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October 16, 2011
Watkins plays catch-up, grabs top honor
Maryland learned that the hard way as Watkins scored three second- half scores and amassed a school-record 345 all-purpose yards in a 56-45 comeback win. The effort earned Watkins the Rivals.com National Player of the Week and the National Freshman of the Week honors. This is the third time Watkins has been the freshman of the week.
Watkins had a tough start Saturday in College Park. On the opening kickoff, Watkins tried to return the kick, which went over his head, and was stopped on the 1-yard line. The more critical gaffe came later in the first quarter, when Watkins fumbled a fair catch inside his 10, which set up Maryland's first touchdown.
"I told him after the fumbled punt in the first quarter that he owed me one," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "He certainly responded. He did show he was human, but to break C.J. Spiller's [single-game] all-purpose record in just seven games is incredible."
Though Watkins looked like a freshman on those plays, he shortly resumed the dynamic play that has transformed Clemson's season. He returned a kickoff 70 yards to set up a Clemson touchdown, and he had two third-quarter touchdown catches. He completed Clemson's comeback from an 18-point deficit, its biggest comeback since 1992, with an 89-yard kickoff return for a score in fourth quarter.
"That was big because all week they have been stressing special teams and how we might need it," Watkins said. "We haven't been doing really well on kickoff returns. We have been just really been practicing this week on it. I told them, 'Boys, just block one time and give me a crease,' and that's what they did."
He finished with eight catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Watkins' day broke Clemson's single-game record of 312 all-purpose yards set in 2009 against Florida State. As with Spiller, Watkins is a Florida native. Watkins' 345 all-purpose yards was the third-highest total nationally this season.
In this season's meeting, Narduzzi's defense proved it could contain Robinson in the running game, which earned Narduzzi the Rivals.com National Coordinator of the Week honor.
The Spartans limited Robinson to 42 rushing yards, his lowest total in the past two seasons. With Robinson neutralized by Michigan State's blitz, the Wolverines managed only 250 total yards in the 28-14 loss.
"He is a great player; he is probably going to be one of the greats ever to play there," Michigan State linebacker Max Bullough said of Robinson. "But it is like any other team: There is a certain game plan you got to have, and if you stick to your game plan and everybody does their job right, you can really stop anybody."
Next week, the Spartans get an opportunity to stop Wisconsin.
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