Published September 27, 2013
CLEMSON, S.C. – Quarterback Tajh Boyd is ready to get himself and the offense of the third-ranked Clemson Tigers back in rhythm after a pair of so-so showings.
Clemson (3-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) got away with the drop-offs against South Carolina State and North Carolina State in its past two games. Boyd hopes to crank things up Saturday when Wake Forest (2-2, 0-1) comes to Memorial Stadium.
Boyd spent the offseason as one of the most hyped players in college football based on his record-setting seasons and his decision to pass on the NFL for a final year with the Tigers. And while Boyd accounted for five touchdowns in a 38-35 season-opening victory over then fifth-ranked Georgia, he's looked off-target and out of synch at times in Clemson's past two outings.
Boyd rallied Clemson past the Wolfpack in the second half, connecting on 9-of-11 passes for 100 yards and touchdowns of 30 and 15 yards to Martavis Bryant. Still, Boyd knows he and the offense can and should do better.
"In this offense and the position I'm in, rhythm is everything. I think we got that in the second half. I think that it will continue with this stretch that we have," he said.
Boyd has not had much trouble with Wake Forest's defense the past two seasons, throwing for 771 yards and seven touchdowns in Clemson's two victories. He needed only about a half to put away the Demon Deacons a year ago, connecting for a school record 428 yards passing and tying another with five TD throws in a 42-13 win.
Wake Forest appeared in free fall after losing to Boston College and Louisiana-Monroe earlier this month, but got a much needed victory at Army last week. Demon Deacons coach Jim Grobe says facing Boyd is an entirely different challenge for his growing defense because of the senior's dual-threat ability.
"You can talk about it all you want to, but it's really unusual to find a guy that throws it like he does and runs it effectively like he does," Grobe said.
Here are five things to watch when Wake Forest plays No. Clemson:
CLEMSON WANTS TO SCORE: The Tigers were expected to put up large numbers each time they play, but are fifth in the ACC in total offense and sixth in scoring. Clemson's record for points came against Wake Forest in an 82-24 bludgeoning at Death Valley during the 1981 national championship season. Don't expect the Tigers to put up those kind of numbers, but Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris and Boyd want to make a strong statement that they can still put lots and lots of points on the scoreboard.
DEACONS PASS DEFENSE: The Demon Deacons are among the best in the ACC against the pass with 143 yards allowed a game. Nose tackle Nikita Whitlock is a big reason why; he's part of a pass rush that's difficult to stop. If he can get in Boyd's face quickly, Wake Forest might have a chance to disrupt the Tigers fast-moving offense. That's been the secret to slowing down Boyd.
UNDISCIPLINED TIGERS: Clemson's had a couple of character issues that coach Dabo Swinney and Boyd are unhappy about. Reserve Isaiah Battle won't play because he threw a punch at Wolfpack defender Jarvis Byrd. Tigers receiver Martavis Bryant, the team's second-best wideout due to the season-ending injury to Charone Peake, will have his playing time reduced because he made a throat-slashing gesture on his first touchdown catch at North Carolina State.
WAKE FOREST's CAMPNARO: The ACC's top receiver based on catches per game will be on the Demon Deacons' sideline Saturday. Michael Campanaro tied an ACC mark with 16 catches in a loss to Louisiana-Monroe — and has had success against Clemson. Two years ago at Death Valley, he caught nine passes for 71 yards and had a 50-yard punt return TD as Wake led 28-14 in the second half. The Tigers rallied for a 31-28 win that clinched the ACC Atlantic Division.
LEAVE IT TO BEASLEY: Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley leads the ACC with five sacks. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound converted tight end has used his lightning-quick first step to rush past offensive lineman and cause backfield havoc. That's helped the Tigers to an improved showing on defense, which has averaged 310 yards and 14 points its past two games.
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary contributed to this report from Winston-Salem, N.C.