CLEMSON — They’ve been here before.
Who: The Citadel (4-6, 4-4 Southern) at No. 8 Clemson (9-1, 7-1 ACC)
When: Nov. 23, 12 p.m.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson
During Clemson’s seven-game winning streak from late September to late November last fall, the Tigers scored 45, 47, 38, 42, 56, 45 and 62 points — all against ACC opponents. Then Clemson lost, 27-17, at home to South Carolina.
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So momentum is something, but it’s not the only thing.
That being outlined, better to play with swagger than without it, and Clemson’s brimming with confidence after swatting Georgia Tech, 55-31, Thursday night. The Tigers have scored 154 points in their past three games, just the way offensive coordinator Chad Morris likes it.
“The last three weeks, the last three games, I feel like we’re playing our best ball,” Morris said. “We’re getting better. Earlier in the year, we weren’t very consistent. In fact, we were consistently inconsistent. I think offensively, we’re playing our best football right now.”
The eighth-ranked Tigers (9-1, 7-1 ACC) totaled 551 yards Oct. 26 at Maryland and Thursday against Georgia Tech, and 610 yards at Virginia Nov. 2. Tajh Boyd has thrown one interception in each of the past two games (against seven touchdowns), and the Tigers haven’t lost a fumble in that span.
“Still got a lot of things we can improve on, but you’re definitely seeing guys making plays,” Morris said. “You’re seeing a quarterback who’s playing with great confidence right now and trusting his receivers. Maybe earlier in the year, we didn’t have that trust among those guys. So I’m excited about where we are right now and it’s only going to get better.”
The passing game has been particularly scorching; Clemson’s quarterbacks completed 76 percent of their passes for 818 yards against the Cavaliers and Yellow Jackets.
“It’s been clicking all week at practice and we just kept gaining momentum,” junior receiver Martavis Bryant said. “It felt good to come out tonight and keep it going.”
The Citadel comes to Death Valley next Saturday for Senior Day, then the Tigers travel to Columbia to face the No. 11 Gamecocks on Nov. 30.
Defensively, other than Georgia Tech’s Robert Godhigh — who became the first player ever to record 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving against the Tigers — Clemson had another solid night. They forced five three-and-outs against a team that entered the week with just 20 in nine games, ranking eighth in the country.
“Great preparation, and didn’t really feel like they were consistently able to run the football,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “Got a couple big runs on us, but we leveraged it, we tackled it, we swarmed it. Really proud of our guys.”
The Tigers had 10 tackles for loss, and the Yellow Jackets had three total yards on their first three possessions.
‘Ain’t nothing wrong’
When head coach Dabo Swinney went on to the field to check on Boyd when the training staff couldn’t immediately rouse him from the grass at the end of the third quarter, Swinney joked he gave his star quarterback the business.
“Ah, ain’t nothing wrong with him. That’s what I’m saying: get up, Tajh,” Swinney said, with that feisty grin on his face. “In my mind, I’m going, he’s Superman, ain’t nothing wrong with him.”
Swinney, of course, was kidding.
“No, obviously your breath kind of goes away,” Swinney said, getting serious. “But I knew when I got out there he was OK. He was just kind of catching his breath for a second there.”
At first, Boyd was afraid after defensive end Emmanuel Dieke rolled over Boyd at the end of a scramble.
“All of his weight kind of fell on my body. I just felt like this nasty crack and (heard) a crunching noise,” Boyd said. “Fortunately, it was nothing. It wasn’t a break; it was just a bruise. I’m blessed in this situation. I definitely in my mind was like, my career just ended at Clemson. Fortunately for me, it wasn’t.”
Boyd said he suffered a bruised sternum and collarbone, and assured reporters he’d be fine. He doesn’t plan on missing his next game: Senior Day, Nov. 23, against The Citadel.
“No. I’m going to take in every moment so it is something that I’ll never forget,” Boyd said. “I’m going to make my last game in Death Valley memorable.”