(AP) – Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said the 24th-ranked Tigers won’t dial things back with stellar freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson out for the next month.
Watson had surgery Monday to set a broken bone in a finger on his right hand with four screws.
Despite the setback, Morris expects backup Cole Stoudt to lead the same fast-paced offensive attack when Clemson (4-2, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) plays at Boston College (4-2, 1-1) on Saturday.
”Our expectations aren’t going to fall because of this,” Morris said Monday. ”Cole Stoudt was our starter at the beginning of the year and he’s the guy right now.”
Stoudt started Clemson’s first two games, passing for 446 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and then gave way to Watson early in an overtime loss to Florida State on Sept. 20.
It was a choppy showing last weekend against Louisville by Stoudt and the offense after Watson broke a small bone in a finger of his right, throwing hand in the opening quarter. Clemson beat the Cardinals 23-17, but the Tigers – who entered the game as the ACC leader in total offense and scoring – managed only 229 yards and did not score an offensive touchdown.
Stoudt was recuperating from a left shoulder injury sustained a week earlier with Clemson in control against North Carolina State. He did not practice much during the week. He acknowledged he was not far from fully healthy against Louisville’s top-rated defense.
Stoudt finished 20 of 33 passing for 162 yards. But he was sacked three times, threw an interception and was twice stopped short on crucial runs that ended drives and cost the Tigers.
Clemson needed a fourth-down stop with 21 seconds left to seal the victory.
”It wasn’t pretty, but a win’s and win and we found a way to do it,” Stoudt said.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Watson will have a splint rather than a cast, meaning it can be removed each time he undergoes rehabilitation exercises and perhaps quicken his recovery. Swinney said the freshman will miss both games before Clemson’s bye week on Nov. 1. It would be a longshot to expect him back before a Nov. 15 contest at Georgia Tech.
”We’re limited in some areas. We’re thin in some areas,” Morris said. ”But these guys aren’t going to complain and we’re not going to make excuses for them.”
The offensive coordinator believes Stoudt’s acceptance of the switch at Florida State and his continuing support of Watson showed strong leadership that endeared him to his teammates.
”Cole’s been a champion throughout this,” Morris said.
The Tigers’ offense will face another stout defense in Boston College, which ranks rank eighth in the FBS, surrendering 289.8 yards per game.
The Eagles allowed North Carolina State to cross midfield only once in the second half of last Saturday’s 30-14 win, and outrushed the Wolfpack 310-43.
Running quarterback Tyler Murphy leads a Boston College offense that ranks fourth in the FBS in rushing, averaging 315.7 yards. Murphy has run for a team-high 711 yards and averages 8.3 per carry.
Murphy and running back Jon Hilliman, who has 454 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, could have trouble finding space to run against a Clemson team that has limited opponents to an average of 1.7 yards per attempt in the last five games.
“This is the most dominant defense I have seen. Period,” Eagles coach Steve Addazio said. “I’m sitting here saying, ‘How are we going to move the ball against these guys?’ That’s how good they are. And they’re that good. They’re relentless.”
Clemson limited Boston College to 94 rushing yards – 118.5 less than its season average – in last October’s 24-14 win, its third straight victory in the series.