By Will Vandervort
His night finished a little bit earlier than he might have liked it to, but it was still quite a night for the Atlantic Coast Conference’s reigning Player of the Year.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd threw four touchdown passes and ran for another, while setting two ACC records and one school mark in sixth-rank Clemson’s 55-31 victory over Georgia Tech Thursday night.
Boyd became the ACC’s all-time leader in touchdown passes when he hit Martavis Bryant in stride for a 76-yard touchdown with 5:44 to play in the second quarter. He now has 97 career touchdown passes. Former NC State quarterback Phillip Rivers owned the mark with 95.
Boyd later became the first player in ACC history to throw for more than 10,000 yards in a career and run for 1,000 more. He also set the Clemson record for completions with a 47-yard completion to Bryant early in the second quarter. He now has 830 in his career.
Boyd’s night ended on the last play of the third quarter when he injured his left collarbone. He went to the locker room after completing 20 of 26 passes for 340 yards, while also rushing for 43 yards on 15 carries, which included a one-yard run in the third quarter which gave the Tigers a 34-17 lead with 10:13 to play in the quarter.
Clemson’s starting quarterback was not the only one to set new standards. Sammy Watkins set a single-season record at Clemson with his seven 100-yard receiving game of the season, breaking DeAndre Hopkins record of six in 2012.
Watkins finished the game with five catches for 105 yards, including touchdowns of 41 and 44 yards.
Bryant also had a big night, a career night as a matter of fact. The junior hauled in five catches for 176 yards. He averaged 35.2 yards per catch.
The night was night all about the offense. The defense held Tech to 248 rushing yards, its third lowest total of the season on the ground. The Yellow Jackets (6-4, 5-3 ACC) had only 72 rushing yards at halftime. Georgia Tech was averaging 311.2 yards per game prior to Thursday which ranked fifth nationally and led the ACC.
The defense also forced two turnovers.
With Boyd guiding the offense on his record night, Clemson’s defense set the tone with four straight three-and-outs to open the game, while limiting Tech’s ACC leading rushing attack to 72 yards on 20 carries. The defense also forced a second-quarter fumble.
The Yellow Jackets finished the half with 185 total yards.
Chandler Catanzaro gave Clemson a 6-0 lead with two first-quarter field goals, including a career long 51-yard kick with 3:07 to go in the opening frame. The 51-yard kick gave him the Clemson career record for field goals of 40 plus yards with 24.
Watkins went over 1,000 yards for the year when he hauled in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Boyd with 14:01 to play in the in the half. The touchdown was set up when Boyd kept the ball for two yards on a fourth-and-one play from the Tech 43.
The Tigers (9-1, 7-1 ACC) faced third-and-19 from the Tech 45 on their next possession when Boyd found Bryant down the middle of the field for a 41-yard gain to the Tech four. On the very next play, Boyd hit freshman Mike Williams on a fade route in the left corner of the end zone for a 20-0 lead.
After Georgia Tech got a one-yard run from David Sims, Boyd found Bryant down the right sideline for a 76-yard touchdown pass and a 27-7 lead with 5:44 to play in the first half.
Boyd went in from one-yard in the third quarter and hit Watkins on tunnel screen for a 44-yard touchdown. Backup quarterback Cole Stoudt scored from 13 yards on a quarterback keeper in the fourth, while Roderick McDowell ran for two yards for another score.
The Tigers will host The Citadel at noon a week from Saturday in their final home game of the season in Death Valley.