Nationally ranked Clemson beat Duke 56-20 Saturday night at venerable Wallace Wade Stadium, a win largely notable for its ease.
Clemson (8-1 overall, 5-1 in the ACC) did not punt the first three quarters and scored on six of its first eight possessions with quarterback Tajh Boyd at the trigger.
It was Clemson’s its fifth consecutive victory since a loss at Florida State. Home games with Maryland and N.C. State the next two weeks provide a faint glimmer in the ACC Atlantic Division, but the clash against South Carolina on Thanksgiving weekend provides the biggest launching pad for Clemson into the national picture.
Ranked 13th by the BCS and 10th in the AP poll, Clemson earned style points with 718 yards, second in school history to the 756 against Wake Forest by the national championship team.
Boyd passed for five touchdowns and ran for one — all in the first half — to break Woodrow Dantzler’s school record (68) for touchdown responsibility. Three interceptions sullied an otherwise pristine performance. Boyd completed 16 of 23 for 344 yards, rushed for a team-high 72 yards and tied the school record for touchdown passes in a game for the third time, the second time in two games.
DeAndre Hopkins caught touchdown passes of 5, 58 and 45 yards, giving him 13 for the season, which breaks Sammy Watkins’ year-old record, and 22 for his career, breaking Aaron Kelly’s record. Hopkins surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for the season and move to within sight of Aaron Kelly’s career record.
Watkins caught a 30-yarder and Martavis Bryant a 41-yarder.
Clemson rolled to 487 yards in the first half, breaking the school-record 393 set in the 1981 game with Wake Forest, but committed three turnovers, a fumble by Hopkins after a 22-yard reception, an interception as Boyd tried to hit Jaron Brown with a laser when a rainbow would suffice and a pick when Boyd went for the home run as time expired.
The win wasn’t a bargain. Running back Andre Ellington rushed for 26 yards on the first play from scrimmage then left with a hamstring injury. Tight end Brandon Ford was taken from the field midway through the second quarter with an abdominal injury. .
And the game began with corners Bashaud Breeland, Garry Peters and Cortez Davis on the bench for being late to a team meeting. Already thin in the secondary with injuries to Martin Jenkins and Darrius Robinson, Clemson turned to redshirt sophomore Dante Peters of Swansea, who started for the first time.
Duke tested the Clemson secondary early and often. Quarterback Sean Renfree hit Jamison Crowder for a 77-yard touchdown in the Blue Devils’ second possession, to make the score 14-10 at 7:02 in the first quarter.
Brandon Cornette passed for a touchdown and Ross Martin kicked two field goals for Duke (6-4, 3-3).
The game turned when the Clemson defense forced Duke to punt on five consecutive possessions. A 13-play, 47-yard drive late in the third quarter made it 49-20.
Cole Stoudt, in for Boyd, drove Clemson 86 yards in 11 plays, capping it with a 12-yard TD pass to Charone Peake.