By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.— When he went back and watched the film of last year’s Florida State game earlier this week, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd could only chuckle when he got to the third quarter play that almost turned the game.
With Clemson leading 21-10 early in the third quarter, Boyd scrambled out of the pocket to avoid pressure. As he tried to move to his left a Seminole player started to wrap the Clemson quarterback up. Boyd, however, thought he had enough time and arm strength to throw the football out of bounds in hopes to avoid the sack. However, the ball fell out of Boyd’s hand as he moved his arm forward and it went right into the waiting arms of defensive end Bjoern Werner, who rumbled 25-yards for an easy touchdown.
“It was a funny play,” Boyd smiled. “But it came at a crucial time and it made the game closer than it should have been.”
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney called it one of the biggest blunders in college football last year and now a year later he can joke about it.
“I don’t know what you call that play,” Swinney said. “It was a top ESPY blooper play. That was a gift touchdown.”
It’s a gift the No. 10 Tigers (3-0) cannot give in their ACC opener Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla. Boyd, who threw for 344 yards and totaled four touchdowns in last year’s 35-30 victory in Death Valley, knows he has to play near flawless against the fourth-ranked Seminoles.
“In crucial situations and games like this, you can’t make mistakes and put your team in bad situations,” Boyd said. “Playing in games like this, you can’t put your team in harmful situations. We make it an emphasis not to turn the ball over.”
Clemson will also put an emphasis on voiding Werner and a defensive line that has produced 11 sacks already this season. The ‘Noles (3-0) love to play press coverage which they are able to do since most of their pressure on the quarterback comes from their front four.
“You have to win versus press coverage and that is whoever is going to press you up,” Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “That is challenging and that is one of the things we have talked about. If someone is pressing you up with no one over the top to help, then they are not respecting you as a receiver. You have to gain that respect. How do you do that? You do that by making plays.”
And that comes back to the quarterback, too. It will be important for Boyd to make the right decisions and get the football to his playmaker – Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins , Brandon Ford, Charone Peake and Jaron Brown. Last year, Boyd teamed up with those playmakers to gain 443 yards, and that was without an Andre Ellington, who was nursing a hamstring injury in last year’s game.
This year, Ellington is healthy and so far he has excelled in Morris’ new Pistol formation. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound back is leading the ACC with better than 109 yards a game, including 228 yards in the Tigers’ season-opening win over Auburn.
“It’s pretty much the same teams,” Boyd said. “We lost some guys on the O-line and they lost some guys on defense. You try to take what matchups you had from that, but we are both two totally different teams. But you also try to gather some things from that as well.”