Watson leads No. 12 Clemson to 41-10 victory
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson won't let himself or the 12th-ranked Tigers get off track, even with all-ACC receiver Mike Williams on the sideline.
Watson threw for 248 yards and three touchdowns - two to wideout Charone Peake - to lead Clemson to a 41-10 victory over Appalachian State on Saturday. With Williams in a neck brace and out indefinitely with a fractured bone, Watson kept the Tigers moving forward after a sluggish first quarter.
''Yeah, we got off to a slow start,'' Watson said. ''But we didn't let that keep us from doing what we had to do.''
Ahead just 3-0 after one period, Watson led three touchdown drives in the second quarter. Two ended with Peake in the end zone, first from 24 yards out and then from 59 yards away when Watson scrambled free of pressure and unleahsed the long throw to a wide open Peake.
''I thought he was sacked,'' Peake said. ''I started back for the line'' of scrimmage before he saw Watson's arcing spiral and made the simple catch to put the Tigers ahead 31-0 at the half.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney called the pass ''unbelievable.''
Wayne Gallman had a 23-yard TD run while defensive tackle Carlos Watkins had a 15-yard interception return score as Clemson improved to 2-0 for the fifth time in six seasons.
Watson hit Artavis Scott with a 41-yard TD pass in the third quarter before coming to the sidelines to join Williams. ''I feel good and ready to go,'' Watson said. ''I could've played more, but we got the young guys some time.''
That's probably a good thing. The Tigers play at Louisville on Thursday night with their next two games after that against No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 15 Georgia Tech.
The Mountaineers (1-1) brought a seven-game winning streak and its giant-killing reputation into Death Valley, looking for another Michigan-like takedown against the Tigers.
But Mountaineers quarterback Taylor Lamb was pressured into three first-half interceptions. One went right into the open arms of Watkins, who easily ran to the end zone for Clemson's first defensive lineman interception score in four seasons.
Two plays later, Lamb was picked off by linebacker Ben Boulware deep in Mountaineers territory and Watson capitalized with his first touchdown pass to Peake.
''We got outmanned the first half, there's no question about it,'' Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield said. ''They were stronger and bigger than we were.''
Appalachian State scored on a 31-yard field goal by Zach Matics late in the third quarter and a 1-yard TD catch by Barrett Burns in the final period.
Scott caught six passes for 73 yards and Peake had four catches for 86. Six other Tigers had at least one catch.
Watson finished 19 of 26. There was a scary moment for the sophomore, coming off ACL surgery last December. Ryan Norton snapped the ball past him and Watson dived to recover. He was slow getting up as the sold-out stadium held its breath. Moments later, Watson popped up and easily ran to the bench before returning a play later.
Watson said it was nothing serious, just the wind getting knocked out of him. ''I guess I could sense the fans'' were worried, Watson said. ''There was nothing to worry about.''
Led by Watson, the Tigers have piled up 925 yards combined in two easy victories. He said he'll make sure the Tigers keep working, no matter how much more difficult the schedule gets.
''We've got players who can play,'' Watson said. ''We know we can count on anybody we put out there.''
AP college football website: collegefootbal.ap.org