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September 15, 2013

Boyd keeps getting better

Paul Chryst has learned not to be surprised by freshman receiver Tyler Boyd.

The Pitt head coach saw Boyd rise up the depth chart during fall camp when he made play after play in practice. Chryst saw the performance the Clairton product put on against Florida State when he amassed151 all-purpose yards.

But there's still one person who is surprised by Boyd's play:

"Yeah, I am," Boyd himself said while smiling ear-to-ear following Pitt's 49-27 win over New Mexico at Heinz Field Saturday. "I didn't really think I'd be capable of doing the things I was doing in high school. I thought it would have been way harder than what I was doing in high school.

"Everything's still coming to me as long as I play my game and do my responsibilities, then I can still make plays like I used to."

Boyd finished the New Mexico game with six catches for 134 yards and a receiving touchdown. He also had two carries for 39 yards and another score and returned a kickoff for 22 yards. Boyd even added his first-career tackle, taking down New Mexico's Isaiah Brown after James Conner's fumble.

In all, Boyd racked up 195 all-purpose yards in Saturday's win, which brings his two-game collegiate total yards to 346.

"I just feel really good," he said. "It felt really good to get back out on that field, especially after a loss, to go out there and get a win. We came up in the huddle and talked as an offense that we had to have a better performance than we did the first week, so that's what we did. We executed all of the plays and kept scoring."

It wasn't just the stats that stood out for Boyd; rather, it was a laundry list of highlight reel plays that turned heads.

Boyd set up Pitt's first touchdown with a 51-yard play-action pass to get deep in New Mexico territory. On that play, he ran through double coverage and was able to make the catch despite having a defender - who was flagged for pass interference - draped on his shoulders.

Then Boyd recorded his first collegiate touchdown when he took a jet sweep to the right sideline from the 33, cut through the running lane and turned up field. With a defender closing in, Boyd made a Superman dive at the 5, extending the football past the goal-line for the score.

Boyd capped his first half with a leaping catch in the end zone as time expired in the second quarter. With less than 10 seconds in the half Boyd ran a dig route, but when he saw Tom Savage scramble from the pocket, the freshman slipped behind the defender into the back of the end zone. Savage heaved the ball downfield, and Boyd skied for it with two Lobos tackling him and got a foot down in-bounds for the score.

These are the kinds of plays Boyd is used to making as the all-time touchdown leader in western Pennsylvania high school. But the transition to the next level has been even better than expected, and he has done his part to be an effective, collegiate playmaker.

"First off, putting in that work at practice," Boyd said, "taking it step by step, everything from one to 10, doing everything precise. I get a lot of reps. Coach (Bobby) Engram walks me through everything and do all the right things. Once the game comes, I'm well prepared, and I'm already in the shoes of making a good play."

It has been easy for his teammates to see the transition and his value too, including his quarterback.

"He's a freak as you guys saw, and he's fun to play with," Savage said. "He just gets it. There are some kids like that, and he's one of them. You get into a game, and he just knows how to come down with the ball. He does it non-stop at practice...

"After the first game, I thought he did better than what I expected he was going to do. Then this game, it's clear he's a football player and he knows how to play the game. They're the type of kids, you just need to put the ball in their hands and let them work. Just sit back and have fun and watch it."

Boyd is a valuable weapon in Pitt's offense because of his versatility. He can be used to stretch the defense vertically with his speed and horizontally with the jet sweeps. He can also do everything in between, with screens, intermediate routes and quick passes.

Despite all of that ability, Saturday was only Boyd's second collegiate game. He has at least the next three years to improve every aspect of his game. He knows he can be better, and he'll work to show it.

"I've got more to come as I go out there and make huge plays for my team," Boyd said. "I just love to win. I hate losing, so I go out there and do my best."





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