Clemson blasts Ball State, 52-27

Clemson Tigers running back Andre Ellington runs past Ball State Cardinals linebacker Tony Martin in the first quarter.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Clemson Tigers running back Andre Ellington runs past Ball State Cardinals linebacker Tony Martin in the first quarter.

Defense wrap-up: Ball State

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— If you want an idea of how Saturday went for Clemson, consider the offensive line the Tigers sent out late in the second quarter.

At left tackle, freshman Isaiah Battle. At left guard, sophomore Kalon Davis. At center, redshirt freshman Ryan Norton. At right guard, redshirt freshman Spencer Region. At right tackle, redshirt freshman Joe Gore.

Battle, Norton, Region and Gore were making their collegiate debuts. Behind them, sophomore quarterback Cole Stoudt took snaps.

Yep, it was that kind of day.

No.12 Clemson did whatever it wanted to with Mid-American Conference foe Ball State, building a 35-point halftime lead and cruising to a 52-27 win in its home opener at Memorial Stadium.

The Tigers improved to 2-0 entering next week’s visit from FCS foe Furman; Ball State fell to 1-1.

“What we wanted to emphasize throughout the game was being consistent on what kind of team we were,” said junior quarterback Tajh Boyd. “There were a lot of skeptics, people critical about how we would perform today. Coaches challenged us all week how we’d respond from a win like Auburn, and I think we responded just as well as we could.”

Clemson used four quarterbacks. 12 players caught passes, and seven players gained positive yardage.

The Tigers scored on seven of their eight first-half drives, with six of the first seven drives ending in touchdowns.

Clemson used 80 players and ran 84 offensive plays. By the end, it felt like a spring game, which was exactly what Dabo Swinney preferred.

“The bottom line in this game was to try and improve as a team, and I thought we did that,” Swinney said. “I think if we’ll continue to prepare and play to the standard as a team we all agreed upon, we’ll have a chance to win a lot of games.

“Coming off an emotional win, we talked about is there going to be a letdown. We’re playing a team that’s excited to play here, coming off a big performance. Guys came to play. They talked about setting the tone early and I think they did that.”

Clemson rolled up 526 yards of total offense. Coupled with the 528 against Auburn, it is the first time the Tigers have opened the season with two games of 500-plus yards since 1980. A year ago, they had 500 against Boston College and 576 at Maryland.

In the first half, Clemson outgained Ball State 382-159 and converted seven of nine third downs, holding the ball for 17:52.

Boyd didn’t return after halftime, but had a stellar game in 30 minutes, completing 19 of 23 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns.

Hopkins caught six passes for 105 yards and three scores in a half’s work; he became one of four players in school history with three touchdown catches in a game, tying Rod Gardner, Dreher Gaskin and Tony Horne.

“He’s one of those players that can adjust to any type of situation, catch any ball in any situation,” Boyd said. “And all you’ve got to do is put him around and he’ll catch it.”

Such comfort, Swinney said, comes from plenty of hard work.

“They’re veterans,” he said. “They spend all that time together. Nuk’s a senior, Tajh’s a fourth-year junior. We all remember that Nuk as a freshman did a lot of good things, but freshmen are freshmen. Juniors are a beautiful thing.”

When asked to evaluate his day, Boyd said he “could have gone 23 for 23.”

“Realistically, I felt like I could have,” he said. “I feel like I could go 100 percent. I’m going to go 100 percent one of these days. Again, it’s fun, being as precise as that.”

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Swinney praised Boyd’s command of the offense.

“He’s making great decisions,” Swinney said. “He’s making great decisions with our run game, our checks, our reads, and he’s making really good decisions on where to go with the football based on what he sees.”

When Spencer Benton’s field goal cleared the crossbars as the first-half clock expired, it sent the Memorial Stadium crowd into a frenzy.

Benton’s 61-yarder was the longest field goal in ACC history, finishing the Tigers’ best offensive half since their 1981 national championship season.

Clemson led Ball State 45-10, the most prolific half since a 49-point half in an 82-24 win over Wake Forest on Oct. 31, 1981.

The Tigers dug into Ball State immediately, with Boyd leading a 12-play, 72-yard drive with short and mid-range passes. Tailback Andre Ellington finished the drive with a four-yard touchdown run.

The next drive unfolded much the same way, with Ellington’s two-yard run extending the lead to 13-0 with 6:36 left in the first quarter.

