MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - Eyes taking in the grand Orange Bowl scene, Tajh Boyd stepped out into a pleasantly breezy South Florida evening and immediately heard jeers. Two middle-aged male Ohio State fans wearing scarlet "Go Bucks" T-shirts and seated just above the Sun Life Stadium tunnel leading to the Clemson locker room implied he was overrated.
As if the Tigers' star-crossed senior quarterback - the best to play at Clemson - wasn't inspired enough Friday night.
Boyd six snaps into the game made like Usain Bolt, dashing 48 yards straight to the end zone.
He also threw five touchdown passes, ignited a third-quarter rally and finished with a classic fourth-quarter comeback in a 40-35 victory over No. 7 Ohio State.
Boyd left the field with a big smile and a black "Orange Bowl Champions" ballcap as Tiger fans chanted his name.
"I couldn't pick a better way to go out as a senior," Boyd said.
Ulimately: "Tajh has set a bar to play quarterback at Clemson at a high standard," offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. "Not just his actions on the field, but off the field. Everything counts."
It was one broad splash of bright orange paint added to whatever you think about Boyd's Clemson career.
"He put an exclamation point on his legacy," head coach Dabo Swinney said after Boyd threw for 378 yards and rushed for 127.
Swinney is right; it was one of Boyd's best games, right up there with the glitzy comeback performance in a 25-24 Chick-fil-A Bowl upset of LSU last year.
But it's an odd legacy just the same.
'We've got this'
Boyd (32-8) tied Rodney Williams (32-10-2) for the Clemson record for career wins by a quarterback. He has thrown more than twice as many career touchdown passes as Charlie Whitehurst, the next guy on the Clemson list.
After that, the legacy thing gets fuzzy.
Two BCS bowl appearances.
But an 0-3 record against a certain arch-rival.
An ACC championship.
But a painfully fresh 51-14 home loss to No. 1 Florida State in October (backup Cole Stoudt was in for the final touchdown).
The Orange Bowl had a few more mixed messages.
Early in the second quarter, Boyd had efficiently completed 12 of 14 passes - but with a mud-ugly flip pass on third-and-goal from the 6. The floater was intercepted by Ohio State safety Vonn Bell.
Tight end Stanton Seckinger never lost faith.
"Dude, that man has ice-water in his veins," he said of Boyd. "After that interception, he came back in the huddle and said, 'We've got this; they haven't stopped us yet.'"
But Boyd threw another interception with 1:27 remaining, a miscue that Ohio State immediately gave back.
The semi-charmed body of work extends to Boyd's NFL draft status. Surely, a three-year major conference starter with top 10 victories over LSU, Georgia and Ohio State over his last 14 starts gets a certified chance.
"Whoever drafts Tajh Boyd, he's going to be awesome for them," Swinney said. "And he will be all-in."
But Boyd might have been no less a prospect after his star performance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Ohio State's loss
Boyd was almost a Buckeye and was enamored by his visit to the trophy-laden Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. He admits to giving former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel every indication of signing, but committed to Swinney - when Swinney was in Boyd's Virginia home, with Tressel and former Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti waiting outside.
Or so the story goes.
"There's always going to be people out there that talk about what you don't do," Swinney said. "Those people don't do jack. When you're in the arena, you're going to have some failure along the way. That's what helps you grow."
Chased around Sun Life Stadium by angry Buckeyes, Boyd in orange pants at the Orange Bowl came up big in a BCS bowl game while setting more records.
"When we step on the field, we give it everything we've got," Boyd said. "Not for anybody else, but for these guys beside us. What a special way to go out."
Let the legacy debate begin.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff
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