By Ed McGranahan
Here’s the dilemma.
Only a game with The Citadel stands between today and Salvation.
It would not be shocking to discover you’re already looking through The Citadel as if The Gray Man of Pawleys Island took a condo at Wild Dunes.
Not knocking the boys at the Military College of South Carolina, but Samford, App State and Western Carolina pale in comparison.
Winning that game shouldn’t be tricky, even though The Citadel runs an option offense similar to what Clemson mastered Thursday night. If Georgia Tech doesn’t have a secondary that can cover Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant … you get the drift.
One of the Clemson records Tajh Boyd would trade for the 51 already attached to his name would be the one for winningest quarterback. Rodney Williams has it at 32. Clemson has won 30 with Boyd at quarterback so it’s there for him counting the two games and a bowl.
So, do you play him next week and risk further injury, jeopardize his availability for South Carolina, a game of ominous repercussions.
Cripple the chances for a marquee bowl matchup?
Boyd is the franchise, arguably the greatest quarterback to wear a Clemson uniform. The Tigers without him in January might not be sufficient theater for a BCS bowl hoping for big ratings.
A couple weeks ago Clemson-Oregon looked mighty salty. Movie producers don’t pay the big money without Clooney and Hanks. Bowls are not interested in paying more than $25 million for teams without Boyd and Mariota.
Unnoticed by most was that he did not run down The Hill during pregame, which further fomented speculation that the season was taking a toll.
Playing through knee and ankle injuries, he rushed three times in Clemson’s first possession, ran for a touchdown and filled out the card as a career 1,000-yard rusher.
Occasionally pride darkens his judgment, which was probably what happened on the interception, but the touchdown passes to Mike Williams and Martavis Bryant were called runs that Boyd checked to passes.
Boyd said he heard “cracking” when he was tackled, but shined it off.
Initial reports after the game said he injured a collarbone. Boyd said, yes, collarbone, maybe sternum. Who knows? Clemson is required by law to be vague publicly.
When Boyd went down under the weight of Jeremiah Atouchu, thousands in Death Valley gasped and the bowl reps in the press box squirmed.
When he returned to the sideline after an X-ray, the crowd sighed in relief. Boyd asked to play again.
Not this week, he was told.
Oddly, for a few seconds in the third quarter, Boyd had the best seat in the house.
Knocked to the ground after delivering a dart to Watkins for his fourth touchdown pass, he rolled over, propped his elbows on his knees at the Clemson 45-yard line and gazed at the scene sprinting away from him.
There won’t be any more nights for him in Death Valley. Boyd wants to savor every second, and he’ll probably need to be restrained if Swinney decides it isn’t worth the risk.
“I’m going to make my last game in Death Valley memorable,” he said after four touchdown passes and a fifth running in a gutsy performance.
Maybe he’s already done that, some would suggest, but knowing the guy, there’s an encore.