Boyd says he’s ready to put first loss behind
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd hadn’t left a football field as
the losing starter since his junior year in high school before the
ninth-ranked Tigers loss to Georgia Tech two weeks ago.
Boyd’s ready to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
”When you lose, that’s when true character comes out,” Boyd
said this week. ”I think we can learn something from this.”
Boyd learned that he doesn’t like to lose. He hadn’t lost as a
starter since he was at Phoebus High in Hampton, Va., where he was
43-2 when taking the opening snap. Boyd had led the Tigers (8-1,
5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) on an 8-0 run, the team’s best start
in 11 years.
But that crash-landed two weeks ago in Atlanta with the 31-17
loss to the Yellow Jackets. The fast-paced Tigers were outmuscled
early on as Georgia Tech led 24-3 and held off a modest Clemson
comeback in the second half.
Boyd had his shakiest game since becoming Clemson’s starter with
two interceptions – he had just three in the Tigers’ run –
including one in the end zone to short-circuit the rally.
It took a few days to get past the disappointment. The Tigers,
Boyd said, returned to work from an off week focused on the
opportunities ahead and not what was left behind against the Yellow
Clemson hosts Wake Forest (5-4, 4-2) on Saturday and can lock up
the ACC Atlantic Division with win, earning a trip to the
championship game for the second time in three years. A loss
doesn’t eliminate Clemson from the division race, but its
straight-ahead path to the title game in Charlotte, N.C., would
suddenly turn bumpy.
Boyd and the Tigers are focused fully on this weekend.
”They came back to work on Monday of last week, listening to
them talk, they are saying the right things,” Clemson coach Dabo
Swinney said. ”Their eyes are forward. Let’s learn from it and
don’t let it happen again.”
Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said Boyd got right
back to work at practice and film study, watching what he did wrong
against Georgia Tech and correcting it so the mistakes wouldn’t
show up again.
”That’s one thing about players that come off a loss,” Morris
said. ”They’re real resilient. That’s just the way kids are.”
Morris said his offensive players understood they hadn’t played
their best and that included Boyd.
Boyd, a redshirt sophomore, had come into the season as one of
Clemson’s biggest question marks, but has become among the biggest
reasons for its success this fall.
Boyd leads the ACC in passing yards and total offense. He’s
already accounted for three of the five games with the most Clemson
passing yards in school history and is two touchdown passes shy of
Clemson’s single-season record of 27 set by Cullen Harper in
Boyd understands, though, how fickle success can be. He heard
the boos at Death Valley back in the season opener when the Tigers
left the field down to Troy 16-13 before rallying to win 43-19.
Boyd’s home in Seneca was pelted with eggs the night of the Georgia
Tech loss (although it was Halloween weekend).
Wake Forest linebacker Scott Betros said Georgia Tech showed how
to slow down Clemson and Boyd with long drives and solid defense.
The Yellow Jackets’ ”defense played really well and got after
their quarterback really well,” Betros said. ”Hopefully, we can
build off of something like that.”
Morris, the offensive coordinator, didn’t fault Boyd for his
second fourth-quarter pick, saying the quarterback was simply
trying to make a play. He was less forgiving about Boyd’s first
interception, which came because of some miscommunication between
the quarterback and receiver Sammy Watkins.
Watkins says the error was cleared up and the two are ready to
resume their successful combination this season. The freshman
receiver leads the ACC with 10 touchdowns and is tied with North
Carolina’s Dwight Jones with 63 catches.
Boyd’s not worried about individual honors or accomplishments,
just wins. He spent last weekend in the mountains of Eastern
Tennessee, unwinding yet eager to get back out and get Clemson back
on the winning track.
”I feel like everybody came back hungry and ready to play,”
Boyd said. ”We’re excited about the opportunities in front of