ATHENS, Ga. - Deshaun Watson came off the Sanford Stadium field smiling after firing an Aaron Rodgers-like fastball to Charone Peake for a touchdown. Fifth-year senior starter Cole Stoudt was one of the first to congratulate the true freshman Quarterback of the Future.
No. 16 Clemson lost a game Saturday night to No. 12 Georgia and Todd Gurley, 45-21. But the Tigers gained a two-helmeted concept they evidently need to help an offense that lacks the overall firepower to hang with the nation's best teams.
If you don't have a game-breaking running back or two, you must be able to play keep away better than the Tigers did in Athens.
And Clemson might need a little healthy competition at quarterback after compiling a total of 15 yards and one first down in the second half.
Watson needed all of one drive to produce his first college touchdown, though he didn't do much with his second-half chances off the bench.
"We got down there (near the Clemson goal line) and we got a little bit conservative," offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. "But with a young group of guys, that was our plan coming in. We didn't want to beat ourselves. But we're very disappointed that we didn't execute like we should."
Eventually, the new tag-team might defy old adages. Like "If you have two quarterbacks, you don't really have one" thing. And "Two quarterbacks equals one controversy."
"Cole is our starting quarterback," Morris said. "I'm extremely excited about Cole. We all understand that Deshaun is the future and his role will probably be similar (this season) as what it is right now - getting him ready for when it is his turn."
Without a reliable running game, Clemson needs all the extra sizzle it can get on offense. If defenses have to spend extra time preparing, that's a good thing.
"It's a game by game evaluation for us," head coach Dabo Swinney said. "We will get (Watson) some experience. We're not going to be bashful about that."
Stoudt completed 15 of 28 passes with one interception for 130 yards.
"Just poor execution," Stoudt said. "I could have done better. This will make us prepare harder."
Three series makes for a small sample size for Watson: 2 of 4 for 59 yards and a touchdown.
"I thought Cole played well," Morris said. "I thought he came in and managed the game extremely well except for one series in that second half that was a little disappointing. He knew that Deshaun was going to play, and I did not think the setting was too big for (Watson)."
That's part of it; Stoudt projects as a good game manager.
Watson arrived as a star recruit and didn't tarnish the notion Saturday night.
"I just had to wait for my turn," Watson said. "I was just having fun."
Clemson needs any edge it can get, as the running back comparison with Georgia showed.
Running back shortage
Top ballcarriers don't grow on magnolia trees. Swinney knows that, which is why Clemson tried hard to attract Gurley and his Georgia teammate, Keith Marshall.
Clemson's C.J. Davidson rushed 13 times for 66 yards, nice on paper. But the Tigers were unable to run out of trouble.
So it might have to be two quarterbacks to the rescue.
Of course, it could get dicey.
Stoudt has waited patiently for this grand opportunity.
Watson has seen freshmen - albeit redshirt freshmen - win the Heisman Trophy after each of the last two college football seasons (Johnny Manziel, Jameis Winston).
But Stoudt, the son of longtime Pittsburgh Steelers backup Cliff Stoudt, is uniquely qualified to share, whether he likes it or not.
Watson gets it, officially anyway.
"I'm just going to be the best supporter I can," he said, "until I get in the game."
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff
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