|by David Hood|
No. 3 Clemson defeated Syracuse 49-14 Saturday in the Carrier Dome, and the Tigers scored 35 first half points en route to a 35-7 halftime lead. However, the Orange came out and scored a quick touchdown to open the second half, making it 35-14, and Clemson’s high-flying offense all of a sudden was grounded.
The Tigers went three-and-out and gained just four yards on the first drive of the second half, and the Tigers’ second drive of the half ended with Boyd’s second interception of the day.
The third was another three-and-out and gained just two yards, and many in the Carrier Dome crowd were wondering if the Syracuse defense had finally figured out how to stop Clemson’s defense.
Meanwhile, Watkins was roaming around Clemson’s sideline, nursing a sore hip he suffered after a first half collision, and Clemson’s offense was completely out of synch.
Syracuse took the ensuing punt and drove down to the Clemson 13-yard line, but instead of kicking a field goal opted to go for the first down, but quarterback Terrel Hunt’s pass fell incomplete and the Clemson offense took over with a shot at redemption.
Rod McDowell was tackled for a four-yard loss on the first play of the drive, and Boyd knew it was time to go for the kill shot.
He dropped back and lofted a beautiful spiral to Watkins, who raced under the ball near midfield, gathered it in his arms and raced untouched into the endzone for a 42-14 lead.
Boyd said he went over to Watkins before that series to see if the Florida native could get out on the field.
“He came back and just stretched it a little bit at halftime, and didn’t get anything done to it,” Boyd said of Watkins. “He is just an outstanding player. I said, ‘Hey can you run?’ And he said, ‘Bruh, I can go.’ I said, ‘Cool, let’s go. We are going to take some shots.’ And then we hit the 91-yarder.”
Watkins told the media he didn’t know if he would be able to catch up to the throw, and Boyd said he also didn’t know until he saw Watkins gather it in.
“I didn’t know if he was going to make it, either,” Boyd said. “I was going to give it a shot, though. What it was, I felt like we had that opportunity earlier in the game, and I knew that if they kept playing us the same way, we would come back to it. If we had it again, I was just going to let it ride. They were so far pressed up, and when our receivers get pressed up under those guys’ toes, we have a chance to make something happen.”
Morris echoed Boyd’s comments.
“I think Tajh Boyd saw that they were pressed up on the outside and he was going to take a shot. That is what we do,” Morris said of the play.
Watkins said the Tigers caught the Syracuse corner “peeking on the corner route.”
“Tajh just did a great job of reading the corner,” Watkins said. “He was peeking and he just let it rip. I saw it and I just took off running. I was hurting a little bit, but I wanted to get in there and make a big play and spark us a little bit. I wanted to get in there, and I could have played in the first half.”
He then said that he and Boyd went to Morris to call the play.
“We went up to Coach Morris, and told him that the corner was pressing me,” Watkins said. “We said let’s go and be aggressive again. Tajh threw a wonderful ball, and I had to run the fastest I have ever run to get it. But it was a wonderful ball. I picked up a little bit, and I thought I might get there. But it stressed me a lot. I am just glad I got there. Tajh just launched the ball and I went and got it. He was trying to press us, the same route that Adam Humphries was running.”
Watkins said he knew what the play meant when he reached the sidelines.
“I saw a lot of the fans walking out of the stadium, so I knew it was a great thing,” Watkins said.
David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org