Boyd, seniors enter stretch run

Thursday night games at Memorial Stadium have been avoided like the plague by Clemson officials through the years, and with good reason.

Hosting those games is just really not a good idea with the campus setup.

But when the ACC's TV deal says it has to happen, then it has to happen.

That turned out to be a good thing Thursday night. Clemson won the game easily, beating Georgia Tech 55-31 in a game that it never felt like the Tigers were in danger of losing. They jumped out early and had everything clicking, and even when the Yellow Jackets made a mini-run, cutting Clemson's lead to 10, the Tigers bounced right back and immediately regained control.

It was exactly the kind of performance Clemson needed in a nationally televised game after being destroyed by Florida State in a similar situation just a few weeks ago. Yes, there were some empty seats around the stadium, but that's understandable. For folks who have to travel a way to get to a game, a Thursday night affair just might not be doable. And there was school the next day, so some parents likely stayed away because of the late-night kickoff.

They missed quite a show.

The offense was dynamic, showcasing Chad Morris' playcalling skills, the strong arm of quarterback Tajh Boyd and the many talents of the weapons around him. Boyd was on point for most of the night, and he really showed off his ability with deep balls, completing several of them. He threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns and now has thrown for 2,960 yards and 24 touchdowns this season (with only seven interceptions).

The defense, while giving up more than 400 yards, controlled Georgia Tech's unique offense except for a few big plays and showed a physical nature up front that the program needs to take the next step. There are going to be a couple of big plays allowed against that offense because assignments are going to be blows; there's no way to avoid that. But, for the most part, the defense did its job and controlled the line of scrimmage.

And Chandler Catanzaro showed off his strong, accurate leg a couple of times.

It was a complete-game dominance that has to have Clemson fans feeling good about the rest of this season.

The only hiccup included a scary few minutes after Boyd went down and immediately grabbed his collarbone on a play at the end of the third quarter. It looked worse than it was, however, and Boyd appeared ready to go back into the game a little while later. But he didn't; he wasn't needed because the Tigers were that dominant. Coming off an off week, it looked like the Tigers, on both sides of the ball, got in all the work they needed to blow out the Yellow Jackets, and they did just that.

Another positive from the Thursday game? Boyd gets a few extra days to rest before the next game, and he probably won't play much in that one either, meaning he should be healthy for one final shot at South Carolina.

Stoudt performance
Boyd has been a terrific quarterback – and leader – for the Clemson program since he took over as the starter three years ago; in my mind he's the best quarterback Clemson has had. But he only has two regular-season games and a bowl game left in his Tigers uniform.

So Tigers fans are going to have to think about a team without him leading the way next year. That might be hard to imagine, but it's coming.

It looks like Clemson's offense will be in good hands next fall.

Chad Kelly certainly will have a say in who is starting next year, and he eventually will be a terrific player, as well, but it looks like Cole Stoudt is ahead of him in the race to be next year's leader.

Stoudt will be a senior, and he has paid his dues, sitting behind Boyd for the past few years. And when Stoudt has gotten a chance to play this year, he has done a good job.

On Thursday, he completed both of his passes for 35 yards, while he also ran four times for 28 yards and a touchdown. For the season, Stoudt has completed 44-of-55 attempts for 353 yards and four touchdowns (with no interceptions).

It's not a large sample size, for sure, but it's enough to see Stoudt's positives. He has a strong enough arm. He's accurate. He's smart. He runs the ball better than most people expect. And he can run the offense the way Morris wants it run, building on what Boyd has started.

Next up
It's hard to believe, but Saturday's game against The Citadel will be the final home game for Boyd. When he comes down The Hill before the game, he deserves a standing ovation from the fans for everything he has done for the program.

And not just the big numbers he has put up: more than 10,000 yards passing and more than 1,000 rushing (the first ACC quarterback to accomplish that) or all the records he has set (too many to list). He has been a true leader on the field for this program and a terrific ambassador for the university off the field, and his impact on the program will be felt for some time. The program is different now than we he arrived, and he played a big part in that.

But he won't be the only senior – or junior – playing his final game. This senior class has been special and has helped change this program's mindset.

Sammy Watkins likely will be played his final game, as well, and you can't blame him for getting the NFL itch. He's going to be an early first-round pick next spring and likely will be an impact player as a rookie.

It's going to be different, for sure, next year to watch this team without No. 10 throwing to No. 2, but that happens every year in college sports. Stars move on, and new ones take their place. And that reality likely will hit home for these seniors, Watkins and the Clemson coaches and fans right before next week's game.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at Top Stories