When Tajh Boyd was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year and helped lead Clemson to a win over Louisiana State University in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, he considered declaring for the NFL draft.
After weighing his options, Boyd decided to come back for his senior season, and Tigers’ fans are glad he did after last Saturday night’s season-opening 38-35 victory over visiting and No. 5-ranked Georgia.
A threat with his arm and legs, Boyd accounted for five touchdowns and reminds many of Russell Wilson, who played at North Carolina State and later Wisconsin, and then led the Seattle Seahawks back to prominence after a dazzling rookie season in 2012, was the difference against the Bulldogs.
“Beating an SEC team in back-to-back games is something you can only dream about, but we did it,’’ said Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney. “But this is just the first game on our schedule, and we have to keep on winning if we want to get to the national championship game.”
At 6-foot-1 and 225-pounds, Boyd, who threw for 270 yards on 18 of 30 attempts with no interceptions, made his presence felt early after scoring on a four-yard run with 9:29 left in the first quarter that capped a 76-yard, nine-play drive.
After Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who finished with a career-best 154 yards on 12 carries, ripped off a 75-yard sprint that tied it at 7-7 and only 12 seconds later, Boyd’s 77-yard toss to wide receiver Sammy Watkins (game-high 127 yards on six receptions) and 19 seconds later gave the 8th-ranked Tigers a 14-7 lead.
Running back Keith Marshall’s four-yard burst on an inside handoff from quarterback Aaron Murray (20 of 29 for 323 yards and one interception) knotted it at 14-14 with 4:12 showing in the opening quarter and concluded an 11-play, 75-yard march.
The Bulldogs were able to move the football on the ground to the tune of 222 yards, vaulted ahead 21-14 when running back Quayvon Hicks dented the end zone with a one-yard run up the middle early in the second quarter. Hicks rambled 37 yards on the first play of the 97-yard, 10-play excursion.
It became tied at 21-21 when Boyd (42 yards on 13 rushes) carried the ball into the end zone from two yards out and just under four minutes left before halftime. The score was made possible after Murray fumbled deep inside Georgia territory.
The hard-hitting contest was sloppy at times as Georgia committed nine penalties for 84 yards with two turnovers, while Clemson, which had 197 yards on the ground, was hit with five penalties for 38 yards and had one miscue.
Boyd’s 31-yard toss to running back Zac Brooks on a wheel route gave Clemson (467 total net yards) a 28-21 advantage and just under 11 minutes showing in the third quarter, but Gurley, who injured his hip early in the match, erased the lead with a 12-yard run and 7:41 left in the third quarter that ended the 75-yard drive.
A 24-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro pushed Georgia (545 total yards) ahead 31-28 about three minutes later, and it became a 10-point edge when Boyd found tight end Stanton Seckinger with a nine-yard pass and 7:40 left in the fourth quarter that capped the 87-yard, 12-play march.
Murray’s one-yard sneak with 1:19 left in the final quarter reduced Clemson’s lead to three points, but it was Boyd and the Tigers’ night to celebrate and dance.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.