One of the best scenes in college football is when Clemson Tigers players run down that hill at Death Valley, rub that rock and make their grand entrance to the field on game day. But climbing up that hill to the locker room is always a difficult task at halftime or after the game. Clemson Tigers’ quarterback Tajh Boyd will have to climb up a steep hill of his own if he wants to possess the No. 79 annual spot on the bronze John W. Heisman trophy come this December. He will need to keep his team in contention for a national championship and looking solid doing it.
The 2012 ACC Player of the Year has had a rough test along with his Clemson team, but they didn’t disappoint or pull a “Clemson” Thursday night in their 26-14 victory over the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium. The Tigers were on upset alert throughout the game and Clemson’s faithful were reflecting back to 2011, the year the Wolfpack, with the lively arm of Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ quarterback Mike Glennon, took down the No. 5 Tigers in another Thursday night matchup 37-13 in Raleigh. Boyd had to endure the pocket collapsing and brilliant timely blitzing by Wolfpack defensive coordinator, Dave Huxtable en route to a 24 of 37, 244 yards passing, three touchdowns, 38 yards rushing game that stings his season’s resume, yet keeps him in contention for the Heisman Trophy.
The 6-foot-1, 225 pound redshirt senior quarterback from Hampton, VA skyrocketed his Heisman hype this season with a clutch performance over fifth-ranked Georgia in Week 1, throwing for 18 of 30 for 270 yards, three passing touchdowns, 13 rushes for 42 yards and two rushing touchdowns in the Tigers’ 38-35 win over the Bulldogs at Memorial Stadium. The performance confirmed to the nation that Boyd should be a real contender for the Heisman yet again this season.
Looking at Boyd’s statistics and success last season, this feat should be within his reach in 2013. Boyd accumulated 3,896 yards through the air and 514 on the ground with 46 touchdowns in 2012. To catapult his chances, Boyd will not only have to improve upon his gaudy numbers in Chad Morris’ no-huddle spread offense from a season ago, but also improve his 13 picks total he surrendered a season ago. Heisman voters will be keeping a good eye on his interceptions-touchdown ratio to the likes of Marcus Mariota, AJ McCarron and Johnny Manziel this season.
Boyd’s best hope of winning the Heisman this season is going to come with Clemson running the table and competing for the ACC and BCS championship games. Although a very vanilla schedule, the Tigers will have key tests in showdowns against Florida State on Oct. 19 and going on the road to take on in-state rival, South Carolina on Nov. 30 in Columbia at season’s end. Even if a perfect season would be the verdict, he’ll need some help by other contenders making mistakes. There’s no doubt that an undefeated run in the regular season will make him the favorite down the stretch, but will Clemson go undefeated when it’s all said and done?
The road to winning a Heisman is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately pageant. Boyd’s mediocre play against South Carolina State two weeks ago and his play Thursday night against N.C. State will not be viewed in the grand scheme of things. That will most likely come in games down the stretch like the Florida State and South Carolina games. But his totals at the end of the season could have an effect if the race is neck-to-neck.
Thursday night’s performance shows other teams that the the Tiger’s prolific offensive attack can be stopped. That will bode well for the rest of the teams on the Tigers’ docket going forward.
Boyd’s chances of being inducted in that elite fraternity will be even steeper to climb.