The Clemson Tigers thought they had finally found a quarterback to take over the reigns of the offense in freshman Deshaun Watson.
The first-year player had impressed in preseason and clearly outperformed senior starter Cole Stoudt through the first three games of the season. Once Watson took over for the Tigers, he almost led them to an upset victory over Florida State in week three (a 23-17 overtime loss) and proceeded to win their next three games.
But alas, it seems like after head coach Dabo Swinney finally relented and let Watson assume the starting role, cruel fate has sidelined the young stud.
Watson will have four screws put in his broken finger, Swinney said Sunday, that will take about four weeks to recover.
The injury occurred on his right hand, which he throws with, in the second quarter of the team's 23-17 win over Louisville. Now the team will be left shorthanded for a few weeks even as it gets into the heart of its Atlantic Coastal Conference schedule.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound quarterback was just getting into a rhythm as Clemson's top signal-caller. Despite his limited touches to start the season, Watson has thrown for 1,176 yards, completing 67 percent of his passes for 12 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Most importantly, Watson hasn't shied away from the big moment. He led scoring drives in the team's season-opening loss against Georgia and threw for 266 yards in his first major action in September, during that earlier-mentioned Florida State game.
In his first start the next week, Watson threw for 435 yards and six touchdowns to only one interception against North Carolina.
The Tigers finally reached ranked status again this week, entering the polls at No. 23 after improving to a 4-2 record while defeating the Cardinals.
Now Stoudt takes over again for the next four weeks, but whether or not he will be able to lead the Tigers to success is very much in question.
Stoudt simply wasn't impressive to start the season, which is disappointing because he waited three years behind Tajh Boyd, who was drafted this spring, in order to finally have his moment in the limelight.
He didn't do much with the opportunities he had though. In the 45-21 season-opening loss to Georgia, Stoudt threw for only 144 yards and an interception, barely completing half of his passes. He looked better against small-school South Carolina State, but struggled again while facing Florida State before being pulled for Watson.
Clemson doesn't have a terrible schedule ahead of it, but the Tigers are entering conference play. Boston College (4-2), Syracuse (2-4), Wake Forest (2-4) and Georgia Tech (5-1) all lie ahead.
Those first three games should be manageable and if Stoudt can keep the ship afloat until then, a triumphant Watson return against Georgia Tech might be enough to keep Clemson's ACC hopes alive.
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