SC State-Clemson Preview

The Associated Press

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -- - Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd had a message for the college football world after an impressive opening-week victory: Get used to the fourth-ranked Tigers winning big games.

That doesn't mean all is well in Death Valley - even after Clemson jumped to its highest ranking in 25 years.

After being criticized by his offensive coordinator for slowing down the Tigers' fast-paced offense, Boyd looks to speed things up Saturday against FCS opponent South Carolina State.

Over his five seasons on campus, Boyd had grown tired of his team's reputation in the sport for flopping in the biggest games and most critical moments.

"There have been times when we have been absolutely crucified,'' Boyd says, "for being one of those teams that can't win big games.''

Boyd certainly seemed to do his part in the Tigers' 38-35 Week 1 win against then-No. 5 Georgia, accounting for all five of Clemson's touchdowns.

But coordinator Chad Morris didn't like the tempo of his offense, even if it wound up vaulting the Tigers to their highest ranking in the AP poll since Sept. 12, 1988, when they were No. 3. He put the blame squarely on Boyd and not the Bulldogs' injuries on defense that interrupted Clemson's pace.

Morris said Monday that Boyd didn't get his eyes to the sidelines quickly enough after plays. Morris thought his high-speed attack should've squeezed off another 10-to-12 plays instead of the 76 snaps they managed in the top 10 showdown.

"We can play faster. Tajh slowed us down a whole bunch. That was some of our biggest downfalls,'' Morris said. "He played well, he played like a veteran, like he's supposed to play. But as far as the tempo, especially in the third and fourth quarter, he was the one slowing us down because he wasn't getting his eyes to the sidelines quick enough.''

Morris said Boyd was simply caught up in the moment of a highly anticipated game. Still, the two have spoken and Morris thinks Boyd will be more attentive and crisper when the Tigers face South Carolina State (0-1) at Death Valley.

The Tigers hit 100 snaps in two of their last three games in 2012 and Morris had hoped for a similar energy-sapping effort against Georgia. Instead, it took too long at times for Boyd to set up for the next play. "He's carrying his fake out and not getting his eyes around fast enough for us to get three more snaps a game,'' Morris said. "Those are things you can improve. Those are fixable.''

Boyd's delays, plus a pair of three-and-out series - anathema to Morris - cost the team as many as a dozen plays that could've turned the tight contest into a snoozer in the Tigers favor.

"Those are things that we'll work on,'' Morris said. "We'll be faster this week.''

While Boyd and the Tigers are focused on speeding things up, their schedule certainly slows down. After Saturday's game against a South Carolina State team that lost its opener 27-20 to Coastal Carolina, Clemson opens ACC play on Sept. 19 at North Carolina State. It will then mark time until its next true challenge against Florida State at Death Valley on Oct. 19 - a game seen as deciding the ACC Atlantic Division.

Coach Dabo Swinney understands the concern about slip-ups given the Tigers' history and the upcoming FCS opponent. Two years ago in Week 2, the Tigers were trailing in the third quarter against Wofford, another FCS team, before holding on for a 35-27 win.

Swinney says he'll count on senior leaders like Boyd to keep the younger players from avoiding a letdown Saturday.

It certainly seems easy to overlook the Bulldogs. South Carolina State has faced four top 25 teams since 2007 and been outscored by a combined 189-13 - including a 54-0 loss at Clemson in 2008.

The Bulldogs have allowed an average of 276.8 yards rushing in those losses, and Rod McDowell certainly looks capable of having a huge day after what he did to Georgia. McDowell finished with 132 yards on 22 carries - the senior's first career 100-yard game.

As excited as McDowell is about defeating Georgia, he knows how long the road ahead will be for the Tigers.

"There are more games to come. We just can't say 'OK, we beat Georgia, now everything else is easy now,''' McDowell said. "Every day we have to come to play.''

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