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Clemson rolls as Boyd breaks ACC mark for TD passes

The SportsXchange

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Senior quarterback Tajh Boyd kept No. 8 Clemson in the BCS hunt Thursday.

Just as important, he escaped a serious injury despite going down in the second half.

Boyd threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns, powering the Tigers to a 55-31 victory over Georgia Tech in an Atlantic Coast Conference game at Memorial Stadium.

The Tigers improved to 9-1 overall, 7-1 in the ACC, but it was Boyd's health that was the primary concern in the game's aftermath. Boyd, who became the ACC's all-time leader in touchdown passes during the first half, left the game with a collarbone injury after being tackled on the final play of the third quarter. He did not return.

"It was just one of those things where it sounded a lot worse than it actually is," Boyd said. "Going down to the ground it was cracking and all, but I feel fine. I had some X-rays and everything is all good."

Boyd was back on the sideline in the fourth quarter, tossing a football.

"I just wanted to show coach (Dabo Swinney) that I was healthy," Boyd said.

Clemson, playing in its first home Thursday night game since 2002, posted its highest point total in a game against Georgia Tech since a 73-0 win under coach John Heisman in 1903.

"The bottom line is we got our tails beat today," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "They beat us in all phases of the game. We obviously didn't play very well. You guys want to make our defense the Green Bay Packers one week, and the next week you want to say they stink."

The victory enhanced Clemson's hopes for a BCS berth and kept alive its chance to post back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in school history.

The Tigers close out the regular season with games against two in-state opponents -- The Citadel on Nov. 23 and South Carolina on Nov. 30.

"This is three great wins in a row," said Swinney, whose team earned a 17th consecutive double-digit win against a non-ranked opponent. "We're playing our best football of the year right now."

The Yellow Jackets (6-4, 5-3) trailed 27-10 at the half, but they tightened things up -- at least temporarily -- on their second possession of the second half. Running back Robert Godhigh (12 carries, 126 yards) dashed 65 yards for a touchdown.

Clemson responded with back-to-back touchdown passes from Boyd, the first a 33-yard strike to wide receiver Martavis Bryant, then a 44-yard toss to wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Those scores extended Clemson's lead to 41-17 with 7:53 left in the third quarter and all but put the game out of reach.

Boyd completed 20 of 26 pass and was intercepted once. Bryant gained a career-high 176 yards on five catches, while Watkins made five catches for 104 yards -- his school-record seventh 100-yard receiving game of the season.

Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee went 13-for-23 for 165 yards and one interception. Godhigh also was Tech's leading receiver with five catches for 103 yards.

Clemson's defense managed to limit the Yellow Jackets' vaunted triple-option, which entered the game ranked fourth nationally at 311.2 yards per game, to 248 yards. Tech averaged 320 yards rushing in its previous five games against Clemson, three of which were Yellow Jackets victories.

"Our defense was awesome tonight," Swinney said. "We won the physical matchups, and it was a dominating performance in the trenches. Our defensive line owned the night."

Clemson amassed 10 tackles for loss, including three by senior linebacker Quandon Christian.

Chandler Catanzaro kicked two first-quarter field goals, including a career-long 51-yarder, to provide the Tigers with a 6-0 edge before Boyd enjoyed an explosive and record-setting second quarter.

On the third play of the second quarter, Boyd hit Watkins in stride for a 41-yard touchdown. It gave Watkins 1,023 receiving yards this season, making him the second receiver in Clemson history to post two 1,000-yard seasons.

On Clemson's ensuing possession, Boyd connected with Bryant for a 47-yard gain on a third-and-18 play, then lofted a 4-yard touchdown toss to freshman wide receiver Mike Williams on the next play. The pass to Bryant was the 818th completion of Boyd's career, pushing him ahead of Charlie Whitehurst on Clemson's all-time list.

Georgia Tech, which was held without a first down in the first quarter, responded with its first lengthy drive of the night, moving 82 yards in seven plays to cut Clemson's lead to 20-7 on a 1-yard plunge by running back David Sims. Godhigh sparked with drive with a 38-yard reception of a Lee pass, and Godhigh added a 32-yard run on the next play.

Clemson struck back in short order, with Boyd connecting with Bryant for a 76-yard touchdown two plays later, pushing the Tigers in front 27-7 and giving Boyd an ACC-record 96 touchdown passes in his career. Boyd passed former North Carolina State star Philip Rivers.

Tech added a 33-yard Harrison Butker field goal on the final play of the first half.

"You have to give Clemson credit," Johnson said. "Every time we would score, they would go down and score immediately after. You have to be able to play the deep ball. What did they throw -- one deep ball that wasn't a catch? We were in position to make a play and just did not make it."

NOTES: Clemson reserve TE Jordan Leggett was suspended for the game for a "violation of team rules," according to coach Dabo Swinney. It was a one-game suspension for the freshman, who has 10 receptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns this season. ... Tigers K Chandler Catanzaro's career-long 51-yard field goal with 3:07 left in the first quarter gave him 24 field goals of 40 yards or more in his career, breaking the school record held by Chris Gardocki, who starred at Clemson from 1988-90. ... Georgia Tech began the night with only 59 pass completions this season, but it ranked second nationally in yards per pass completion (18.24), trailing only Baylor. ... Yellow Jackets DE Jeremiah Attaochu had two sacks in the first half to move within four sacks of tying Tech's career record. His 27.0 career sack rank third among active FBS players.
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