CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris had two words of counsel this week for Tajh Boyd: “Have fun.”
It appears he got the message — loud and clear.
Boyd threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another score, leading the Tigers to a 56-7 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday. The terrific performance made him the second Atlantic Coast Conference quarterback to account for 100 career TDs.
“It was a fun game,” Boyd said. “I got a lot of chances to smile out there.”
Boyd’s return to form was part of a solid day on several fronts for the Tigers, (4-0, 2-0), who have won their first four games for the second time in the QB’s three seasons as starter.
Clemson figures to be the favorite the next two weeks against Syracuse and Boston College. Then the Tigers host undefeated ACC rival Florida State on Oct. 19.
Boyd accounted for five TDs in Clemson’s season-opening victory against Georgia, making the quarterback a contender for the Heisman Trophy and stamping the Tigers as a team to watch this season.
But Boyd was held without a scoring pass and played less than a half against South Carolina State. Then he looked out of sync in Clemson’s previous game, a 26-14 win at North Carolina State.
Morris thought Boyd was putting too much pressure on himself, and the quarterback said he just needed to relax to improve his play.
“The biggest thing for me is just to go out and enjoy,” playing football, Boyd said. “I’ve pretty much accomplished everything you can accomplish in a college career, minus a couple of things. But, now I’ve got to enjoy this last go-round with my guys.”
Boyd’s performance against Wake Forest left him at 102 TDs in college, joining former North Carolina State star Phillip Rivers in the ACC’s century club. Boyd passed for 311 yards and ran for 69 to surpass Charlie Whitehurst as Clemson’s total offense leader.
Morris worked hard to get Clemson’s high-speed offense back on track.
“This has been a very challenging week for those guys,” Morris said. “Just to get into a rhythm, get into a groove and not press.”
Boyd and the Tigers started fast against Wake Forest (2-3, 0-2).
Boyd had touchdown throws of 64 yards to Sammy Watkins, 75 yards to D.J. Howard and 14 yards to Mike Williams as Clemson built a 35-7 halftime lead.
Clemson’s single-game scoring record came in an 82-24 win over Wake Forest during the Tigers’ national championship season in 1981 — and they looked as if they planned to better that mark early on in this one.
Clemson scored on its first three possessions, with Boyd ending his mini-slump along the way. He connected with favorite target Watkins to get the scoring started. Zac Brooks added a 10-yard touchdown run before Howard turned a simple swing pass into a second long scoring play that brought Boyd to the century mark.
Rivers accounted for 112 touchdowns with the Wolfpack from 2000-03.
Wake Forest’s defense then stepped up, with nose guard Nikita Whitlock sacking Boyd to stall one series and the Demon Deacons sending the Tigers off the field for three straight three-and-outs.
But Boyd eventually cranked up the Tigers’ offense once again. He ended a 67-yard drive with a 2-yard TD run, powering through the line when he was initially stopped on a fourth-and-short leap.
Boyd’s final touchdown pass went to freshman Williams, a sliding 14-yard grab that gave Clemson a 35-7 lead. Williams was in because starter Martavis Bryant was held out the opening half after he made a throat-slash gesture when he scored at North Carolina State on Sept. 19.
The Tigers outgained Wake Forest 361-142 over the first 30 minutes. The Demon Deacons’ lone score came on Tanner Price’s 10-yard pass to Sherman Ragland III in the opening period.
Price had Wake Forest on the move on its next series until he fumbled on third down at the Clemson 32. The Tigers pulled away from there.
“They ran a lot of blitzes on defenses that made it tough for us to run a lot of offensive stuff,” Price said. “We’ve got to make some more plays.”
Things didn’t get much better for Wake Forest in the second half. Boyd was back for Clemson’s first series and directed a 10-play, 46-yard drive that finished with tailback C.J. Davidson’s first career score. Boyd was off to the sideline after that, smiling and enjoying watching the backups play.
The Demon Deacons managed just 80 yards in the second half. Coach Jim Grobe put freshman Tyler Cameron and little-used junior Patrick Thompson in at quarterback for Price.
Clemson starting tailback Rod McDowell had just three carries before leaving with an ankle problem. He did not return, although Morris said he could have if the Tigers needed him to play.