By Will Vandervort
CHAROLTTESVILLE, Va. — Tajh Boyd said the atmosphere and the welcome he got from the Scott Stadium crowd prior to No. 8 Clemson’s 59-10 victory over Virginia on Saturday was a little bit better than the one he got in Blacksburg, Va., two years ago.
“I got booed when I got on the field,” said the Hampton Roads native, which is a little more than two hours down the road. “It was a little bit sweeter coming home to this one.”
Boyd’s performance was a reflection of that. With his own little cheering section, which included his parents, family, friends and his former youth football organization—the Mustangs—sitting just to the right of the Clemson bench, he threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns, while also running for one other score.
“It was just a great night here,” he said. “It was great to see some of the people that I have not seen in a while and I got a chance to talk to them afterwards, it was fun.”
It was fun, and Boyd was having a lot of it, something he has not had in quite some time. For the last month or so, whether it was the pressures of being in the Heisman Trophy race, the Tigers failures to execute in the red zone prior to Saturday or the questions still being asked from the Florida State loss, it was obvious Boyd was not having as much fun as he was having earlier in the year.
“I know that’s been the big question as of late, but every time I get a chance to hang with these guys and talk to them, we start to understand that there is one less game we are going to have and one less game I’m going to have here.
“It’s just important to go out there and enjoy all of these moments.”
Boyd was enjoying it when he threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins on the opening drive or the 37-yard pass to Martavis Bryant that set up the Tigers’ second score. He also enjoyed it when he revved back and launched a spiral down the right side in the third quarter that Sammy Watkins corralled for a 96-yard touchdown – the second longest play from scrimmage in Clemson history.
“We always have fun when we win,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “I thought he had a great week of practice. He has practiced well. It was good to see him have fun.
“Last week was big. To get that win and for him to finish the game like he did and have the type of practices he had, that’s big.”
Nursing some nagging injuries to his left wrist, ankle and knee, the Clemson coaches limited Boyd’s practice time this week as he mainly observed Monday’s and Tuesday’s practices. But he stayed in tune with what was going on and was focused on the game plan.
It was obvious he was. It took him only five plays to go 75 yards in leading the Tigers (8-1, 6-1 ACC) to their first scoring drive of the afternoon. He completed all four passes he threw on the drive for 63 yards, including the 33-yard touchdown to Watkins.
After Virginia (2-7, 0-5) tied the game at 7-7, Boyd needed only six plays to go 75 yards and take the lead back. He had passes of 27 and 37 yards on that drive.
“I just think he puts so much pressure on himself, but to come back out, come to his home state and to play at the level he played at today, I’m proud of him. Everyone is proud for him,” Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “What he has done for this university, it is far more than just one game.
“Tajh Boyd and what he has done, he has set a standard for the quarterback both on the field and off. We are going to get great quarterbacks here and it is going to be year in and year out. We are going to have great quarterbacks that are going to play for us. But for Tajh to carry himself in the manner he has in the last two or three years and to represent this university both on the field and more importantly off the field as well, I was proud to see him do what he did today.”
And it was good to see Boyd having fun, again.