No longer and SEC shadow team, the Clemson Tigers find themselves as a team with a real chance of being in the national championship talk thanks to a huge week 1 team over a top 5 team, while their quarterback, Tajh Boyd, put himself above everyone else chasing the Heisman trophy with a performance that deserves every accolade it’s getting.
Boyd finished the game with 312 yards of total offense, the most ever for a Clemson player on a season opener. He threw for 270 yards and three touchdown passes, including a 4th quarter pass to Stanton Seckinger that put the Tigers 10 points ahead of the Bulldogs, giving them enough of a cushion to beat Georgia 38-35, making it two consecutive wins over SEC teams.
And it’s amazing to look at Boyd’s improvement against teams from the strongest conference in the nation. On his first three, mostly against South Carolina, Clemson lost all three times. He completed only 45% of his passes, averaging 113 passing yards per game and having a -1 touchdown-interception ratio. On his last two, including the Chick-Fil-A bowl game against LSU? Boyd has thrown five touchdowns with no interceptions, averaging 308 passing yards and completing 68% of his passes.
I think it turned a lot of heads in the college football world. It was a very monumental win for the university and program and conference in general. All that good stuff is great, but we have to keep working to keep and keep our eyes on the prize. This is only the opener. We have 11 games left. We have to continue to keep working.
It should have been an offensive showdown and it certainly turned out to be. Todd Gurley ran wild on the Clemson defense with 154 yards on 12 carries, including a 75 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, and finding himself in the red zone twice during the game. However, Aaron Murray couldn’t find someone in the red zone even once, throwing one interception and being sacked four times as the Clemson defense improved its pressure in the second half, showing that this unit isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be.
Sammy Watkins had the kind of impact people expected to see from him almost every game after his freshman season. He caught six passes for 127 yards, including 102 of them coming after the catch, maybe making Tajh Boyd look a lot better than he actually was during the game. It’s the third time in his career he finished a game with more than 100 yards after the catch (the previous two coming in 2011; against Florida State with 105 and against Auburn with 137).
Clemson also had a running game to be happy with, as Roderick McDowell ran for 132 yards on 22 carries. Boyd was efficient as usual through play-action, throwing all of his three touchdown passes of play-action plays, completing 67% of his passes. Since the start of the 2011 season, more than half (35) of Boyd’s touchdown passes (69) have come off play action.
Clemson are now in the debate, and quite likely to rise into the top 6. The worst thing they can do right now? Thinking that their road to the BCS title game or even the ACC crown is all sewn up. Florida State messed up against North Carolina State last season through the same mindset. Beating the Seminoles isn’t a guaranteed thing. It’s a long way from here (with South Carolina also in the way) till Clemson end this season undefeated while Boyd is crowned with every possible award. This was only the beginning, and it’s not going to be much easier from here on out.