CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson celebrated a senior class Saturday that brought the program back as a national contender.
And the No. 7 Tigers (10-1) thanked the crowd with the kind of relentless, high-powered offense their fans have come to expect in a 52-6 win over The Citadel (5-7).
The key to Clemson’s offense is senior quarterback Tajh Boyd, who threw for five touchdowns and 288 yards in the final home game of his career. Clemson didn’t score on its first possession, but made it to the end zone the next five times it touched the ball.
Boyd had touchdown passes of 8, 9, 19, 24 and 30 yards. He ended the game with 102 passing TDs in his career and tied the Tigers record of five passing TDs in a game for the sixth time. Three times Boyd has thrown for five scores in the first half.
The fans cheered every senior who ran down the hill, but the biggest ovation was for Boyd, who owns more than 50 school records as part of coach Dabo Swinney’s first recruiting class dubbed the “Dandy Dozen.”
“It wasn’t a very heralded class. But I loved every one of them,” said Swinney, who won his 50th game of a career that started as interim coach when Tommy Bowden was fired in October 2008.
Boyd would throw for 249 yards in the first half Saturday and stayed in the game until almost the final minute of the third quarter, when Swinney called a timeout so the crowd could give him one final ovation. Boyd trotted to the sideline, got high-fives and a big hug from his coach, then ran almost to the tiger paw a midfield and saluted the fans. He finished 21-for-28.
“It was a very emotional day for some of the guys,” Boyd said. “I don’t think we could have handled a game better, especially the last one in the Valley.”
And on Military Appreciation Day, the Tigers also finally got a touchdown for Daniel Rodriguez, who caught a quick flip as he ran past in motion from backup quarterback Cole Stoudt on fourth-and-goal early in the fourth quarter for the 4-yard score. The 25-year-old junior came to Clemson as a walk on after serving for the Army in Afghanistan. He received the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device.
With the victory over The Citadel, the Tigers have won at least 10 games for the third season in a row. They haven’t done that since putting together four consecutive 10-win seasons from 1987 to 1990.
Everyone expected a celebration Saturday. Clemson came into the game 27-0 against FCS opponents.
Now attention turns to next week and No. 12 South Carolina. The Tigers have lost four in a row in the bitter in-state rivalry.
“We had to get him in there. Daniel Rodriguez — no better way to get a touchdown than Military Appreciation Day,” Boyd said. “We all want to be in the movie when they make one about him.”
The Clemson crowd cheered almost as loud for Rodriguez as it did for Boyd.
“I never expected to be there,” Rodriguez said of the end zone. “And when I got there, I never thought I would get there so I just had so much excitement going through me.”