The deep bomb also made the LSU record books for the longest catch given up.
“Oh, Jhay Boyd’s a gamer,” sophomore wide receiver Erik Highsmith said. “I mean, he might not practice very well during the week, but everybody knows Saturday he’s ready to go, so he’ll be there. … The kid can fly. He’s fast. He’s the fastest dude on the team. That’s a good nickname for him, Jhay Bird.”
For a team reeling in suspensions — including one to standout senior wide receiver Greg Little — Boyd’s performance was nothing short of timely.
The sophomore showed signs of promise last season. A 59-yard touchdown reception against East Carolina and a 70-yard grab against N.C. State are two prime examples of his explosiveness.
But Boyd tallied more receiving yards against LSU than he did all of last season.
“He’s catching the ball so much better,” senior quarterback T.J. Yates said of Boyd. “You can really tell how much more of a complete wide receiver he became. He’s not just a deep threat. He can run the short routes. He can catch the tight throws against Patrick Peterson in the clutch. He came up huge for us a whole bunch of times in that game.”
When Boyd wasn’t making plays, others were.
Senior tight end Zack Pianalto caught eight passes for 74 yards. Highsmith caught three passes, including a touchdown late in the game, and redshirt freshman Josh Adams had four crucial grabs late in the game.
Boyd left the game a few minutes early after making a leaping catch, getting the wind shellacked out of him by two LSU defensive backs in the process.
Still, Boyd ended up with more than half of the Tar Heels’ receiving yards.
“I would have never expected that,” Boyd said. “I wasn’t really paying attention to my stats until somebody told me after the game. It felt good. I was just trying to put my team in a position to score and win the game.”
After one week, the receiving corps proved it could handle the load without Little in the lineup. Maybe more importantly, if Little is forced to sit out more games, the team now knows its aerial attack shouldn’t suffer.
Not on the wings of Jhay Bird.
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