Dip in production

CLEMSON - Eight games into his career as the starting quarterback for Clemson, Tajh Boyd was the toast of the town.

Boyd had completed 172 of 278 passes for 2,379 with 24 touchdowns and three interceptions. He was undefeated and firmly in the conversation as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Since then, the Tigers have gone 1-2. During that stretch, Boyd has completed 71 of 117 passes for 876 yards with three touchdowns and six interceptions.

And despite clinching a spot in the ACC Championship game, his stock has taken a bit of a hit.

"All you can really do is just move ahead," Boyd said. "Honestly, that's probably the biggest thing that I've learned since I've been here. You kind of know who's for you and who's against you. You just take it for what it's worth.

"You've got to be in tune to what's going on. Honestly, coach is to the point where you just have to forget about things, just let it ride."

Up next for Boyd is a meeting with South Carolina, a team Clemson hasn't beaten since Dabo Swinney was the interim head coach in 2008.

"It really is a big game, a rivalry game," Boyd said. "We're going to have to come out ready to play, honestly. The way we prepare is how we'll perform on the field. The leaders on this team will have to step up, for the younger guys to see how we prepare this week.

"How we come out in the game is going to be important. We came out kind of flat last week and it kind of transpired during the game. It really does start with practice."

The Clemson/South Carolina rivalry was one that the Hampton, Va. native wasn't quite up to speed on when he arrived to Tigertown in the spring of 2008.

"When I first got here, I just thought it was whatever. It really is a big game and a big deal to everybody," Boyd said. "You've got people who go to school here that are from Columbia. You've got classmates who express to you how big it is. Not being from the state, you don't really understand. The longer you're here, the more you understand what's going on."

Now he understands. Maybe even more so since the Tigers haven't beaten the Gamecocks since his arrival.

"It can't happen. It's just a no-no, honestly. Three games to a rival or any team. Back-to-back is hard enough. Three games is horrible," Boyd said.

Matching up against a Gamecock team that's No. 5 in the country in total defense won't be an easy task.

"They're a very solid team, very physical, very athletic," he said. "There are going to be some really good matchups, from the offensive line standpoint, to the receivers."

Rivalry game or not, Boyd knows how important it is to stop the bleeding, especially with the ACC title game up seven days later.

"From an overall standpoint, we all know the type of players we are. We've got a lot of great players here, some of the best in the country. It's just a matter of how well you execute the scheme -- what we're supposed to do and what we're trying to accomplish," he said. "Coaches do put us in good situations. We've just got to take advantage of every opportunity we get."

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