CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) – Tajh Boyd intends to savor every last moment of his final season at Clemson.
Boyd led the eighth-ranked Tigers to a 55-31 victory over Georgia Tech on Thursday night, throwing four touchdown passes to move past ex-North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers for the most in Atlantic Coast Conference history.
Boyd was grateful for the record and even more pleased he accomplished it under offensive coordinator Chad Morris.
“It’s pretty sweet,” Boyd said. “It’s a special thing. It’s special for me, special for the team, special for coach Morris because we’ve grown so much as people in general and players under his system.”
Boyd also ran for a touchdown.
As Boyd’s career comes to a close, he’s doing all he can to bring the Tigers a special season although he threw a scare into just about everyone at Death Valley as he lay on the turf in pain after injuring his collarbone. But after some X-rays in the locker room, Boyd was his spirited self on the sidelines – and even asked Morris if he could go back in down the stretch just to loosen up.
Of course, Morris said “No.” Clemson was already ahead 41-24.
Don’t expect Morris to ease up on the reins this week in prepping for FCS opponent Citadel. “I think he’s all right,” Morris said of Boyd. “We won’t do anything different than we normally do in practice. He’s not live. He’s going to throw it a little bit and run it a little bit.”
Boyd’s a big reason why the Tigers did not collapse after the demoralizing loss to Florida State nearly a month ago. Boyd was chased around and beaten down in a 51-14 loss to the second-ranked Seminoles, who scored the most points by an opponent in Death Valley’s history.
It took some time to get Boyd and the Tigers cranked up again. They started slowly at Maryland a week later before pulling away in the second half for a 40-27 victory. The Tigers built on that the next week, bombarding Virginia 59-10 as Boyd threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns.
Morris says Boyd is his own worst enemy at times, trying too hard to make the perfect play instead of simply enjoying the game.
Boyd acknowledged that, too, and has worked to bring the fun back to his game.
“It was about getting in the zone, feeling good about ourselves, feeling good about the game plan, feeling confident,” Boyd said. “That’s what we wanted to do.”
Five things we learned from Clemson’s victory:
BOYD’S PLAY: Tajh Boyd continued his bounce back from the Florida State loss that damaged his reputation nationally and dropped him out of the Heisman Trophy race. Boyd has thrown for 300 yards the past three games, all Clemson’s victories, and might’ve gone for 400 against Georgia Tech if not for hurting his collarbone and coming out as a precaution.
CLEMSON’S GOT RECEIVERS: Sammy Watkins had two touchdowns and his seventh 100-yard receiving game of the season. But he was far from the only standout receiver. Martavis Bryant caught five passes for a career-high 176 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown pass from Boyd after Georgia Tech had cut a 20-point lead to 20-7. Freshman Mike Williams had three grabs for 45 yards, including a pretty 4-yard TD catch.
GEORGIA TECH’S STRUGGLES: The Yellow Jackets have an offense made for perfect for ball control and playing keep away. They don’t have one built to dig their way out of big deficits. Georgia Tech didn’t have a first down in the opening half and had three three-and-outs as Clemson build a 20-0 lead. While the Jackets had a nearly 9-minute edge in time of possession, they couldn’t strike quickly enough or trade jabs with the high-flying Tigers.
“We didn’t make very many plays tonight,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “If we make two or three plays on their deep balls then we have a chance.”
DEFENSIVE CLEMSON: The Tigers have struggled to contain Georgia Tech’s option game in recent years – the Yellow Jackets came in with a 4-2 edge since 2008 – but defensive ends Corey Crawford and Vic Beasley controlled the line of scrimmage and pressured Tech quarterback Vad Lee all game. Clemson did allow Robert Godhigh to account for 229 yards of offense and two touchdowns. Still, it was a strong showing for a group that was a national joke after allowing 70 points in the Orange Bowl to West Virginia two seasons ago.
CLEMSON’S PATH: Tigers coach Dabo Swinney sounded hollow after Florida State when he said his team would bounce back. Now, Clemson is a victory away from a third straight season with 10 or more wins, something that hasn’t happened since it was the ACC’s top dog under Danny Ford in the late 1980s. After FCS Citadel next week, Clemson tries to break a four-game losing streak to rival South Carolina with a BCS spot on the line.