Boyd says he's ready to put first loss behind

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 11, 2011
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd hadn't left a football field as the losing starter since his junior year in high school before the ninth-ranked Tigers loss to Georgia Tech two weeks ago. Boyd's ready to make sure that doesn't happen again. ''When you lose, that's when true character comes out,'' Boyd said this week. ''I think we can learn something from this.'' Boyd learned that he doesn't like to lose. He hadn't lost as a starter since he was at Phoebus High in Hampton, Va., where he was 43-2 when taking the opening snap. Boyd had led the Tigers (8-1, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) on an 8-0 run, the team's best start in 11 years. But that crash-landed two weeks ago in Atlanta with the 31-17 loss to the Yellow Jackets. The fast-paced Tigers were outmuscled early on as Georgia Tech led 24-3 and held off a modest Clemson comeback in the second half. Boyd had his shakiest game since becoming Clemson's starter with two interceptions - he had just three in the Tigers' run - including one in the end zone to short-circuit the rally. It took a few days to get past the disappointment. The Tigers, Boyd said, returned to work from an off week focused on the opportunities ahead and not what was left behind against the Yellow Jackets. Clemson hosts Wake Forest (5-4, 4-2) on Saturday and can lock up the ACC Atlantic Division with win, earning a trip to the championship game for the second time in three years. A loss doesn't eliminate Clemson from the division race, but its straight-ahead path to the title game in Charlotte, N.C., would suddenly turn bumpy. Boyd and the Tigers are focused fully on this weekend. ''They came back to work on Monday of last week, listening to them talk, they are saying the right things,'' Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. ''Their eyes are forward. Let's learn from it and don't let it happen again.'' Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said Boyd got right back to work at practice and film study, watching what he did wrong against Georgia Tech and correcting it so the mistakes wouldn't show up again. ''That's one thing about players that come off a loss,'' Morris said. ''They're real resilient. That's just the way kids are.'' Morris said his offensive players understood they hadn't played their best and that included Boyd. Boyd, a redshirt sophomore, had come into the season as one of Clemson's biggest question marks, but has become among the biggest reasons for its success this fall. Boyd leads the ACC in passing yards and total offense. He's already accounted for three of the five games with the most Clemson passing yards in school history and is two touchdown passes shy of Clemson's single-season record of 27 set by Cullen Harper in 2007. Boyd understands, though, how fickle success can be. He heard the boos at Death Valley back in the season opener when the Tigers left the field down to Troy 16-13 before rallying to win 43-19. Boyd's home in Seneca was pelted with eggs the night of the Georgia Tech loss (although it was Halloween weekend). Wake Forest linebacker Scott Betros said Georgia Tech showed how to slow down Clemson and Boyd with long drives and solid defense. The Yellow Jackets' ''defense played really well and got after their quarterback really well,'' Betros said. ''Hopefully, we can build off of something like that.'' Morris, the offensive coordinator, didn't fault Boyd for his second fourth-quarter pick, saying the quarterback was simply trying to make a play. He was less forgiving about Boyd's first interception, which came because of some miscommunication between the quarterback and receiver Sammy Watkins. Watkins says the error was cleared up and the two are ready to resume their successful combination this season. The freshman receiver leads the ACC with 10 touchdowns and is tied with North Carolina's Dwight Jones with 63 catches. Boyd's not worried about individual honors or accomplishments, just wins. He spent last weekend in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee, unwinding yet eager to get back out and get Clemson back on the winning track. ''I feel like everybody came back hungry and ready to play,'' Boyd said. ''We're excited about the opportunities in front of us.''
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