CLEMSON — Spencer Benton is “not always accurate,” Dabo Swinney says, “but you never have to worry about him getting it there.”
Saturday afternoon, Benton found a happy balance.
With eight seconds left in the first half, Swinney sent the Tigers’ senior punter/kicker on to try a 61-yard field goal. When it cleared the crossbar with a yard or two to spare, Benton had the longest field goal in ACC history.
It broke the mark held by Gary Cismesia, who booted a 60-yarder for Florida State in 2007. Obed Ariri and Chris Gardocki held Clemson’s record of 57 yards. It is also Clemson’s first field goal from beyond 50 yards since Richard Jackson nailed a 51-yarder at Maryland on Oct. 3, 2009.
“Everything clicked and it was awesome,” Benton said. “I was just glad to see it go through and over. It was just ecstatic from there.”
Chandler Catanzaro has locked down the starting field goal job, but his range ends at about 54 yards.
“I don’t know how far it cleared by,” Swinney said of Benton’s boot, “but it looked like it had more room to go.”
Beasley injured: Sophomore left guard David Beasley was one of the most pleasant surprises of the early season, overtaking projected starter Kalon Davis to win the starting left guard role. Saturday, he limped off the field following the first series and went to the locker room. He sustained a knee injury, with his status for Furman uncertain.
Sophomore linebacker Tony Steward suffered a hamstring strain while playing on special teams. Tailback D.J. Howard sustained a slight shoulder bruise but “should be OK,” Swinney said.
Prolific passers: Tajh Boyd and Cole Stoudt combined for a Clemson passing-game rarity. Boyd played the first half, completing 19 of 23 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns, and Stoudt completed 12 of 18 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown.
They became only Clemson’s second duo in the last 35 years to pass for more than 100 yards apiece in a single game. The last duo to turn the trick? Boyd and Kyle Parker in Clemson’s 2010 Meineke Car Care Bowl loss to South Florida.
Remembering Ben: Swinney took time in his postgame address to remember Belton-Honea Path offensive lineman Ben Jordan, who died this week due to complications from a blood clot.
“I want to offer my thoughts and prayers to his family, coaches, his football team,” Swinney said. “It’s really tragic. He was a big Clemson fan and a young man who had been in our football camp the last couple of years. I ask that everyone remember Ben Jordan and his family.”
Webster suspended: Clemson sophomore guard Reid Webster was suspended before the game for an undisclosed violation of team rules. He will also miss next week’s game against Furman. Webster was also suspended for the spring game for violating team rules.
Debuts: After Clemson went with limited rotations on both sides of the ball in last week’s opening-week win over Auburn, a number of reserves saw their first career action Saturday. On the line, freshman left tackle Isaiah Battle, redshirt freshman center Ryan Norton, redshirt freshman right guard Spencer Region and redshirt freshman right tackle Joe Gore made their college debuts. Wren product Shaq Anthony, a Wren product, made his first career start at right tackle.
Freshman punter/kicker Bradley Pinion boomed a kickoff out of the end zone for a touchback and also booted a 48-yard punt in his first attempt.
Iraq and Afghan War veteran Daniel Rodriguez received multiple ovations in his first game in Death Valley. Rodriguez went back to receive a punt, which rolled out of bounds, played on special teams and even caught his first pass for four yards from Stoudt. Redshirt freshman kicker Ammon Lakip, redshirt freshman linebacker B.J. Goodson, redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jerome Maybank (a converted defensive tackle), defensive tackle Carlos Watkins, defensive tackle Rod Byers, defensive tackle Carlos Watkins and defensive end Kevin Dodd also made their debuts.
OL is OK: Clemson rolled up 526 yards of total offense, 154 on the ground, all while shuffling reserve linemen in and out of the game. Swinney is pleased with the line’s early-season production.
“We’re 2-0 and they’re a big reason for it,” He said. “We’ve been running with power and confidence. Where we were struggling last year, in goal-line and short-yardage, we’ve been very good. Our guys responded. I’m really pleased with our offensive line right now. They’re not a great unit yet, they’re not going to get Sports Illustrated writing articles on him. We’re on the right track. We’ve got one senior (center Dalton Freeman) in the group and the guys are just going to get better.”