For the Clemson Tigers to survive these next five weeks (minimum) without Deshaun Watson, they need just one thing:
Vic Beasley to play like Vic Beasley is capable of playing.
The Tigers, sitting at 4-2 overall and 3-1 in the ACC after a 23-17 victory over BR-25 Louisville on Saturday, found out their star freshman quarterback, Watson, suffered a broken index finger on his throwing hand and will not be able to return until November 15th at the earliest.
With road dates at Boston College and Wake Forest sandwiched around a home game vs. Syracuse, Clemson can survive with an average offense if Beasley and the Tiger defense can continue to dominate.
There is no Jameis Winston or Todd Gurley among the Golden Eagle, Orange or Demon Deacon offensive units, so Beasley and crew can continue to flex their muscle.
But that muscle needs more Beasley.
Following a 2013 season that included first team All-American honors by just about every outlet out there, Beasley found himself on the short list of top talent eligible for the NFL Draft. However, he decided to return for his senior season as a graduate and try to place his name atop the list of all-time greats at Clemson.
Through six games, it’s been a bag of mixed results. Beasley’s had shining moments, including becoming the school’s all-time career sack leader with 29, passing legends like Michael Dean Perry and Gaines Adams. But more is needed – especially now.
He’s disappeared at times when the Clemson defense needed a big stop against BR-17 Georgia or BR-3 Florida State. That “highlight-reel” moment has failed to happen for Beasley, but opportunities remain.
Watson was able to set a spark to the orange and white with his big-play offense, including 12 touchdown passes and three more on the ground. Beasley and the Tiger defense – as well as special teams – made plays happen vs. Louisville, as the offense failed to score a point in a 23-17 victory.
If Beasley, Stephone Anthony, Jayron Kearse, Robert Smith and Grady Jarrett can continue to limit teams to around 20 points, Cole Stoudt and company should be able to match that.
And, if Clemson can weather the storm of losing Watson heading into that mid-November date with the Yellow Jackets, they will be playing for a major bowl and setting themselves up for the season-ending battle with in-state rival South Carolina.