CFB Big Gain: Deshaun Watson Airs It Out Against Appalachian State

CFB Saturday featured some huge upsets, thrilling finishes, and terrific individual performances. Inside The Pylon head writer Mark Schofield highlights one outstanding play in CFB Big Gain, and this week he breaks down how Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson airs it out against Appalachian State.

The Clemson Tigers got off to a sluggish start in their contest Saturday against FCS-opponent Appalachian State, holding just a three-point lead at the end of the first quarter. However, sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson and the offense got untracked in the second quarter, ripping off 28 unanswered points. Just before halftime, the young signal-caller showed off the arm talent that has many draft followers waiting for the day he becomes draft-eligible.

After a drive that began at their own 11-yard line, the offense faces a 2nd and 2 at the Clemson 41. Clemson has Watson in the shotgun with 11 personnel on the field, with a dual wing tight end look to the right and slot formation on the left. The Mountaineers have their 4-2-5 nickel defense in for this play, showing Cover 2 in the secondary:


The defense rolls the coverage at the snap to Cover 1, with Latrell Gibbs (#5) ‒ the cornerback to the double tight end side of the formation ‒ blitzing off the edge, while safety A.J. Howard (#10) shifts to play the single-high safety:


On this play the Tigers send three receivers on pass routes: The wing TE and the slot WR run crossing routes underneath, while Charone Peake (#19) runs a deep post from his outside alignment:


Off the snap Watson fakes an inside zone run by meeting running back Wayne Gallman at the mesh point – the point where the QB and RB converge for the handoff. After the fake, the RB tries to block Gibbs but the defensive back is too fast and gets past Gibbs. Because of this pressure off the edge, the QB climbs the pocket and rolls to the right sideline, where there is space to escape the blitzer. Then, Watson plants because he has spotted Peake behind the coverage, and unleashes this pass:

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Peake gets behind the defense because as Watson begins to roll, Howard keys on the crossing route of the slot receiver, leaving Peake in single-coverage on the outside. This play is very reminiscent of a throw made by Colin Kaepernick last season against the Saints. Watson displays great vision, spotting the WR behind the coverage on the other side of the field, and the athletic ability to stop, reset his body and get in position for the throw. The arm strength to get the ball to his receiver deep downfield is NFL caliber and then some. Watson releases this throw from the Clemson 38-yard line, near the numbers. Peake makes the reception at the Mountaineers 3-yard line, meaning this throw covers upwards of 59 yards on the fly:

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The long scoring strike staked the Tigers to a 31-point lead, and they coasted to a 41-10 win over the visitors. While Clemson lost talented WR Mike Williams last week to a small fracture in his neck,  as long as the Tigers have the talented Watson making plays like this, they will be favorites in the ACC this season.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.

All video and images courtesy ESPN.

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