By Will Vandervort
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd could not put his finger on one certain thing that went wrong in Saturday night’s 51-14 loss to No. 5 Florida State. Maybe that’s because there was more than one.
Actually the Tigers – who saw their Atlantic Coast Conference and national championship hopes go up in smoke in front of 83,428 – could probably put their finger more on what went wrong than what went right.
Clemson (6-1, 4-1 ACC) turned the football over a season-high four times, gained only 326 yards and allowed 565. It also gave up four sacks, failed to score once again in the red zone, allowed two receivers to gain more than 145 yards and gave up three touchdown passes.
It was a bad night.
“We felt good before the game,” Boyd said. “Things just did not swing the way we wanted them to. Obviously, there was a slippery slope effect almost. We came back at halftime and talked about some things and felt like we could respond.
“Then they went down and got a score and we did not come back and convert. We had some opportunities, but we missed them. We got to learn from them, I guess.”
Boyd – who sprained his ankle in the third quarter but said he was fine – had the roughest night of all. The senior, who came back for his senior year with the hopes of winning another ACC title and maybe playing for a national title, completed just 17 of 37 passes for a season-low 156 yards. He threw two interceptions and his first-quarter fumble was returned 37 yards for a touchdown by defensive end Mario Edwards.
That gave the Seminoles (6-0, 4-0 ACC) a 17-0 lead with 3:07 still remaining in the first quarter, and the rout was on.
“It is always a tough deal. It is always a bad situation,” Boyd said. “I have lost only two games here since I have been a starter now. We have to continue to keep working. We only have two home games left. We will make sure we win those.”
Before that Boyd has to make sure he has his team ready to win at Maryland next week. Now that they lost to FSU, the Tigers have more than likely lost the ACC’s Atlantic Division, the conference championship and a national championship.
“We still have a lot of things to play for,” he said. “Our main objective is to go out here and win the next one against Maryland. It is going to be a tough game up there in that environment, but we still have everything out on the table for us.
“As disappoint as it is, you really have to let it go, honestly. If not, you will let this loss beat you twice. I think we have experienced that situation before and we are not going to let that happen anymore.”
And though those are the right things to say, this loss stings; no matter what anyone on the team says. It stings a lot.
“As a Clemson player, it really hurts, but we still have more to play for,” wide receiver Sammy Watkins said. “We have a long season still to go. We have five or six games left to play. The only thing we can do as leaders is lead the young guys. We have Maryland next week and that is the biggest game.
“We have to come ready to play those guys. They will be ready to beat us. We have to lift our heads up and keep leading.”