By PETE IACOBELLI
CLEMSON, S.C. — Tajh Boyd wasn’t going to a let some bumps and bruises spoil his final season, no matter how sore his shoulder might be come morning.
Boyd threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns to break Philip Rivers’ Atlantic Coast Conference career record in No. 8 Clemson’s 55-31 victory over Georgia Tech on Thursday night. Boyd threw a major scare into Tigers coaches, teammates and the 75,324 fans at Death Valley when he remained on the turf in pain at the end of the third quarter with what the school said was a left collarbone injury.
But Boyd had X-rays done and no breaks were discovered. He bounded out of the locker room, grabbed a ball and even pestered offensive coordinator Chad Morris to go back in. Boyd didn’t have to, though, with Clemson (9-1, 7-1 ACC) ahead 41-24 and cruising to a third straight victory since losing to No. 2 Florida State last month.
“If it was a dire situation I felt like I needed to play I felt like I could’ve,” Boyd said. “But we were in a situation where it wasn’t needed.”
Will he slow down at all with FCS opponent Citadel up next for Clemson on Nov. 23?
“No, man, I’m not going to miss my last game in the valley,” he said. “I’ll throw a pad in there and I’ll be fine.”
That’s been Boyd’s attitude for much of his record-setting career.
“He’s a competitor,” Morris said. “My gosh, look at the records this guy has broken in the ACC. Wow. And in just three years.”
Boyd has 97 touchdown passes, two more than Rivers — now with the San Diego Chargers — had at North Carolina State from 2000-03.
Georgia Tech (6-4, 5-3) had feint hopes of winning the ACC Coastal Division, but fell behind 20-0 early in the second quarter and could not catch up.
Sammy Watkins had touchdowns catches of 41 and 44 yards for the Tigers.
The stadium went silent when Boyd was down on the field. The mood lightened up when he returned to the sideline and loosed up his arm. He’ll need to be healthy in two weeks when the Tigers look to break a four-game losing streak to rival South Carolina.
Receiver Martavis Bryant said the players were worried when they saw Boyd in pain, but things lightened up once he return as the same ol’, smiling Tajh.
“It felt good,” Bryant said. “We need him.”
Bryant finished with five catches for a career high 176 yards receiving, including a 76-yard TD pass from Boyd. Watkins finished with 104 yards, his seventh game over the century mark this season. He also moved past 1,000 yards on the season
It was Clemson’s first time out in Death Valley since a 51-14 loss to No. 2 Florida State on Oct. 19. Boyd and the Tigers made sure they gave the fans plenty to cheer about.
Not that anyone will totally forget the Seminoles game, particularly because it’s the second consecutive year the Tigers will miss the ACC title game because of a loss to Florida State.
Still, the Clemson hoped to close the season strongly in its first Thursday night home game in 11 years. But that’s usually tricky for Clemson when it comes to Georgia Tech, which had won four of the past six games in the series and befuddled the Tigers for years with coach Paul Johnson’s highly effective triple-option attack.
This time, though, the Tigers’ defense was off and running from the start. The group forced three straight three-and-outs and didn’t give up a first down until the second quarter.
Clemson had its struggles early on offense, too, twice driving into Tech territory yet settling for Chandler Catanzaro’s two field goals. Catanzaro’s second kick was a career-long 51-yarder and gave him the school mark for field goals of 40 yards or longer at 24. He broke the mark of 23 set by former Tigers and NFL punter Chris Gardocki.
The Tigers cranked things up in the second quarter. Boyd dropped a perfect pass to Watkins for a 41-yard TD to go up 13-0. On Clemson’s next series, Boyd had a 47-yard strike to Bryant to the 4 and lofted a scoring pass to the left corner to freshman receiver Mike Williams.
After Georgia Tech broke through on David Sims’ 1-yard touchdown run, Clemson quickly answered back with Boyd’s 76-yard touchdown throw to Bryant that broke Rivers’ ACC record.
Boyd also had his 17th career 300-yard passing game, leaving him one behind Rivers’ ACC record in that category.
Georgia Tech came in with an ACC-best 311 rushing yards a game, yet was held to 72 in the opening half as Clemson’s defensive front chased down quarterback Vad Lee.
The Yellow Jackets cut the score to 27-17 on Robert Godhigh’s 65-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter, but Clemson scored on its next two possessions to take control for good.
“Once we did that, we started feeling good about ourselves,” Godhigh said. “But then we started kicking ourself in the foot again.”
Lee threw 23 times against the Tigers — he combined for just 18 throws in Georgia Tech’s three-game win streak — and the Yellow Jackets were held to 72 rushing in the opening half and 248 for the game.
Tailback Robert Godhigh ran for 126 yards and two touchdowns. He also had five catches for 103 yards.
It was the most points Clemson scored on Georgia Tech since winning 73-0 in 1903 when John Heisman — yes, that John Heisman — coached the Tigers. Heisman left the next season to coach the Yellow Jackets.