Clemson offense looking to get back on track

Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd didn’t even have to leave home to

know what was ahead in film study this week.

Boyd watched seventh-ranked Clemson’s last-second 31-28 victory

with his parents, Tim and Carla, and younger brother T.J., on

Sunday morning. He felt his father’s frustration level rise with

every bad pass or poor decision.

And things got even worse when his teammates and offensive

coordinator Chad Morris reviewed Boyd’s shakiest performance this

season.

”I went out to eat with some of the guys last night and they

said, `You know how many picks you should’ve had?”’ Boyd

recalled.

Imagine the reaction if Clemson had lost.

Boyd threw two interceptions – he’d thrown just five all year

coming in – and put the ball in jeopardy much of the opening three

quarters against the Demon Deacons. Yet, Boyd rallied to complete

17 of his final 20 passes, including TD throws to Brandon Ford and

Jaron Brown, in Clemson’s rally.

The late effort masked an offense that has struggled to find the

explosive nature in the past two games it did in the Tigers (9-1,

6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) 8-0 start.

Four of Boyd’s seven picks this season have come the last two

games against Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, both defenses that

limited Clemson’s running attack and challenged the first-time

starter to make plays through the air – something Boyd did just

enough in Clemson’s division-clinching victory last Saturday.

Before the final surge, though, came a lot of nervous stomachs

as Wake defenders got their hands on several of Boyd’s passes.

”I think there were about eight” potential interceptions,

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said with a smile this week.

Then again, it’s easy to joke when you’re still winning. The

Tigers try for a 10th victory when they close the ACC regular

season at North Carolina State (5-5, 2-4) on Saturday.

Tight end Dwayne Allen said everyone on offense needs to pick up

their play after the past two weeks of frustration.

Clemson scored more than 40 points a game during its perfect

start, but just 45 combined against the Yellow Jackets and Demon

Deacons. ”I haven’t put my finger on why,” Allen said. ”But

that’s something I hope we will figure out before this week.”

North Carolina State coach Tom O’Brien says Clemson has talented

skill players like receiver Sammy Watkins and runner Andre

Ellington along with Boyd and Allen.

”I think that’s what sets them apart from any other offense.

Another offense may have a guy or two, but not four different

positions or more that if they touch the ball, they can go all the

way,” O’Brien said.

Clemson’s Allen said the players have been focused and attentive

throughout the season. They may, he thinks, have let themselves

believe they were unbeatable and didn’t give the necessary respect

to Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. There was complacency evident the

last two weeks that can’t re-emerge if the Tigers hope to achieve

even more this season, Allen said.

”We’ve been missing the spark. If we get one play then it’s,

`OK, now we’re rolling,”’ he said.

Much of that starts with Boyd, the 6-foot-1 sophomore starting

for the first time this season. As the Tigers kept winning, Boyd’s

natural confidence skyrocketed and he began to think he could make

any play, Swinney said.

”This is open for Tajh,” said the coach, his hands spaced

about a foot apart.

Boyd said Morris, the offensive coordinator, is working to make

sure the quarterback sees the correct play instead of the

potentially game-breaking one. Swinney recalled a third-and-14 play

that went incomplete where if Boyd had gone through his

progressions and checked down, ”our guy would’ve run for about

20.”

Not that Swinney nor Morris want Boyd to lose that swagger. It’s

part of his personality and a quality that has driven Clemson into

the top 10 this season with the potential for even bigger

things.

For all the occassions Boyd put the ball in danger last week, he

threw for 343 yards, the sixth highest total in Clemson history.

Three other of Boyd’s passing performances from this season are in

the school’s all-time top five.

Boyd knows he must do a better job of keeping the ball safe if

Clemson wants to continue its stellar season – and is willing to

endure the criticism he might hear at home and in the office.

”I don’t want to get no Brett Favre syndrome where I’m trying

to squeeze everything in there,” he said. ”But I definitely do

have confidence in my arm. It can get me into trouble sometimes. I

just have to take control over a game and recognize what’s going on

out there.”