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