By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- Although the team already knew that they were headed to the Discover Orange Bowl after their 38-10 pounding of Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game, watching the BCS Bowl Selection Show and seeing Clemson’s name associated with the Orange Bowl was still an amazing experience for quarterback Tajh Boyd.
“It was very cool, and again Virginia Tech is going to the Sugar Bowl so it’s great for the ACC,” Boyd said. “I’m definitely excited about the opportunity to go down to Miami and play a good West Virginia team.”
After their losing season in 2010 and playing a South Florida team that didn’t match up well against the Tigers, Clemson will now face off against another high tempo offense in West Virginia.
“It should be fun playing against West Virginia, they have a good team,” Boyd said. “I know some of the guys on the team and it should be a fun matchup. Both offenses can produce points and we both have solid defenses so I’m excited about it.”
West Virginia is a program that Boyd seriously considered during his recruiting process, he even verbally committed to them for a time thinking that he wanted to be a Mountaineer.
“I had committed verbally to West Virginia,” Boyd said. “So I see a little bit of irony in this matchup but I’m very excited about it. I’m looking forward to it.”
The Tigers’ have been on a rollercoaster ride for the past few weeks as they lost three of their final four regular season games before turning up the intensity for the ACC Championship game.
“College football is so up and down,” Boyd said. “You lose to this team and then turn around and beat a team, it can go any way, you just have to come prepared and ready each game no matter who you’re playing against. The biggest lesson I’ve learned this season and in life in general is how to bounce back from adversity. That’s what this team has done all year; we’re excited about the game and having the opportunity to play in the Orange Bowl.”
Boyd believes that the Tigers’ first ACC Championship win in 20 years and the possibility to win the Orange Bowl is a launch pad for the program and its future.
“That’s something we want to build here is a consistent program to where we’re mentioned with the top schools each year,” Boyd said. “That’s where Clemson should be I think. Hopefully this is a start of a legacy and dynasty and we just have to keep moving forward from here.”
Boyd sees playing in the Orange Bowl as a mental task for this team as they have over a month to prepare for West Virginia and the week leading up to the bowl game won’t be like a normal game week, instead it will be filled with activities and banquets for both teams.
“This game is all about focus and going for four quarters,” Boyd said. “It’s all about how you prepare that whole week, not just a day or two but the whole week. Being down in South Beach it’ll be a test, it’s a reward for how much work we’ve put in over the summer and off season, but we do have to get ready to play this game and go out there and win it.”
This season has been a maturation process for Boyd as before the season started; Tiger Nation wasn’t completely sold on #10 as their quarterback. However Boyd has proven all doubters wrong this season, even though he has looked like a first year quarterback in some games, he knows how to win and is able to make good decisions when it counts the most.
“I took good care of the ball for the first 8 weeks,” Boyd said. “But then it got to the point where it was like a sense of invincibility where you can make every throw, squeeze the ball in tight spaces. Even in practice I’d make coach lose his hair because I was throwing the ball into windows so small, it got to the point though where you’ve got to go out there and do what’s best for the team, whether you believe it or not. Sometimes you believing it won’t allow the ball to squeeze between defenders and hit your man. Coach has a lot of confidence in us to go out there and make plays and be smart with it, and he trusts me, you’ve got to keep growing though week in and out.”
“I feel like a 30 year old man over here though in how much I’ve grown and matured this season,” Boyd said. “You learn through both the good and bad times, they’re still experiences. That’s just the best part about playing is seeing myself grow each week. Even when things aren’t going well as a team, I feel like I’ve grown in situations and have learned from them, I’m blessed to be in this situation.”
Only 11 months before the Tigers took home the ACC Championship trophy, they walked out of Bank of America Stadium down and depressed after losing to South Florida in the Mienke Car Care Bowl, ending the season at 6-7, Clemson’s first recorded losing season in several years. How did it feel to go back to Bank of America Stadium and come out the ACC Champion?
“It was lovely, I couldn’t stop smiling,” Boyd said. “It was honestly one of the most exciting moments of my life because of all that we’ve been through as a team and as a university in general. People thought it would be impossible for us to win 10 games this year, but we went out and did some really good things. This year will be seen as a stepping stone for us and the future here. We just have to continue to grow and build from it; I’m really excited about the direction we’re heading.”
After news spread about Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris receiving interest for other Offensive Coordinator positions at programs like Ohio State, Morris and Clemson decided yesterday that it was time for him to receive a substantial raise and a new contract. When did Boyd hear of this news?
“I honestly didn’t know until today about it,” Boyd said. “Coach Morris and I had a conversation about three or four weeks ago though because we were starting to hear about other schools’ interest in Morris but he promised me that we’re building something here and that he wouldn’t leave here until I was finished playing here. I believe everything he says, fortunately he signed a new contract and I couldn’t be more excited to have him here.”
“If things keep going the way they’re going here though opportunities will present themselves for him to become a head coach, kind of like what Chip (Kelly) did at Oregon” Boyd said. “We’ve just got to enjoy it while he’s here.”