Three and Out: Tajh Boyd, No. 8 Clemson continue BCS push, rout Georgia Tech
There was no upset alert in Death Valley on Thursday night. Thanks to some high-flying offense from Clemson and its senior quarterback, Tajh Boyd, the eighth-ranked Tigers overwhelmed visiting Georgia Tech 55-31 to keep their BCS at-large hopes afloat. The win snapped the Yellow Jackets’ three-game winning streak and marked Clemson’s 27th straight home victory over an unranked opponent.
Here are three quick thoughts from the Tigers’ rout:
• Tajh the Great: In Clemson’s first home game since getting demolished by Florida State last month, Boyd wasn’t just good against Georgia Tech — he was historically good.
The Tigers’ quarterback reeled off 340 yards on 20-of-26 passing for four touchdowns and one pick against the Yellow Jackets, and he set a couple of records along the way, too. Boyd hit Martavis Bryant for a 47-yard bomb in the second quarter to become the ACC’s leader in career completions. On Clemson’s next possession, Boyd found Bryant for a 76-yard touchdown pass to become the conference’s career leader in touchdown passes, passing NC State’s Philip Rivers and finishing the night with 97 career touchdown tosses.
Those big plays were a big theme for Boyd’s prolific night. Clemson’s first trip to the end zone came on a 41-yard touchdown pass from Boyd to Sammy Watkins. Next, the record-setting 45-yard grab by Bryant set up a short touchdown pass to Mike Williams. The Tigers’ next three scoring drives included passes of 76, 33 and 44 yards. The Tigers’ leaned heavily on an aerial attack, and Boyd averaged 13.1 yards per attempt on the night. It’s no wonder his favorite target on Thursday, Bryant, notched a career-high with 176 receiving yards on only five catches.
Clemson got a scare late in the third quarter when Boyd landed hard on his left shoulder after a seven-yard run. Trainers attended to Boyd before he left for the locker room, but he returned to the sideline at the beginning of the fourth quarter. He did not re-enter the game, however, and ESPN’s Joe Schard reported that Boyd suffered a bruised sternum and collarbone. No broken bones is good news for the Tigers, who need their veteran leader in order to continue their quest for a BCS bowl.
• Losing ground: Georgia Tech realized Clemson is more than just an offensive team. The Tigers can play a little defense, too.
The Yellow Jackets found trouble getting their triple-option attack off the ground against Clemson. Coach Paul Johnson’s squad came in ranked fourth in the country in rushing offense with 311 yards per game, but the Tigers were giving up only 141 yards on the ground, and that defense came through. Through one quarter, Georgia Tech had managed a mere three rushing yards, and by the time Robert Godhigh (126 yards) found his groove with two rushing scores in the third quarter, the Tigers had already blown the game open with a 21-point second period. It was too little, too late for the Ramblin’ Wreck, who finished below their season average with 248 rushing yards.
The Yellow Jackets needed a win to remain in the hunt for the ACC’s Coastal Division title, but the loss ultimately closed that door. Now Virginia Tech is the odds-on favorite to win the division, but Duke and Miami are still in the mix, as well.
• BCS hopes alive: Clemson isn’t contending for an ACC title as most predicted in the preaseason. Florida State made sure of that when it overwhelmed the Tigers in Death Valley last month, and now the ‘Noles remain unbeaten and ranked second in the BCS. But Clemson, which sits at No. 8 in the BCS, did what it needed to do to stay alive for an at-large bid. The Tigers aren’t likely to get much BCS love with a loss this late in the season — especially to an unranked team like Georgia Tech — but now their regular-season finale at No. 10 South Carolina stands as the biggest remaining test for those lofty postseason hopes.