If the Chick-fil-A Bowl is going to be Tajh Boyd’s final game in a Clemson uniform, he wants it to be memorable and to erase the pain of the loss to South Carolina.
“This is a chance to redeem ourselves, a chance to go out there and prove that we can compete,” Boyd said Friday, “There’s a sour taste from the last game. We want to do something about it.”
Boyd needs this game, needs to play well against LSU on New Year’s Eve. As a body of work, this has been a good season. Clemson won 10 games, and Boyd thrust himself into conversations about the most productive quarterbacks in the game.
At the end of the day, though, Clemson beat two teams with winning records — Ball State and N.C. State — and lost to a pair with defenses at least as good as the one he’ll see at the Georgia Dome.
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“This is another opportunity, another stage out there to show what type of team we are,” Boyd said, “A chance to just go out there and play one of our best games.”
Boyd declined to discuss his future after Atlanta. As many players do following their junior seasons, he planned to submit paperwork to the NFL Draft Advisory Board then discuss the options with his family before making a decision by the Jan. 15 deadline.
There’s a feeling among those nearest the program that he will return, and Boyd spoke in terms of what a win over LSU could mean beyond this season.
“I think it would be a major step forward for this program,” he said. “I think it’s a momentum game for us heading into the offseason, and I think it’s a program boost and builder and it would look really good on our resume.”
His own resume doesn’t have many holes. Since the South Carolina game, he has been named:
• First-team All-America by the American Football Coaches Association
• ACC player of the year and, for the second straight year, first-team all-conference by the ACSWA
• Player of the year, offensive player of the year and first-team all-conference in the first vote by the ACC coaches
• And one of 10 finalists for the Manning Award
He finished the regular season No. 4 nationally in passing efficiency and No. 8 in total offense and set a load of school and ACC records for passing.
“We achieved a lot of great things this season,” he said. “Of course, you’re going to have your critics and people of that nature, but we do have an opportunity to go out and compete at the highest level.
“I think that a win against LSU could do wonders for the offseason.”
Practice begins this morning, and coach Dabo Swinney said he hoped to utilize the new indoor facility, though weather shouldn’t be an issue.
Eager to get back to work, Boyd shouldered blame for the loss to South Carolina.
“I probably should have inspired the guys more,” he said. “This is an emotional game. It’s technique and physicality, but at the same time you have to play with emotion.
“You have to play calm and poised, but at the same time you have to have an edge about you, and that’s something we have to gather up.”
Boyd said he has exchanged pleasantries with LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, whom he met when both attend the Elite Eleven quarterback camp before their senior years in high school.
“A little break was needed, but this past week we went out on the field about three times and got a chance to run through a lot of plays, go through our tempo and kind of make sure we smooth out all the rough edges,” he said. “Just make sure everybody’s mentally there.”