SAPAKOFF COLUMN: A touch of Tajh goes a long way for the Tigers
CLEMSON -- Finally, Tajh Boyd was stopped. Nowhere to run. No one open.
Clemson's suddenly sensational sophomore quarterback was surrounded Saturday at midfield by children, fellow students and TV cameras after breaking records and snapping No. 21 Auburn's win streak with a 38-24 victory over the defending national champs.
Everyone wanted a photo.
"This way, Tajh!"
Yeah, strike the pose. Boyd's 386 yards passing and 416 yards of total offense are Death Valley records for a Clemson player.
"Tajh is great," Clemson center Dalton Freeman said of the Tigers' first-year starter. "It took him a couple of series to calm down. That was the biggest stage he's ever played on. Once he got calmed down, he was lights out."
Clemson is 3-0 and knocking on the Top 25 door, and Boyd is way ahead of schedule in new offensive coordinator Chad Morris' quick-strike attack. Would you believe 10 touchdown passes and one interception in three games?
"This," Boyd said, "is how we wanted to go into our ACC schedule."
He walks the Tiger Walk, talks the talk, backs it up. The whole deal.
On Clemson's 21-7 deficit in the second quarter?
"We knew we had to score," Boyd said. "I think this offense is coming together."
Auburn hadn't lost since 2009, and recently was spotted squeaking by Oregon to win the national championship. Of course, it's a new cast for Gene Chizik and Co. Seven Auburn starters on defense are sophomores.
Nice, though, to think that Boyd turned down Oregon to come to Clemson.
Nicer to know he and Sammy Watkins and so many other young skill-position players will get better, no matter what happens against Florida State and at Virginia Tech in the next two weeks.
With Boyd, there is every indication this offense is truly different, better than the cracked promises Clemson fans have suffered through most of the last 20 years.
Boyd looked so comfortable Saturday completing 30 of 42 passes, considering how college football gets more and more complex. Part of Auburn's play-calling includes backup quarterback Clint Moseley signaling in plays with poster-sized photos of either George W. Bush or Barack Obama (left side or right, nothing worked for Auburn after Boyd got hot).
Clemson has five guys in headsets and golf shirts plus reserve quarterback Donny McElveen transferring information from Morris to the offense. But the system allows Boyd adequate time to process info, and recent recruiting success gives him plenty of targets.
Bring on FSU
A nagging difference showed up early and favored Auburn. Michael Dyer bolted through a right-side hole at the line of scrimmage for 52 yards and the first touchdown. The seal blocks were exactly what Clemson didn't get on its previous scrimmage play when Andre Ellington went wide right on third-and-1 and lost a yard.
Auburn eventually went ahead, 21-7. The crowd about as quiet as possible for a gathering of 82,000. As if the ACC had just announced Syracuse was joining the league.
Then Clemson started converting third downs like layups and Boyd was presiding over four straight scoring drives.
He didn't simply put up big numbers.
He shared the football with many of his friends. That's the Dwayne Allen they have been talking about. Charone Peake took a big hit and held on. D.J. Howard came out of thin air -- or the state of Alabama and Auburn's recruiting list.
Boyd kept Clemson's defense well-rested.
"Coming into the season, our goal was to run 80 plays per game," Boyd said. "We ran 92 (Saturday), which is where we want to be. We just have to keep working hard."
Great game, great take.
Next up, Florida State.
"We have to win at home," Boyd said. "We haven't done enough of that lately."