By Will Vandervort
Before third-ranked Clemson loaded the busses and ran down the Hill in Saturday’s 56-7 victory over Wake Forest, head coach Dabo Swinney asked his team, “What if this is your last game?”
When he heard Swinney ask that, Tajh Boyd remembered something Michael Jordan said.
“He said every time he stepped out on that court he tried to put on his best show because there was somebody in those stands that had never seen him play before. That made an impression on me.
“So when Coach said it that reminded me of that. Every time you go out there, you have to go out there and be competitive. Every extra yard you get, you have to go get it. You want to make an impression every time you step out onto that field.”
Boyd made one heck of an impression on Saturday. The Clemson quarterback threw for 311 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another 69 yards and one more score. His 380 total yards were one of the more impressive performances in Memorial Stadium history, especially considering he completed 17 of 24 passes, again with no interceptions.
“I told Tajh to just take what they give you, relax and have fun,” Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “That was the biggest thing I could tell him. Quit pressing and have fun. He did not look like he was having fun last week. And he wasn’t.”
Boyd had a lot of fun against a Wake Forest defense that was yielding only 15.8 points and 311.5 total yards a game coming in. The Demon Deacons’ pass defense allowed just 143.2 yards a game and had six interceptions before Boyd shredded them with touchdown passes of 64, 75 and 14 yards.
The fun started when the Clemson quarterback found Sammy Watkins—six catches for 113 yards—streaking down the near sideline for a 64-yard touchdown pass on the game’s third play from scrimmage.
“We were not worried about his play. Last week was not even him,” Watkins said about his quarterback. “This is a game of rhythm and getting in tune with the offense. We had two weeks before NC State and we started kind of slow. But we picked it up in the second half and started getting in that rhythm and today we kept that rhythm going.”
With Boyd playing in rhythm the offense got rolling. The Tigers scored on their first three possessions of the game. They scored eight touchdowns overall, with seven different players finding the end zone. Clemson had 573 total yards, which included 166 rushing yards.
“We went out there and executed our game plan,” Boyd said. “We went out there and played the way we are supposed to play.”
When the night was all said and done, Boyd left Death Valley with several new records. His 380 yards allowed him to become the school’s all-time leader in total offense. His four total touchdowns allowed him to become the first Clemson player to produce 100-career touchdowns and is only the second player in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference to do so.
Then there is the record he is the most proud of – his 166 consecutive pass attempts without an interception.
“No disrespect to all the other accomplishments, but the biggest thing on offense is going out there and executing, not turning the ball over and winning the turnover margin in every game,” he said. “We have won that every game this season.
“If we win the turnover margin, we have a chance to win the game. We are 4-0 right now. Hopefully we can continue this streak, but the biggest stat for me is zero interceptions. I want to keep that riding.”
And when he does that, he makes each performance memorable.