By Ed McGranahan.
By Ed McGranahan
After an uneven performance in a Thursday night win at N.C. State, this went down smoother than a cold beer.
“We’re not where we need to be right now. We’re not even close,” Tajh Boyd said with a smile that would span Lake Hartwell. “That’s the beauty of it.
“We got a chance to put up numbers, big numbers.”
No bragging, just fact.
With Boyd at quarterback for three seasons Clemson has put up better numbers. Just not this season until a 56-7 thrashing Saturday of Wake Forest that ran third-ranked Clemson’s record to 4-0 and eased the angst of the 80,607 in Death Valley who saw the show they’d come to see.
Seven different players scored the eight touchdowns as Clemson hit a season high with 573 yards on 83 plays – 407 passing, 166 rushing.
Other than a 54-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter Wake Forest would cross midfield on four other occasions, only once beyond the Clemson 40. Wake had 222 yards and was 2 of 14 on third down with two turnovers.
“I think we got better today on both sides of the ball,” said wide receiver Sammy Watkins, “it was a step in the right direction.”
Watkins caught a 64-yard touchdown pass from Boyd on the third play of the game. It was the downbeat to the rhythm the Clemson offense had not had since beating Georgia in the opener.
The idea, said offensive coordinator Chad Morris, was to pick up where they left off the second half in Raleigh. They needed a spark and Watkins delivered it.
“The rhythm for us is going out there and having fun,” Boyd said. “We’re a very confident team but we’ve got to go out and have fun out there.”
It came under less than ideal circumstances.
Injury, illness and suspension cost Clemson eight critical players.
“We had guys coming out of the woodwork making plays,” said running back Zac Brooks, who scored his first rushing touchdown.
Running back D.J. Howard did most of the heavy lifting on a 75-yard touchdown play after taking a swing pass from Boyd.
“When I saw D.J. jump over a guy, he blew my mind,” Brooks said.
Fourth-string back C.J. Davidson scored a pair of touchdowns, and Boyd connected with freshmen Mike Williams and Jordan Leggett.
“I think it shows how explosive we can be,” Boyd said of the Boys from the Wood.
The peripherals were sick: 8 of 17 on third down, 3 of 4 on fourth, 6 of 6 in the red zone, no turnovers. Boyd broke Cullen Harper’s school record of 165 consecutive passes without an interception. Of all the records behind him and in the headlights, he said, “by far my favorite one. I want to keep that one riding.”
Clemson christens Syracuse’s entry to the Atlantic Coast Conference next Saturday, and Boyd sheepishly admitted he didn’t realize until recently that the Orangemen play both football and basketball in the same venue though he was cognizant of the program’s history. “My God, Donovan (McNabb) played there.”
It should be the ultimate Solid Orange Day, and it should be another opportunity for Boyd to further his legacy. He needs 29 yards to become the third ACC quarterback to reach 10,000 yards passing and 12 touchdown passes to break Philip Rivers’ career conference record.
Boyd was also bit embarrassed to know the touchdown record. “We were joking about it earlier.” He said somebody asked him, “If its not that big a deal how do you know the number?”
Perched on a ledge within reach of the mountain top, Boyd said he’s trying to immerse himself in the moment. He’s still trying to get a feel for the young receivers, so he may have a tendency to stare them down, but it’s hard to argue with his numbers.
“You do peak at some point,” he said of this early ride. “Hopefully we’re only at a mid-point. We’ve just got to keep on improving
“We’re a very confident team. We’ve just got to go out and have fun out there.”