No. 12 Clemson tops Ball St. 52-27 in record-setting day

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No. 12 Clemson tops Ball St. 52-27 in record-setting day

CLEMSON – Ball St. won the toss for the opening kickoff and deferred to the second half, giving Clemson the game’s opening possession. At that point, it was game over.

Tajh BoydTajh Boyd
RS Jr. Quarterback
#10 6-1, 225
Hampton, VA

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connected with Nuk Hopkins on three first half touchdown passes, the defense forced two turnovers, the kickoff return team recovered an onside kick and Spencer BentonSpencer Benton
RS Sr. Punter / Kicker
#13 6-1, 195
Myrtle Beach, SC

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capped a first half blitzkrieg by nailing a school and ACC-record 61-yard field on the half’s last play, leading No. 12 Clemson to a 52-27 victory over the Cardinals Saturday in Death Valley.

By the time Clemson pulled most of the starters late in the second quarter, the Tigers already had a 35-10 lead, but Rod McDowell’s 27-yard touchdown scamper and Benton’s record field goal made for the half’s final points.

“I’m proud of our overall performance, but there is still a lot we can improve on,” Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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said. “It was a good game to grow on. We can play to the standard we have set. We were coming off an emotional game last week. They did a great job setting the tone early with some great drives.”

Clemson opened the game with two drives, each culminating in a touchdown run by Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington
RS Sr. Running Back
#23 5-10, 195
Moncks Corner, SC

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– one for four yards and one for two yards – a missed extra point after the first score the only hiccup.

Ball St. responded with 54-yard touchdown run by Horactio Banks that made it 13-7.

The end of that drive signaled the beginning of the Boyd and Hopkins show, Boyd connecting with Hopkins on the next drive for a 13-yard touchdown. The Tigers kicked the extra point, but the Cardinals were called for a personal foul, and Clemson took the point off the board and went for the two-point conversion with Ellington plunging in for the 21-7 lead.

Ball St. hit a 45-yard field goal on its next drive, and attempted an onside kick that was recovered by Lateek TownsendLateek Townsend
So. Linebacker
#20 6-2, 215
Bennettsville, SC

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at the Cardinal 33-yard line. Boyd connected with Hopkins again – this time from 34- yards away – for a 28-10 lead.

Stephone AnthonyStephone Anthony
So. Linebacker
#12 6-3, 235
Polkton, NC

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ended Ball St.’s next drive with an interception, and Boyd hit Hopkins from 15 yards out for the touchdown, Hopkins’ third score of the day, tying a Clemson record for most touchdown receptions in a game.

Swinney said that Boyd continues to mature.

“He has been continuing to mature as a player,” Swinney said. “During the spring and summer he was able to look at himself as a player, and has learned to operate within the system. He has come in with the mindset to be a great quarterback this season. We have talked about continuing to do well every week regardless of who and where we play.”

Hopkins said that he and Boyd have a connection honed with hours of practice.

“It felt great. We’ve been working on a connection over the summer and it’s worked out so far,” Hopkins said. “It just felt great to come out and make plays for my team. Coach (Chad) Morris trusts me to put the ball in my hands. I just wanted to come out for my team.”

Swinney pulled most of the offensive starters following that drive, and the Clemson defense set up the reserves with another short field on an interception by Darius RobinsonDarius Robinson
Jr. Cornerback
#21 5-10, 175
College Park, GA

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, setting up McDowell’s run and the later field goal by Benton.

“Last week we had an opportunity against Auburn, 55 or 56 yards and I went out there and it was my first attempt at a long field goal, and I hooked it left,” Benton said. “I was thinking, ‘Man, if I could have another go at it I could make it.’ I just asked God to keep me calm and confident and trust my preparation. Great, great up-field blocking by my teammates. Michael SobeskiMichael Sobeski
RS So. Long Snapper
#75 6-2, 205
Roebuck, SC

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had a flawless snap. Chandler CatanzaroChandler Catanzaro
RS Jr. Punter / Kicker
#39 6-2, 195
Greenville, SC

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with the perfect hold. Everything clicked, and it was awesome. I was just glad to see it go through and over. I was just ecstatic from there.”

Ball St. scored 10 third quarter points against a bevy of Clemson reserves, but Cole StoudtCole Stoudt
So. Quarterback
#8 6-5, 205
Dublin, OH

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hooked up with Martavis BryantMartavis Bryant
So. Wide Receiver
#1 6-5, 200
Calhoun Falls, SC

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on a 22-yard touchdown to finish the scoring for the Tigers.

Clemson truly emptied the bench in the second half, getting playing time for younger players as well as walk-ons, such as long snapper Sam Van GiesonSam Van Gieson
Gr. Long Snapper
#56 5-9, 185
Greer, SC

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Van Gieson said he went out to snap for the extra point after McDowell’s run, and his appearance apparently angered a Ball St. linebacker.

“I really didn’t know I was going to go in right there,” Van Gieson said. “Then they started calling my name, and I went out there without any warm-up. I looked across the line of scrimmage at their linebacker, and he was screaming that Clemson had put in their 8th-string long snapper.”

Swinney said it was an opportunity to make sure a lot of players saw playing time.

“Later in the game we got in a situation where we didn’t want anyone to get hurt,” Swinney said. “ It was a great opportunity to grow the team. We got to play a lot of guys and give them the chance to get some playing time. I’ve told them at practices during the week, you may not be the starter or even the second guy, but you have to be ready when it’s your turn. You need to practice like you would play. Hopefully we can start off strong next week, and give a lot of guys some playing time again.”

Clemson plays at home next week, a 3:30 p.m. start against Southern Conference foe Furman.

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