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
”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
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
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
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