Clemson QB Tajh Boyd, offense come of age against Auburn
CLEMSON -- Urban Meyer arrived in town a few days early this week to do reconnaissance for his telecast of Saturday's Auburn-Clemson game. As Meyer walked off the Clemson practice field Thursday night, he told lingering reporters this: "Clemson fans are going to wake up one morning and realize they have a really good offense."
Two days later, Clemson Nation awoke to find it has a really good offense.
Meyer, who led Florida to two national titles before becoming a TV analyst, proved to be sage-like as Clemson produced 624 yards of offense en route to a 38-24 win against No. 21 Auburn, snapping the defending national champions' 17-game winning streak.
In the third game of the Chad Morris Era, Clemson (3-0) posted the third-best yardage total in program history, surpassing the 600-yard mark for eighth time.
"Is this a sign of an offense that is maturing and coming on and believing? Absolutely," said Morris, the offensive coordinator.
"This is just the spark these guys needed."
Eighty-two thousand at Memorial Stadium witnessed quarterback Tajh Boyd pass for 386 yards, the second-best single-game total in program history -- Charlie Whitehurst threw for 420 yards against Duke in 2002 -- and watched Sammy Watkins set more freshman records with 10 catches and 155 receiving yards to go along with two touchdowns.
But, besides Meyer, who saw Saturday's offensive explosion coming?
The Clemson offense was anemic a year ago, ranking 88th in the country in total offense. Clemson trailed Troy at the half in Week 1 and was tied with Wofford last week at halftime.
What sparked the turnaround? What ignited the offense as Clemson trailed Auburn, 14-0, with 7:54 to play in the first quarter?
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney gave a short answer after Saturday's win: "Recruiting."
Morris offered another word related to his quarterback: "Maturing."
To illustrate their points, look at a third-and-6 play on Clemson's opening drive of the second half.
On the play, Boyd checked down to Watkins, who turned a short pass into a 65-yard TD, showing rare burst and top-end speed to separate from defensive backs and give Clemson its first lead of the day, 28-21.
Tight end Dwayne Allen said jokingly of the explosive freshman: "Sammy Watkins is not a true freshman. You might want to check his birth certificate."
Against Troy, Boyd forced the issue on third downs in search of plays down the field. As a result Clemson opened 0-for-9 on third downs against Troy. Not so on Saturday when Clemson was 14 of 18.
Boyd just didn't manage the game Saturday, he won it; appearing more poised and confident than he did two weeks ago in the opener.
Auburn defenders dared Boyd to beat them, overloading against the run and leaving one-on-one matchups for Boyd to exploit, which the sophomore did, completing 30 of 42 passes.
"My comfort level with (Watkins and Allen) is extremely high," Boyd said.
Swinney hopes along with the infusion of talent, Saturday's win will give the team an injection of confidence, but not overconfidence, as Clemson hosts No. 5 Florida State next week to open ACC play (game time and TV coverage of the game have not been determined).
"We've handled adversity around here," Swinney said. "It's just as important how we handle success."