CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ highly technical instructions to quarterback Tajh Boyd this week:
Chill, kid. Remember, football is still a game.
Boyd got the message.
Nine days after looking tense and uncharacteristically erratic for much of a 26-14 victory at N.C. State, Boyd looked like a Heisman Trophy candidate again in a 56-7 blowout of Wake Forest on Saturday.
Boyd threw for three touchdowns and ran for another before leaving the game for good in the third quarter. After the game, he agreed with Morris that he took everything a little too seriously, if not personally, the previous week.
“I’ve put a lot of undue pressure on myself. You want to prove some things, to other people more than yourself,” said Boyd, who completed 17 of 24 passes against the Deacons for 311 yards. “It was a fun game today. A lot of smiles out there.”
Boyd came back for his senior season, passing on the NFL draft, because he thought this Clemson team had the talent to compete nationally. The Tigers so far are 4-0 and ranked third, their next big test likely coming in a home game Oct.18 against Florida State.
Wake Forest (2-3) provided no real competition. In fact, the Deacons have been Boyd’s punching bag throughout his four seasons at Clemson.
In four meetings, Boyd threw and ran for 1,255 combined yards against Wake Forest. No individual Tiger has gained more total yardage against any single opponent than Boyd did against the Deacons.
“That was one of my first offers, so it’s only right,” Boyd joked of the Deacons. “They’re a very classy bunch over there. They’ve played us like you’re supposed to play.”
Clemson’s offense under Morris the past two seasons has been all about fast tempo and explosive plays. The Tigers scored 21 points in the first 71/2 minutes, and two of those touchdowns covered 64 or more yards. All-American candidate wide receiver Sammy Watkins grabbed a Boyd throw on the game’s third play and outran Wake’s secondary for that 64-yard score.
Later in the quarter, running back D.J. Howard advanced a screen pass 75 yards to the end zone; so if there was any residual tension from how Boyd played in the first half against the Wolfpack, it evaporated.
“It wasn’t all about Tajh’s play in the N.C. State game,” Watkins said. “I felt like he kept this offense in rhythm.
“Today that’s all the offense needed, a big start, and it carried over through the whole game.”
Just as impressive, Clemson’s defense held Wake Forest to 222 yards in total offense. The Deacons averaged just 1.9 yards over 31 rushing attempts.
“Really?” said linebacker Spencer Shuey (South Mecklenburg High) in response to that statistic. “We played to our standard today, not playing to any opponent. Our standard is to be our best.”
There were consequences in the other locker room from how little offense Wake Forest generated. Senior quarterback Tanner Price (14-of-22 passing for 125 yards and a touchdown) was benched in the second half. While coach Jim Grobe said Price is “definitely still our starting quarterback” against N.C. State, not playing in the second half caught Price off guard.
“I want to be out there. I want to be on the field,” Price said. “I was surprised. I think I’m still the starter.”
Rick Bonnell: (704) 358-5129. Twitter: @Rick_Bonnell