CLEMSON — MIGHT IT HAVE been scripted better?
I dont think so, said Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, not from what we were trying to accomplish.
Punctuated by Spencer Bentons record 61-yard field goal Saturday, 12th-ranked Clemson further fueled anticipation with a 52-27 victory against Ball State before a crowd counted at 78,000 in Death Valley.
On the heels of that convincing win over Auburn in the Georgia Dome to open the season, Clemson needed to avoid an implosion against a team picked to finish fourth in the Mid-American Conference West division.
I think we improved, said coach Dabo Swinney. We took care of business. Its that simple. We came out and played our game.
That included 526 yards Clemson is 59-0-1 when amassing 500 yards and the first back-to-back 500-yard performances since 1980. Nine players were credited with runs and 12 with receptions. Clemson did not commit a turnover but forced two and recovered an onside kick, plays that led directly to touchdowns within a span of 5:14 in the second quarter.
Bentons field goal on the final play of the first half broke the previous ACC record 60 set in 2007 by Gary Cismesia of Florida State and added another offensive tool to Clemsons arsenal. The Clemson record of 57 was held by Obed Ariri (vs. Wake Forest in 1977) and Chris Gardocki (Appalachian State in 1990).
We practice that every week, Swinney said. Hes hit from 66 in practice.
There was evidence of a need to further improve the run defense. Limited to 159 total yards in the first half, Ball State finished with 252 rushing yards on 40 attempts, including touchdown runs of 54 and 21 yards by Horactio Battle.
It starts with the run game, defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. Weve got to be more consistent.
Other than a tweaked knee by left guard David Beasley, offensive coordinator Chad Morris couldnt have been more pleased with the result in the wake of last weeks highly charged game.
This is what youve got to have, said Morris. We didnt have any turnovers, and I thought our tempo was really good.
Boyd completed 19 of 23 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns before Swinney reached into the bullpen during the second quarter for backup Cole Stoudt. DeAndre Hopkins caught six passes for 105 yards and the three touchdown tosses from Boyd then took a knee. And Andre Ellington rushed for 42 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries in the first four offensive series as Clemson scored on eight of its first nine possessions.
Before the clock expired, Clemson had used 80 players including four quarterbacks, three kickers, two punters and two long snappers.
When the lights are on, and the crowds out there, you start to get a sense of where these guys are, Boyd said, and I think these guys responded really well.
Swinney said the residual benefit of playing so many was incalculable.
At some point youve got to play, he said. To have that opportunity to get those guys in a game makes practice better, makes meetings better and hopefully theyll be able to grow from that experience.
Perhaps the most sustained cheers were for war hero Daniel Rodriguez. A walk-on receiver, he lined up twice for punts then caught a pass in the fourth quarter.
I try to go out there on the field and focus. Then the fans go nuts when they call my name, he said. Its humbling. Im very grateful.
Grateful, too, are the Tigers who prepare this week for Furman with sophomore All-America receiver Sammy Watkins, who missed the first two games after being suspended following a May arrest for possession of narcotics.
Its just exciting to have a player like that back, said Boyd. Watkins watched from the sideline Saturday. Hes going to be like a rocket shot out of a cannon.