CLEMSON — Roll this over with your oats and berries.
“We’re not where we need to be right now. We’re not even close,” Tajh Boyd said with that incandescent smile. “That’s the beauty of it.
“We got a chance to put up numbers, big numbers.”
No bragging, just fact.
With Boyd at quarterback Clemson has put up better numbers. Just not this season until a 56-7 thrashing Saturday of Wake Forest that ran third-ranked Clemson’s record to 4-0 and eased the angst of the 80,607 in Death Valley who saw the show they’d come to see.
After an uneven performance in a Thursday night win at N.C. State, this went down smoother than a peach fizz.
Boyd completed 17 of 24 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for a game-high 69 yards and a fourth touchdown to become Clemson’s career leader in total offense with 9,981.
Seven players scored the eight touchdowns as Clemson hit a season high with 573 yards on 83 plays — 407 passing, 166 rushing. Sammy Watkins caught 6 passes for 113 yards including a 64-yard touchdown on the third play of the game despite pass interference.
It was the down beat to the rhythm that Clemson hadn’t had since beating Georgia in the opener. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris said the idea was to pick up where they left off the second half in Raleigh. They needed a spark, and Watkins delivered it.
“The rhythm for us is going out there and having fun,” Boyd said. “We’re a very confident team but we’ve got to go out and have fun out there.”
It came under less than ideal circumstances.
Injury, illness and suspension cost them eight critical players — receivers Charone Peake (ACL) and Martavis Bryant (suspended until the third quarter), centers Ryan Norton (ill) and Jay Guillermo (ill), running back Rod McDowell (ankle), and tackles Giff Timothy (concussion) and Isaiah Battle (suspension) and guard Patrick DeStefano (shoulder).
“We had guys coming out of the woodwork making plays,” said running back Zac Brooks, who scored his first rushing touchdown. Running back D.J. Howard did most of the heavy lifting on a 75-yard touchdown play after taking a swing pass from Boyd. “When I saw D.J. jump over a guy, he blew my mind,” Brooks said.
Fourth-string back C.J. Davidson scored a pair of touchdowns, and Boyd connected with freshmen Mike Williams and Jordan Leggett. “I think it shows how explosive we can be,” Boyd said.
The peripherals were sick: 8 of 17 on third down, 3 of 4 on fourth, 6 of 6 in the red zone, no turnovers. Boyd broke Cullen Harper’s school record of 165 consecutive passes without an interception. Of all the records behind him and in the headlights, he said, “by far my favorite one. I want to keep that one riding.”
Sherman Ragland caught a 10-yard pass from Tanner Price for Wake Forest’s touchdown with 1:17 to play in the first half. Clemson scored with each of its first three possessions, scuffled a bit then hit on five of the next six.
Wake Forest would cross midfield on four other occasions, once beyond the Clemson 40. Price, who had started 39 games, was benched after completing 14 of 22 for 122 yards. In total, Wake had 222 yards.
“I think we got better today on both sides of the ball,” said Watkins, “it was a step in the right direction.”
Clemson christens Syracuse’s entry to the ACC next Saturday, and Boyd sheepishly admitted he didn’t realize until recently that the Orangemen play both football and basketball in the same venue, though he was cognizant of the program’s history.
And it should be another opportunity for Boyd to write his legacy. He needs 29 yards to become the third ACC quarterback to reach 10,000 yards, and 12 touchdown passes to break Philip Rivers’ career conference record.
Boyd was also a bit embarrassed to know the TD record. “We were joking about it earlier.” He said somebody asked him, “If its not that big a deal, how do you know the number?”
Perched on a ledge within reach of the mountain top, Boyd said he’s trying to immerse himself in the moment.
“You do peak at some point,” he said. “Hopefully, we’re only at a mid-point. We’ve just got to keep on improving
“We’re a very confident team. We’ve just got to go out and have fun out there.”