CLEMSON, S.C. — Tajh Boyd heard the roar as the replay video showed good news. With his helmet in his hands, the Clemson quarterback smiled as he heard the official call. Yes, it was a touchdown – another touchdown – and Boyd ran toward the Clemson fans, encouraging noise.
The quarterback showdown between Heisman contenders had its decisive winner.
Boyd’s fifth touchdown of the game, this time on a reception by Stanton Seckinger that was ruled a catch on a review, gave the Tigers a two-score lead in the fourth quarter and led to 38-35 win over Aaron Murray and Georgia in a matchup that was billed as a showdown between two national title contenders with Heisman hopeful quarterbacks.
"I think it was a good win. Nothing that we didn't expect in the program, but I think it turned a lot of heads in college football," Boyd said after the game. "It was a very monumental win for this university, for this program, for the conference in general."
Boyd threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 42 yards and two more scores.
On one throw, Boyd went over a defensive back and right into the hands of Zac Brooks for a 31-yard touchdown.
Murray tried to lead a miracle with a late, short touchdown run, but Clemson recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock. Murray had 323 passing yards and two turnovers on an interception and lost fumble.
Before the game, both quarterbacks had the hype and a top 10 team around them to build a Heisman campaign after they decided to return for their senior seasons.
At kickoff, Murray was the active leader in passing touchdowns with 95. Boyd was second with his 73.
They also play the right position to get noticed. A quarterback has won the Heisman in every season but two going back to 2000 – and one of those wins, in 2005 by Southern Cal’s Reggie Bush, was later vacated.
But the award typically comes with a prerequisite: To get the trophy, it’s best to lead a national title contender, put up big stats and find a signature win, perhaps even in front of a national audience.
Saturday night was the perfect stage, and Boyd stood out.
While Boyd connected with Sammy Watkins on a 77-yard touchdown strike and rushed for two scores to account for 177 first-half offensive yards with no turnovers, Murray was struggling as injuries sidelined Todd Gurley, who rushed for 154 yards, for a bit and Malcolm Mitchell permanently for the game. The offensive line also allowed sacks and committed penalties throughout the game.
With some defensive pressure coming from the blind side, Murray usually didn’t have much time and fumbled on one sack. He also threw a costly interception in the first half after Georgia got a gift on a muffed Clemson punt. The quarterback’s big play in the opening half came on a scramble, as he rolled out and found Rantavious Wooten on a 33-yard play that set up a short touchdown.
But Clemson and Boyd were the big winners on the last night of August.
"Overall, I thought he played pretty well," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said about Murray. "The fumble he had really hurt us; we have to hold on to the ball. The pick, those are going to happen and they were just in a good scheme and their backside defensive end dropped into coverage. As he let the ball loose he just did not see that defensive end drop back into coverage."