CLEMSON, S.C. – Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd isn't giving up on the season, no matter how bad the ninth-ranked Tigers looked against No. 3 Florida State last week.
Boyd and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney watched every play of the Seminoles 51-14 beatdown, acknowledging everything from glaring breakdowns to the tiniest errors in footwork. When the session was over, Boyd was ready to get himself and the Tigers offense cranked back up for the regular season stretch run, which starts Saturday at Maryland (5-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference).
"We kind of look at this as the job and you want to go out there and perform," Boyd said this week. "You've got to be accountable for your actions out there. Whether it's studying more or just performing more, you've got to make sure you get it done."
Boyd was atop the college football world — and several Heisman Trophy lists — after the Tigers (6-1. 4-1) outlasted Georgia 38-35 to start the season in August.
Since then, it's been a series of ups and downs for the fifth year senior, none of which cost Clemson until last week. Boyd threw two interceptions and his fumble on a sack made for any easy scoop and score by Florida State's Mario Edwards Jr. for a 17-0 lead in the first quarter.
Boyd finished with 156 yards passing, his second worst showing since he became Clemson's fulltime starter before the 2011 season. Most disappointing, Boyd said, was the Tigers not bouncing back after halftime trailing 24-7 and still with a chance to recover. But "things just didn't go the way we wanted them to and it snowballed from there," he said.
Clemson's fast-paced attack has struggled at times this season.
The Tigers needed second-half rallies to defeat North Carolina State (26-14) and Boston College (24-14), relying on defense more than a consistently strong offense to grab victories.
Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris was blunt about the blame, saying right tackle Brandon Thomas was the lone starter playing at a consistently high level.
Boyd shouldered his responsibility for the loss and says it's up to him and his teammates to turn things around.
"If you look at the game, really actually look at it, we moved the ball" against Boston College on Oct. 12, Boyd said. Against Florida State, "they stopped us, but not as much as we stopped ourselves."
"We would like to be further along than we are right now," he said. "But it's not that far away."
Maryland coach Randy Edsall won't base his game plan off what he saw against Florida State, understanding how dynamic the Tigers' offense has been overall.
"They do a lot of different things where you have to be very sharp, alert and cognizant with where they move people around," Edsall said. "They don't put all of the receivers in the same place and try to create mismatches. So what you've got to do is be very sound and solid."
Boyd's worked this week on the basics, everything from stance and arm angle to looking off receivers. He's also tried to work with the team's younger players in keep them positive in the face of defeat.
Boyd had all but decided to jump to the NFL after finishing off Clemson's 11-2 season last year with a last-second, 25-24 victory over LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. After talking with family, coaches, teammates and friends, Boyd discovered he wanted to return so the Tigers could chase a championship.
Almost immediately after his January decision to come back, Boyd turned into the face of the program, always ready to fulfill a media request.
"I can see how that would be tough on one man," said Thomas, the Tigers fifth-year tackle. "I feel for him."
Swinney said the team's offensive experience should give Boyd and his teammates an edge to bounce back quickly.
"We have to go back and retool those guys," the coach said. "We've been doing a lot of calculus, so let's go back and do some arithmetic," Swinney said. "This is a hurt football team right now. But we're going to be OK because they care."
Boyd believes that, too. With five games left to the regular season, he thinks it's time to narrow the focus on the game ahead and not what's out there beyond this weekend.
"Everybody was looking at the big picture instead of just the moment, just the time," Boyd said. "We've got to focus on the day at hand."