CFB preview: No. 3 Clemson vs. South Carolina State
After opening the season with two sub-par performances in uncomfortably close six-point victories against unranked opponents Auburn and Troy, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson said this week that he has detected a "negative energy" that he vows to correct.
It was an honest and humble confession from a normally confident quarterback who entered the season as a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
"This past weekend, you could just see it," Watson said. "You could just feel the energy, starting with me being the leader of the team, not enjoying it. You can tell my body language has been bad and it kind of spreads throughout the team and it spreads throughout the fans in the stadium that people weren't really excited about the game."
Watson, who last year became the first player in FBS history to pass for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in the same season, hasn't exactly been at his best through the Tigers' 2-0 start.
Watson, who passed for 300 yards five times in 2015, has yet to do that this season. After completing 67.8 percent of his passes last season, he's completing passes at a 52.9 percent clip in 2016. He's thrown for four touchdowns, but also has been intercepted three times.
Watson also rushed for 100 yards five times in his last seven games in 2015. His best rushing total this season is 55 yards going into the No. 3 Tigers' home game Saturday against South Carolina State. Kickoff is at noon ET at Clemson's Memorial Stadium, and the game will be telecast over Fox regional networks.
"I'm not Superman," Watson said. "I'm not a superhero. I'm human. I make mistakes."
Watson met with Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney and has emerged with a refreshed attitude.
"I apologize to the media and the fans," Watson said. "Just enjoy it. This opportunity is very rare. It's a blessing and a privilege to be in this position, to have people want to talk to me, to want to hear my story and what is going on. It can easily be on the flip side and no one wants to talk to me, no one wants to respect me.
"It's a blessing, and it just kind of got away from me a little bit with all the attention that I've gotten. I've just got to find myself and be back, be the Deshaun Watson I always will be."
Though the early subpar performances cost the Tigers to drop a spot in the rankings from their No. 2 preseason slot, the game against the Bulldogs should give them the opportunity to start getting things back together.
South Carolina State, an FCS program in the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference, is 0-2 after big losses to FBS opponents UCF (38-0) and Louisiana Tech (53-24). The Bulldogs have rushed for only 241yards in the two games and passed for 275 while giving up nearly 595 yards in total offense.
The Tigers can take the opportunity to make adjustments to compensate for the loss of sophomore wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who suffered a broken hand in last week's 30-24 victory over Troy. The injury came as he made a 35-yard touchdown reception.
Swinney said Renfrow will have surgery and is expected to be out "a few weeks," possibly not returning until the Tigers' game against North Carolina State on Oct. 15 but most likely by Oct. 29 when the Tigers go to Florida State following an open date.
Renfrow was one of a key figure in Clemson's run to the National Championship game last year. He had 33 receptions for 492 yards and five touchdowns in 2015. The former walk-on had seven receptions for 88 yards and two scores against Alabama.
He has caught at least one touchdown pass in each of the last four games and has four receptions for 62 yards and two scores in two games this year.
Wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud, another sophmore, is expected to move into the starting lineup with Renfrow's injury. McCloud is coming off a game in which he had seven receptions for a career high 86 yards.