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NO. 12 CLEMSON ROLLS PAST BALL STATE, AWAITS WATKINS’ RETURN FROM SUSPENSION

No Sammy Watkins?  No problem … again.

Clemson University’s high-octane offense racked up  526 yards on Saturday without its All-American wide receiver – who was serving the final game of a two-game suspension for an offseason pot bust.  The Tigers 52-27 thrashing of Ball State marked the second straight game in which Clemson’s offense amassed more than 500 yards .. .which makes you wonder just what sort of numbers the twelfth-ranked Tigers will put up with their superstar back in the lineup.

“It’s going to get ugly,” said Heisman Trophy candidate Tajh Boyd, who sat for the second half after completing 19 of 23 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns in just two quarters of action against the Cardinals (1-1, 1-0 MAC).

Tajh Boyd rolls out against Ball State.

This one was over early as Clemson (2-0, 0-0 ACC) raced to a 45-10 halftime lead thanks to the play of Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.  In fact the Tigers’ 45-point explosion was its most prolific two quarters of football in more than thirty years.

“They did a great job setting the tone early with some great drives,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said of Chad Morris’ offensive unit.  “We scored the most points in a half of any Clemson team since 1981.”

 Ellington – who ripped off 231 yards rushing a week ago against Auburn – picked up 41 yards on 13 carries, although like Boyd he sat for the second half of the game.  Two of Ellington’s carries went for scores, though, giving Clemson an early 14-0 lead.  Meanwhile Hopkins eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark for the second straight game – picking up 106 yards on six receptions.  Half of those receptions went for touchdowns, as Hopkins caught scoring strikes of 13, 34 and 15 yards from Boyd on consecutive drives in the second quarter.

“We’ve been working on a connection over the summer and it’s worked out so far,” Hopkins said of his rapport with Boyd.

That’s an understatement … through two games this season Hopkins has caught 19 passes for 224 yards and four scores, emerging as Boyd’s go-to target in Watkins’ absence.  In fact one more touchdown reception and he’ll have matched his 2011 scoring total.

In addition to its offensive exploits, Clemson got a big play on special teams when senior placekicker Spencer Benton set a new school and conference record with a 61-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.

“Everything clicked,” said Benton – who missed a 56-yard attempt a week ago against Auburn.  “It was awesome. I was just glad to see it go through and over.”

Clemson hosts Furman next week before facing what is likely to be its toughest test of the season – a showdown in Tallahassee against sixth-ranked Florida State.

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