CHARLOTTESVILLE — Tajh Boyd happily spent most of the second half on a headset, morphing from record-setting quarterback to animated cheerleader and coaching consultant. This he did with Scott Stadium about two-thirds empty, aggravated fans more interested in their tailgate than the game.
A fifth-year senior from Phoebus High, Boyd was playing in the commonwealth for the second and final time as a collegian — the first was at Virginia Tech in 2011. He made the homecoming memorable, passing for 377 yards and three touchdowns, rushing for another score and setting an ACC career record for touchdown production.
Conversely, the Cavaliers suffered a sixth consecutive defeat and assured their fifth losing season in the last six years.
So superior were the Tigers (8-1, 6-1 ACC) that Boyd exited for good after throwing a 96-yard scoring pass to Sammy Watkins with 10:58 remaining in the third quarter. It was Clemson's fourth touchdown in less than nine minutes and gave the Tigers an insurmountable 42-7 lead.
"That makes it 4-0 against the home state," Boyd said, referencing three victories over Virginia Tech, one each at home, on the road and at a neutral site. "I think that makes it sweet, but at the same time, we just wanted to come out and play the type of football we're capable of playing."
Ranked eighth in the Bowl Championship Series standings, the Tigers were doing anything but midway through the second quarter, nursing a 14-7 lead. Virginia was pressuring Boyd, stuffing tailback Roderick McDowell and had held Clemson without a first down on four consecutive possessions.
Then came the deluge, much of it self-inflicted.
The Tigers scored three touchdowns in 4:05 to close the first half, converting an interception of David Watford and Khalek Shepherd fumble into short drives, and then marching 86 yards in 42 seconds to take a commanding 35-7 intermission lead.
Boyd went 6-of-6 for 84 yards on Clemson's final series of the half and ran the final yard into the end zone.
"Probably our best drive of the year," he said.
As if that didn't suck the drama from the stadium, Clemson's first drive of the second half did.
On a third-and-15 from his own 4, Boyd drifted into the end zone and uncorked a pass about 50 yards that hit Watkins in stride. Watkins sprinted untouched for a 96-yard touchdown, victimizing the same cornerback, true freshman Tim Harris, that he did on a first-quarter, 33-yard score.
Like any sage quarterback, Boyd recognized the rookie-on-all-star mismatch.
"Oh, yeah," he said. "You've got to know your personnel. … When you've got a guy like (Watkins) in space, he's going to have an opportunity to do it. The safety kind of came inside a little bit, and I just kind of let it ride on the outside. Sammy got past (Harris) and did an unbelievable job."
Boyd's afternoon brought his career touchdown production to 116 — 93 passing and 23 rushing — breaking the ACC record of 112 set by North Carolina State's Philip Rivers from 2000-03. He's two touchdown passes shy of matching Rivers' conference mark of 95.
"I'm a pretty modest guy," Boyd said. "I don't look into it too much, but any time that you're at the top of the chart is pretty sweet."
The day was decidedly sour for Virginia (2-7, 0-5).
Clemson gained 610 yards, most by a Virginia opponent since Georgia Tech's 624 in 2000. The 59-10 score was the same as September's home loss to No. 2 Oregon and, judging from the empty seats, ratchets up the pressure on fourth-year coach Mike London to show some evidence of progress.
The Cavaliers also dropped six straight games last year, making this the first time they've endured six-game skids in consecutive seasons since 1975 and '76.
"I was proud of the guys in that first quarter," London said, "but toward the latter part of that second quarter, things started to unravel for us. They took advantage of a lot of things. … We didn't play well enough or coach well enough."
Sophomore quarterback David Watford of Hampton High, Boyd's close friend and fellow Peninsula District product, completed only 16-of-35 passes for 130 yards, 246 fewer than a week earlier against Georgia Tech.
"They disguised a lot of coverages and caught me, not really off guard, but they caught me making errant passes and forcing certain things that I shouldn't have based on coverages," Watford said. "We just have to keep fighting, that's it."
Boyd has never experienced troubles such as Watford's and Virginia's. Not at Phoebus or Clemson. He said the record he really wants is for career victories by a Tigers quarterback.
Rodney Williams had 32 from 1985-88. Boyd has 29 with at least four games remaining, including a bowl.
"We have to make sure," he said, "that we finish strong."
The same appears beyond Virginia's reach.