Boyd totals 380 yards, four touchdowns
By Will Vandervort
Earlier this week Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said quarterback Tajh Boyd needed to be more focused. He felt Boyd’s lack of focus was one of the reasons why the Tigers stumbled on offense in each of the last two games against South Carolina State and NC State.
In Saturday’s game against Wake Forest, Boyd played with a lot of poise, focus and composure as he threw for 311 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 69 yards and ran for another score as the third-ranked Tigers rolled to a 56-7 victory in front of the Homecoming Crowd in Death Valley.
Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC) amassed 573 yards in the victory. The Tigers had 27 first downs and ran 83 plays.
“This was a very challenging week for those guys,” Morris said. “We just wanted to get into a rhythm. Get into a groove and not press. A lot of times what happens is guys press and they feel like they have to make this throw or that throw or this run or that run. I feel like that’s what we were doing last week.
“We could not get into a rhythm until play 59. I said that in my press conference. It took 59 snaps for Tajh Boyd to get into a rhythm last week, but from 59 to 82 he played as well as he has played. My challenge to those guys was to pick up where we left off and I think we saw that tonight. It was good. All we needed was a spark. That was all we needed.”
The Tigers got that spark on the third offensive play of the game. Boyd found wide receiver Sammy Watkins down the near sideline for a 64-yard touchdown pass. Watkins could have given up on the play after the Wake Forest defensive back pushed him out of bounds, but the junior stuck with the play and came back in bounds to grab the pass, broke a tackle and went the distance for the score.
“That was the spark that we needed,” Morris said. “It was the rhythm, the click or whatever you want to call it to get us in sink.”
It got Boyd in sink. He completed 17 of 24 passes and set a record with interception avoidance which is now set at 166 passes.
“Last week, I did not convert those plays and put enough air under them,” the Clemson quarterback said. “We have to go out there and make those plays… We wanted to make sure we started off this game with a bang, and we did.”
Though no one will mistake the Demon Deacons for top-ranked Alabama on defense, they have played pretty well this season.
Wake Forest entered Saturday’s contest giving up only 15.8 points and 311.5 total yards a game. The pass defense allowed just 143.2 yards a game and had six interceptions. By the way, Clemson’s eight touchdowns eclipsed the seven the Deacons had allowed all season prior to Saturday.
On the Tigers’ second offensive possession, Boyd later got a 75-yard touchdown pass to running back D.J. Howard, while running back Zac Brooks ran 10 yards for another touchdown as the Tigers took a quick 21-0 lead just six and a half minutes into the game.
“We just came out there ready to play,” Watkins said. “Coach pushed us hard this in practice and we thought that Wake Forest was pretty good and we just approached the game like we were the best offense on the field.”
Wake Forest (2-3, 0-2) tried to act like it was. The Demon Deacons rallied for a little while when quarterback Tanner Price found Sherman Ragland for a 10-yard scoring pass to make the score 21-7 with 1:17 to play in the first quarter. But after that, they got very little as Clemson’s defense held them to 60 rushing yards and 222 total.
“Our defense has improved greatly, starting with the second half of last season and it has carried over to now,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “They are playing sound, fundamental football.”
After gaining only 14 yards on their previous three possessions, the Tigers found the end zone again with 4:57 to play in the second quarter. That’s when Boyd called his own number on fourth-and-one from the two and carried it into the end zone for a 28-7 lead.
Boyd threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Mike Williams with 29 seconds left for the half’s final score.
On Clemson’s second possession of the second half, Boyd led the Tigers on another scoring drive which C.J. Davidson capped with a one-yard score for a 42-7 lead.
Cole Stoudt, who was 10 for 11 for 90 yards, came in and found tight end Jordan Leggett for a 18-yard touchdown pass with 1:11 to go in the third quarter. Davidson made it 56-7 with 9:21 to go in the fourth quarter another one-yard plunge.
The Tigers will visit Syracuse next Saturday as they look to stay undefeated.