Ball State exposed one of the few cracks in Clemson’s defense, with Horactio Banks sprinting past senior safety Xavier Brewer for a 54-yard score, cutting the lead to 13-7 with 1:54 left in the half.

Following a 33-yard Boyd screen pass to D.J. Howard which moved the ball to the Ball State 13, Boyd and Hopkins hooked up for the first time, with Hopkins out-leaping a Cardinals corner for a 13-yard touchdown.

The Cardinals drove for a field goal, but followed that success with an ill-advised onside kick, which rolled and was recovered by Lateek Townsend at the Ball State 33.

Two plays later, Boyd found Hopkins streaking over the middle for a 34-yard catch-and-run score, extending the lead to 28-10 with 8:41 left in the half.

He added a third score which saw Hopkins “post up like an NBA center” in the end zone, and Rod McDowell’s 27-yard run extended the lead to 42-10 with 3:27 left in the half.

“This is one of those games where the clock won’t run fast enough,” Swinney said. “You’re trying to get starters out but you don’t want them to score.”

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Comments » 7

ggordon writes:

Ball State kicked our butts on the lines, and their running backs bowled the LB over. We need serious improvement in the strength department. Dabo needs to repossess the game ball he gave to Joey Batson.

justcurious writes:

I am not a Dabo fan as know, but I really respect him for pulling most of the first team when he did, first of , it gave the 2nd team game experience, which is very important, and he did not want to run up the score on a team from s lower div. I respcect him for that, been a Tiger fan for 60 plus years.

TrevorT writes:

I agree that this was a solid win that once again proved how explosive our offense can be. So believe me I'm not complaining, but I have to ask... Is anyone else concerned by the fact that as soon as we take a step down our depth chart we basically get handled by a team like Ball State. Developing greater depth is going to be key if we want get to the next level. And also, why is it that no matter who we play, our defense seems to be required to give up at least one big play for a touchdown? Is it some type of motivation for the offense? I don't mean to be overly critical, I just want to see us continue to improve. GO TIGERS!

brookesdad729 writes:

in response to TrevorT:

I agree that this was a solid win that once again proved how explosive our offense can be. So believe me I'm not complaining, but I have to ask... Is anyone else concerned by the fact that as soon as we take a step down our depth chart we basically get handled by a team like Ball State. Developing greater depth is going to be key if we want get to the next level. And also, why is it that no matter who we play, our defense seems to be required to give up at least one big play for a touchdown? Is it some type of motivation for the offense? I don't mean to be overly critical, I just want to see us continue to improve. GO TIGERS!

Great game! I agree with you TrevorT, I don't think they pulled the defensive guys in the 2nd half which is scary because we still gave up 27 points to this team. I believe the defense got lackadaisical in their efforts because we were up so far in the game and that's not good. It's like taking plays off. I do believe also that we will do a little better against a more conventional offense and that is so ironic because these guys run practice against a spread offense. That being said though spread offenses have so many wrinkles in them that they're anything but predictable. Good job getting the other guys some work and go Tigers!

columbiabill writes:

in response to brookesdad729:

Great game! I agree with you TrevorT, I don't think they pulled the defensive guys in the 2nd half which is scary because we still gave up 27 points to this team. I believe the defense got lackadaisical in their efforts because we were up so far in the game and that's not good. It's like taking plays off. I do believe also that we will do a little better against a more conventional offense and that is so ironic because these guys run practice against a spread offense. That being said though spread offenses have so many wrinkles in them that they're anything but predictable. Good job getting the other guys some work and go Tigers!

Not sure if the defense got lackadaisical, but I am sure of one thing and that is the fans sure got lackadaisical after the first half. I have never seen death valley so quiet as it was at the start of the second half. Dabo demands all in for his players all the time and I think as fans we should demand all in on our part all the time. Clemson fans have a tradition of going out at halftime and not returning until well into the third quarter or even the fourth. This time they didn't return at all. I just think as fans we owe it to our team to demand of ourselves the same as Dabo demands of his team. Anyway, great game for building and thank the good Lord for keeping the thunder clouds at bay.

f8thwlk writes:

I don`t think the fan issue will be a problem again after the Fur man game...There will be a lot of good football in DV this year...with everyone on the edge of their seats.

TrevorT writes:

I think it takes a weak fan to walk out on your team when they are losing. But to walk out when they are dominating? That makes no sense. If you can't give your team 4 quarters then stay home!

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