CLEMSON – Tajh Boyd is a scholar of the game of football, and a student of his own place in Clemson quarterbacking history.
He entered his senior season owning 51 school records, a number which continues to rise, and he added a few more notches to his belt in Saturday’s 56-7 romp over Wake Forest.
Boyd was reminded of the latest coup: the last of his 24 passes Saturday was his 166th consecutively without an interception, pushing him one past Cullen Harper for the program’s longest clean streak.
“By far,” Boyd said, assuredly, “my favorite one. By far my favorite one. No disrespect to all my other accomplishments, but the biggest thing on offense is executing and not turning the ball over.”
Boyd hasn’t thrown a pick or lost a fumble in his last five contests; that includes last year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl victory over LSU, and this year’s lid-lifting triumph over Georgia. Of course, the Tigers won all five games.
“We’ve won the turnover margin every game this season, and we’re 4-0 right now,” Boyd said. “Hopefully we continue this streak.”
With freshman linebacker Ben Boulware being in the right place at the right time (along with displaying quick instincts and sure hands) for his first career interception, and junior linebacker Stephone Anthony falling on a fumble, the Tigers’ defense has collected nine takeaways in four games.
Boyd’s offense has lost two fumbles, and that’s it. A plus-seven turnover margin puts Clemson in the top 10 nationally in a category it highly emphasizes.
“If you win the turnover margin and you’ve got at least two more big plays than your opponent, it’s almost like 90 percent that you’re going to win the game,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “So, it’s critical. And that’s been the difference for us.”
Busy training staff
Senior running back Roderick McDowell wore the No. 19 jersey to honor his friend and teammate, junior receiver Charone Peake, who’s lost for the season due to a knee injury (torn ACL.)
Irony struck Saturday.
“He rolled his ankle, but he’ll be OK. He wore No. 19 today, and I guess he wanted to honor Charone and get hurt too,” Swinney said with a smile. “Charone was over there having some fun with him.”
Cornerback Martin Jenkins, who started the game in a nickel package (five defensive backs,) separated his re-injured shoulder, which Swinney said has become an “every-other-week” occurrence.
“It’s very painful for him, but he is one of the toughest players I’ve ever been around,” Swinney said. “It’s one of those deals where you pop it back in, suit him back up and go. He was good. Could have gone back in, but we held him.”
Center Ryan Norton was battling an illness, as was his backup Jay Guillermo. Both snappers rotated in on offense line, while Reid Webster was practicing snaps on the sideline as an emergency reserve.
Boulware, tailback Zac Brooks and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett all required medical attention, but no serious injuries were known to be suffered Saturday.
Try it again
Freshman receiver Mike Williams wasn’t too shy to inform Boyd he was wide open on a post route in the end zone, when Boyd overlooked him and threw incomplete looking for tight end Jordan Leggett on the near sideline.
“Two plays later, Coach (Chad Morris) came back with it,” Williams said. “Exact same play, and we converted for a touchdown.”
Indeed, the score came with 29 seconds left in the first half, stretching Clemson’s lead to 35-7 during the time Martavis Bryant was suspended for a throat-slashing gesture against N.C. State Sept. 19.
Bryant’s understudy made the most of his opportunity, his first career touchdown coming in his first career start.
“It helped a lot, but I got kind of tired,” Williams said. “I just wanted to work on a lot of things that I’ve learned in practice, got on my blocks, and I think I did great.”
Not missing a beat
Bryant did return to the starting lineup to open the second half next to fellow juniors Sammy Watkins and Adam Humphries.
In his absence, besides the Williams touchdown, Watkins and Humphries took care of the receiving game. They combined for nine catches, 177 yards and Watkins’ 64-yard touchdown in the first half alone.
Bryant did record a couple of catches for 29 yards, 10 days after his breakout performance at N.C. State (six catches, 73 yards, two touchdowns.)