By William Qualkinbush
At this point in Tajh Boyd’s career as the starting quarterback at Clemson, most every game is a record-breaking performance. Such a distinction says nothing about Boyd’s performance, whether good or bad.
Boyd’s play late in Saturday’s 40-27 victory over Maryland could be summed up in one word: gutsy.
His inspired play in the fourth quarter led the Tigers to back-to-back scoring drives to extend what was a one-possession game heading into the final period. Boyd’s stat line was pretty good: 28-for-41, 304 yards, and 35 rushing yards on 13 carries. But it was the way he conducted the most critical possessions for his team that best epitomized Boyd’s performance.
Much was made of the injuries incurred by the Terrapins heading into the game, but Boyd was dealing with some aches and pains of his own. He was seen limping on the field during pregame warmups, presumably favoring his sore knee.
The injury worsened after a hit Boyd took in the second quarter. At one point, trainers were seen tending to him on the sideline, and Boyd says he was contemplating staying off the field for a little while so he could lessen the pain.
Then he thought about the implications of his absence and reconsidered.
“I couldn’t stay away,” Boyd said.
Late in the game, Dabo Swinney approached his star quarterback and asked for more. He and offensive architect Chad Morris needed Boyd to run the football as the game tightened late.
“He answered the bell for us a couple of times down the stretch in a big way,” Swinney said.
Boyd did what he had to do, hobbling all the way to the end zone while displaying leadership and character in his 28th win in 35 starts as Clemson’s starting quarterback—his sixth in as many tries on artificial turf.
Boyd reached several milestones against the Terrapins—he rose to second on the ACC’s all-time passing yardage list (10,296), tied Philip Rivers for the most touchdowns in conference history (112), and reached the 11,000-yard mark in total offense.
But it was the tough touchdown run in the fourth quarter that perhaps best embodied Boyd’s performance on a bounce-back Saturday.
No. 2 was No. 1. Only five Clemson players caught passes from Boyd on Saturday. Sammy Watkins was the recipient of half of the passes that came from Boyd’s right arm.
The junior had 14 catches—a single-game Clemson record—for 163 yards in the game. He hauled in 10 balls for 129 yards before halftime en route to his 12th 100-yard performance as a Tiger, which was also a school record.
Hot Rod provides balance. Tailback Rod McDowell notched career highs with 30 carries and 161 yards in the game Saturday. It was the first time a Tiger running back attempted 30 rushes in a game since Travis Zachery had 31 carries against N.C. State in 2000.
Watkins and McDowell also combined to be the first-ever 160 rushing-160 receiving duo for Clemson.
Uncommon kicking. Chandler Catanzaro knocked in four extra points and four field goals in the game. His 16 points moved him into fourth place on the ACC’s all-time list, passing Casey Barth of North Carolina.
Also, Clemson kicked off to open the ballgame for the first time in 18 games. The Tigers won the toss, so it was an odd choice to defer at the outset. Morris later admitted the wind played a role in why the Tigers deferred to the second half.
Going streaking. This was the 15th consecutive time Clemson has defeated an unranked opponent by double digits, a streak that is still second in the nation behind Alabama (25).
It is also the seventh consecutive win for the Tigers away from home, the longest such streak since the team won nine straight from 1978-79. In addition, Swinney has won 21 straight games over the past three seasons when leading after three quarters. He is 38-3 in his career with a lead before the final period.
Defense in beast mode. Vic Beasley posted his 10th sack of the season today. It was his third strip sack of the year, and it resulted in a turnover. The fourth one caused by the Clemson defense.
Spencer Shuey had a fumble recovery in the game, giving him three on the season. The senior has the most fumble recoveries in a single season by a Tiger since Brandon Maye had three in 2008.
R.I.P. This was the final time Clemson and Maryland will compete on the gridiron as ACC foes. The Tigers finish with a 34-26-2 edge over the Terrapins as conference competitors.