Record-setting Boyd does it again

Eventually, everyone around the Clemson program will realize just how good Tajh Boyd is as the Tigers' quarterback.

He showed it again Saturday afternoon against Georgia Tech.

With the Clemson defense struggling to slow down Georgia Tech's unique option offense for most of the day, Boyd kept the Tigers' offense rolling despite a couple of hiccups. And the Tigers' needed every bit of Boyd's career day, and a program touchdown record to go along with it, to hold off the Yellow Jackets 47-31.

Boyd threw for a career-high 397 yards and tossed two touchdowns, completing 26-of-41 attempts, and he also ran for 63 yards and another touchdown. And Boyd kept his poise throughout the game as the Yellow Jackets kept it close and even had the lead early in the fourth quarter. That showed up on third down as the offense converted 13-of-19 attempts and added a conversion on fourth down (Georgia Tech was 5-of-13 in those situations).

Clemson ran 93 offensive plays to 60 for the Yellow Jackets and won the time of possession battle, which is something that doesn't happen often against Georgia Tech.

The Tigers finished with 601 yards of total offense and have scored 40 points or more four times this season.

Boyd has 1,748 yards passing this season (and is just 95 short of 6,000 for his career), and he has 14 touchdowns, raising his career total to 51. That is the most in the program's history with Boyd surpassing Charlie Whitehurst. The amazing thing about that stat is that Boyd has achieved that record in nearly half the attempts that it took Whitehurst to set it.

But the biggest step forward Boyd has taken this season is with his poise, and he showed that Saturday. He threw a couple of interceptions, but he shook those off and continued to make plays. He didn't let those mistakes snowball and become worse than just one miscue. We saw that happen last year in certain situations, but Boyd has avoided that this year.

That's another big step in his maturation as a star quarterback.

Another big day for Nuk: As good as Boyd was, he got a lot of help from DeAndre Hopkins, who had his second straight huge game catching Boyd's passes.

A week after setting the program's single-game receiving yardage record, Hopkins was dynamic again Saturday with seven catches for 173 yards and two really important touchdowns.

With Sammy Watkins out last week and not yet up to the standard he set last year as a freshman, Hopkins has stepped in to become Boyd's go-to receiver. Hopkins' first touchdown catch Saturday came with Georgia Tech leading 21-20, and it gave Clemson the lead going into halftime. The second touchdown came with Georgia Tech leading 31-30, and Hopkins then added a two-point pass back to Boyd to give the Tigers a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Hopkins always seems to come up with the key catch or play when the team needs it, and he is impressive with his hands bringing in tough catches (like his second touchdown Saturday) or with his legs after making a catch in the open field (like his first score).

Clemson has a ton of offensive talent, but it's obvious who has become the leader on the outside and Boyd's favorite target.

Second-half defense: For the second straight game, the Clemson defense gave up a lot of yards and points, but just like the performance at Boston College last week, Clemson's defense improved in the second half against Georgia Tech.

The Yellow Jackets still finished with 483 total yards, including 339 on the ground, but facing Georgia Tech is going to do that to a lot of defenses. Many of those yards came after missed tackles, something that Clemson will need to continue to work on, but the young Tigers defense won't face an offense like Georgia Tech's again the rest of the season.

It's a difficult system to stop, or even slow down, and Brent Venables' defense came up with just enough stops Saturday. After scoring 21 points in the first half, Georgia Tech managed just 10 in the second half as Venables' group had a few key moments after halftime.

The first one came after Boyd was intercepted early in the third quarter. Georgia Tech led 28-27 at the time and started its drive at the Clemson 26 before getting to the Tigers' 7. But Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington fumbled the fourth-down snap, allowing Clemson to stay one point back.

In the fourth quarter, Boyd was intercepted, on a tipped pass, and Georgia Tech drove to the Clemson 19 only to be stopped again. Georgia Tech's field goal try, which would have made the score 40-34, was blocked, and Clemson was able to add another score and pretty much run out the clock.

In between, the Tigers' defense came up with a safety early in the fourth quarter for a nine-point lead – the first time it led by more the one score the entire game. On the play, the defensive front blew up Georgia Tech's option, and Spencer Shuey broke through with a tackle of Orwin Smith in the end zone to give Clemson some breathing room for the first time.

Special indeed: Special teams play was huge in Saturday's game, and the Yellow Jackets' struggles with those units were key. Georgia Tech missed two field goals, including the one blocked by Clemson's Josh Watson, and they were both makeable kicks. On the other side, Clemson's Chandler Catanzaro continued his amazing turnaround from his freshman struggles two years ago. He made three more field goals to remain perfect this season and extended his program record of consecutive made field goals to 19.

Also, there was a kickoff return mistake by Georgia Tech, which helped set up the key safety in the fourth quarter. After Clemson took a 38-31 lead, Chris Milton bobbled Spencer Benton's ensuing kickoff near the 5-yard line. After Milton gained control of the ball, he slipped and fell and was marked down at the 2. On the second play of the drive, Shuey made his big play on Smith.

Home-field advantage: The Tigers will need to win big games on the road in the future as they try to come become consistent title contenders, but there is one thing that has become obvious about this program: Clemson is hard to beat at home.

The Tigers are 23-4 at Death Valley with Swinney as their head coach, and that's much better than their mark with the two coaches who came before him – Tommy West and Tommy Bowden. It's obvious that Swinney made that a priority, and that's the way it should be.

Saturday's win was Clemson's 10th straight at home, and creating a true home-field advantage is big step in the right direction for this program.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter @DM_Shirley Top Stories