Offense: Deshaun Watson, #4, QB, Junior: DW4 had just the performance he needed to boost his Heisman chances as front runner Lamar Jackson could only watch from the sidelines. Watson completed 23 passes for 288 yards and 3 TD’s along with rushing 17 times for 89 yards and 2 other TD’s on the day. Watson had as many carries on the day as Wayne Gallman and finished as Clemson’s leading rusher. He also showed his strength as well as quickness on many designed runs. We’ll see Saturday if Watson’s performance was enough to sway the Heisman voters as he heads to New York for the ceremony this Saturday.
Defense: Cordrea Tankersly, #25, CB, Senior: While watching the game early on, I figured that Clelin Ferrell would get the nod here with his outstanding play, but Tankersly had two huge interceptions that helped shaped the game, including the big one at the end to seal the Clemson win. Now, technically the cornerbacks are supposed to bat the ball down on 4th down to give the offense better field position, but I don’t think anyone would fault Cordrea for grabbing the pick in that situation, given that the offense was just going to run out the clock. Tankersly also had 4 tackles and one pass break up on the day.
Special Teams: Greg Huegel, #92, K, RS Sophomore: Not a very eye popping day on special teams for Clemson, but Huegel was pretty consistent for the Tigers. He had 7 kickoffs for 447 yards with two touchbacks. He was putting them shallow in the endzone a good bit, and Virginia Tech elected to return a few, which resulted in the Hokies starting short of the 25 yard line on a few drives. Huegel was also 6 for 6 on PAT’s.
Moment of the Game: The final defensive stand for Clemson was a great ending to an exciting game. Virginia Tech was gaining momentum, but Clemson’s defense was able to play “bend but don’t break” very effectively as they stiffened up once the Hokies got inside the 30. On third down, Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins would stop a scrambling Jerod Evans for no gain, and then Tankersly finished it off with a great interception to clinch the game, giving Clemson back to back ACC Football Championships for the first time since the Tigers won 3 in a row from 1986-1988.