RALEIGH — Something about Tajh Boyd’s accuracy just hasn’t been right in September.
Hitting the target
How Tajh Boyd’s completion percentage stacks up vs. 2013 opponents:
Jameis Winston, FSU – 78.1
Aaron Murray, Georgia – 72.0
C.J. Brown, Maryland – 66.3
David Watford, Virginia – 66.3
Connor Shaw, USC – 64.9
Pete Thomas, N.C. State – 62.8
Tajh Boyd, Clemson – 62.2
When Clemson outlasted Georgia with a 38-35 season-opening victory that ended at 11:53 p.m. on Aug. 31 — seven minutes before September began — the Tigers leapt into the championship conversation, just as Boyd soared to the top of the Heisman Trophy short list.
Boyd was 18 for 30 passing on that night, and his completion percentage was blemished by a number of wide receiver drops. In Clemson’s two games since, the receivers have shored up their hands, but it’s Boyd’s arm which has caused some concern.
In the first half Thursday night, Boyd misfired on four straight passes during a dreadful 5-for-13 stretch when the Tigers were fortunate to hit the halftime break with a 13-7 advantage.
“It just wasn’t smooth. I don’t know if it was anxiety or having 12 days off. It just wasn’t as much rhythm as we wanted,” Boyd said. “Yeah, we came back in the second half and did some great things. Didn’t have a turnover, so that was good. But we’ve got to step up and do a better job of creating opportunities to score.”
The fifth-year senior is completing 62.2 percent of his tosses, five points below his 2012 mark. By contrast, six of Clemson’s scheduled opposing quarterbacks this year have been more accurate, including Florida State’s Jameis Winston (78.1 percent), Georgia’s Aaron Murray (72 percent) and South Carolina’s Connor Shaw (64.9 percent).
Neither of Boyd’s postgame assessments following defense-driven wins over South Carolina State and North Carolina State have been ringing endorsements.
“We missed them in the first half; we had a couple that were just screaming wide open and we just didn’t hit them,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “But we came back and hit them when it counted.”
Even his teammates noticed after beating the Wolfpack that it was getting to Boyd.
“He was overthrowing us at first, but he settled down,” junior receiver Martavis Bryant said. “Once we were doing that, we knew we weren’t going to be stopped and we could move the ball.
“He was just being pressured,” he added. “Tajh is going to be just fine. He ain’t got no worries.”
Added fellow junior receiver Sammy Watkins: “I don’t think he got frustrated, but a lot of people were trying to see what’s wrong with him. His timing was just off, a little flustered, the first away game. That’s manageable.”
Offensive coordinator Chad Morris also thought “frustration” was too strong a sentiment for Boyd, but as a team leader dubbed a “perfectionist” by Swinney, it’s obvious when Boyd beats himself up on the sideline.
“He got down on himself a little bit, and rallied back,” Morris said. “You just try to deal with things like that; it’s going to happen through the course of the season. He hasn’t had too many of those times in his career like that. It’s just something you learn from.”
It’s not in Morris’ nature to coddle Boyd, in their third year working together.
“At some point, you can’t say anything,” Morris said. “You talk and talk and talk, and at some point, he doesn’t want to hear it from anybody. He wants to figure it out himself.”
After a rough first half in rowdy Raleigh, with all the Tigers’ hopes and dreams creeping into peril, Bryant saved Clemson with two clutch touchdown catches. Boyd’s final statline looked better than perception: 244 yards, three touchdowns and, for the third straight game, no turnovers.
“I think for this offense, we always find a way to make a play when it’s needed,” Boyd said. “But we’d like to execute on a better basis. We’re in a little stretch right here, so we’ll get in a groove. I’m excited about the way this season will play out.”
Three’s a charm
Vic Beasley was named co-defensive lineman of the week, and Stephone Anthony was linebacker of the week, as announced by the ACC league office Monday.
Beasley produced three sacks at N.C. State, and Anthony made 14 tackles (two for a loss.) It’s the second time since 2005 that Clemson has had multiple defenders recognized by the ACC in the same game.
But neither one was good enough to given the weekly Lott Impact Award, naming the best defensive player in all the land. That was Clemson linebacker Spencer Shuey, who had 11 tackles and a recovered fumble.