Clemson quarterback Taj Boyd is still winning over a lot of college football fans. He is also making believers out of several and as the Tigers are still basking in the glory of their 38-35 win over fifth-ranked Georgia on Saturday night, Boyd has established himself as a real Heisman Trophy contender for 2013. He played practically error free football - completing 18 of 30 passes for 3 touchdowns and 270 yards with no turnovers. None….as in no picks, or fumbles. More importantly, his team was on the winning side of one of the truly great college football games I have ever witnessed in person.
The game was being hyped as heavily as any season opener has in recent memory. Number 5 Georgia at number 8 Clemson. ESPN’s Game Day crew was there on campus, and there was not a single ticket to be found unused at game time. 85,000 fans, mostly dressed in orange made things absolutely electric in the stadium. Most of them had been there, waiting for hours. Some had even been there since the sun came up Saturday morning so they could be on television when “Game Day” cranked up.
The game was also being touted as a huge battle of highly regarded quarterbacks; Georgia’s Aaron Murray against Clemson’s Taj Boyd. Murray played well for Georgia, but Boyd played better. Murray actually had a few stats that were better than Boyd. He was 20-29 in passing for 323 yards. But Murray threw no TD passes, and while only two turnovers won’t usually cost you a ball game, Murray was guilty of both for the Bulldogs; one interception and a costly fumble as he was being sacked by the Tiger defense.
For Taj Boyd, it has been an uphill battle for respect. Originally committed to Tennessee in 2008, Boyd was told by incoming head Coach Lane Kiffen his services were not needed in Knoxville. His running, scrambling style was not what Kiffen felt he needed at quarterback, so when Clemson called, Boyd came running. The Vols chose Tyler Bray and the rest they say is history.
He played almost right away at Clemson, being a starter as a sophomore in 2011. He led the Tigers to an ACC Championship and 11 wins. His junior season in 2012 was fabulous by any other standard, but he was called “fat” and “out of shape.” Still, he guided Clemson to 10 wins and a Bowl game victory over LSU. As the 2013 season gets started, Taj Boyd is clearly the best and most valuable player in the ACC. He is the “straw that stirs the drink,” to borrow a quote from the great Reggie Jackson.
Does Taj Boyd have enough talent around him to help Clemson win a national title? Yes he does, but he and his teammates must avoid the peaks and valleys that have plagued Clemson for years. Will Taj Boyd be a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender? Yes he will, but again he must avoid the same problem his school has faced. He has to play well every week, and his Tigers need to win every week.
Clemson last won a National Championship in 1981. Thirty two years have passed since that glorious season, and just before kickoff against Georgia last weekend, Clemson honored the coach that guided the Tigers to that national crown. Danny Ford was inducted into Clemson’s Ring of Honor. It was a special day from start to finish, and Taj Boyd is hoping those special days will continue at “Death Valley.”
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).