air on average. Jackson’s passing stats were dampened by the Clemson game plan and his inability to throw the ball accurately down the field. On multiple occasions throughout the game Jackson failed to step into deep throws and relied on his prodigious arm strength. He was unable to accurately hit his receivers in stride down the field.
Watson, on the other hand, was 20/31 for 306 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions (one of which was on a receiver). That is a 64.5% completion rate and a healthy 9.9 yards per passing attempt.
Jackson had a healthy advantage over Watson in total rushing yards. Jackson rushed 31 times for 162 yards and a touchdown. Jackson averaged 5.2 yards per rush and he was sacked 5 times. Not all of those sacks were on the Louisville offensive line either. In fact, the Louisville offensive line had dominated the most talented defensive line they had played to this point, FSU’s.
There were also multiple occasions where Jackson should have handed the ball off on the option. The running back had a large hole to run through and would have picked up more yards.
Jackson did make some good plays with his feet, but the vast majority of those came in the second half against a Clemson defense that was on the field for 99 plays total. In the first half, with sacks included, Jackson only had 27 rushing yards on 14 attempts.
And it isn’t like Deshaun Watson did not do anything with his legs. Watson rushed 14 times for 91 yards. He also managed to avoid getting sacked even once.
Also, after Clemson pulled back to within two points in the 4th quarter Louisville went three and out, all three plays Lamar Jackson passes. Watson responded with a gutsy drive to win the game, capped off with this pass to Jordan Leggett:
That drive is in addition to the touchdown drive Watson and Clemson had at the end of the first half. 4 plays, 73 yards, 25 seconds. In the second quarter alone Watson was 11/12 passing for 189 yards and 3 touchdowns. That is a 92% completion rate and a 15.75 yards per pass attempt average.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Jackson racked up 457 yards in 75 plays, a 6.1 yards per play average. Watson, on the other hand, had 397 yards in 45 plays, good for a 8.8 yards per play average.
If Jackson had his average at 45 plays that would have only been 275 yards. If Watson had his average at 75 plays that would have been 660 yards.
Looking at these facts it is hard to come to the conclusion that Jackson was actually better than Watson on Saturday. Jackson’s style of play can mask the facts from time to time. But to say that he was the best player on the field, and that Louisville was the best team on the field, is laughable at best.
Oh, and Boulware did nothing wrong.