Boyd prepared for last game at Clemson

Getting another chance to play in the Orange Bowl carries great

significance to Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, for an array of

reasons.

It’s his final college game.

It’s a chance to avenge one of Clemson’s most embarrassing

losses.

Maybe best of all, it’s a chance to see how his life might have

been different.

Before Boyd decided to sign with Clemson – and become ”the face

of our university,” said Tigers offensive coordinator Chad Morris

– he was quite close to enrolling at Ohio State. And in a neat bit

of symmetry, Boyd’s final game as a Tiger will be against the

Buckeyes, with the programs squaring off on Friday night in the

Orange Bowl.

”I definitely feel like this is the best spot for me,” Boyd

said Monday. ”I couldn’t have picked a better school. It is kind

of surreal to end your final game as a Clemson Tiger against Ohio

State. It’s going to be a fun matchup, and I can’t wait.”

This is Clemson’s second Orange Bowl trip in three years. The

12-ranked Tigers lost two years ago to West Virginia 70-33, a game

that simply fell apart when Clemson allowed 21 points in the final

2 1/2 minutes of the first half.

The chance to erase some of the sting of that night is one he’s

happy to have.

”It’s a blessing for us,” Boyd said. ”We’re just going to try

to take full advantage.”

Boyd changed his mind late in the recruiting process, and the

Tigers have been thankful just about ever since. He’s thrown for

11,526 yards and 102 touchdowns in his 46 college games. He’s one

of only three active quarterbacks with more than 100 scoring

passes; one of only five with more than 11,000 yards.

He’s run for another 1,038 yards, along with 25 more scores with

his feet. It’s no wonder No. 7 Ohio State wanted him so badly to

begin with.

”We know he’s got all the ability,” Ohio State defensive

coordinator Luke Fickell said. ”I mean, we recruited him too. We

know exactly who he is and what he is.”

Who he is and what he is, that’s simple to describe. He’s

Clemson’s everything.

In the huddle, teammates say Boyd tends to alternate between

motivational and hilarious. If someone needs to yell, he yells. If

someone needs a pat on the back, he delivers. He’s tight with his

defensive teammates, close with the special-teamers, and the

unquestioned leader of the offense.

For the most part, he’s taken on all the responsibility in

stride, making it all look easy at times.

”He leads on and off the field in different ways,” Clemson

wide receiver Sammy Watkins said. ”He did help this program out

and brought it from the bottom to the top. … It’s not easy. He

deals with a lot of different things. I think that he handles

himself well and took this university and put us on a pedestal and

represented us properly.”

The Tigers were 6-7 in Boyd’s freshman season, when he saw

limited action.

They gave him the keys to the offense the next year, and they’re

31-8 since.

And when Boyd is great, Clemson is darn near unbeatable. When he

throws for 300 yards, the Tigers are 17-0. When he throws for two

touchdowns or more, they’re 25-3. When his offensive line doesn’t

allow him to get sacked more than once, not counting games as a

freshman where he made mere cameo appearances, Clemson is 16-1.

But when the talk Monday turned to Boyd’s legacy, and what the

Orange Bowl will mean to that legacy, he deferred.

”Honestly, for me it’s all about just trying to make sure it’s

the best game that I played this far,” Boyd said. ”It’s more so

not just for me, but for this program and this university.

Obviously, a win in a bowl game adds momentum, it adds a fuel to

you during the offseason. So it’s important for me personally to go

out here and try to get a victory. It’s also important for this

team and what they’re trying to accomplish next year as well.”

NOTES: Ohio State DE Noah Spence did not travel with the

Buckeyes to South Florida because of personal reasons, and Fickell

said Monday that the team is preparing to play without him.

Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said there’s ”hope” that Spence, the

team’s leader with 7 1/2 sacks, may still play. … Ohio State CB

Bradley Roby is continuing to rehab a knee injury, leaving some

doubt to his Orange Bowl status.