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Boyd, Clemson cruise against Ball State, 52-27

The SportsXchange

CLEMSON, S.C. -- It took one half for Clemson to extract the will out of Ball State.

Imagine if the Tigers had had their best player.

Playing its second and final game without star receiver Sammy Watkins, who is serving a two-game suspension, Clemson made short work of visiting Ball State on Saturday, efficiently dispatching the visiting Cardinals with a 45-point first half en route to a 52-27 victory.

Quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver DeAndre Hopkins struck early and often, combining for three touchdown passes in an eight-minute span of the second quarter as Clemson won its eighth consecutive home game.

Playing before a crowd of 78,000 at Memorial Stadium, the 12th-ranked Tigers removed most of the drama from this one in quick fashion, scoring on seven of their eight first-half possessions.

"We did a great job setting the tone early with some great drives," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "It was a great opportunity to grow the team."

Andre Ellington staked Clemson (2-0) to a 13-0 lead with two short touchdown runs in the first quarter, but Ball State's Horactio Banks, who finished with 120 yards on only seven carries, scored on a 54-yard run to cut Clemson's lead to 13-7 heading into the second quarter.

Then Boyd got hot, connecting with Hopkins on touchdown passes of 13, 34 and 15 yards on consecutive possessions as Clemson's lead swelled to 35-10.

Hopkins, who had 119 yards on a school-record 13 receptions in last week's victory over Auburn, was once again the Tigers' workhorse in Watkins' absence. Watkins was suspended for the first two games as punishment for his on-campus arrest for marijuana possession on May 3.

Hopkins, who has 19 catches for 224 yards and four touchdowns in the Tigers' first two games, matched a school record by recording his third consecutive 100-yard receiving game.

"They're fast," Ball State coach Pete Lembo said. "They were fast on film, they were fast today and they'll be fast tomorrow. But we made them look faster than they are. I've got to do a better job of getting us ready to come into these kinds of environments."

Roderick McDowell added a 27-yard scoring run and senior kicker Spencer Benton kicked a school- and Atlantic Coast Conference-record 61-yard field goal on the final play of the half to cap the Tigers' onslaught and provide the Tigers with a 45-10 halftime cushion.

Benton's kick broke by four yards the previous school record held jointly by Chris Gardocki, who kicked a 57-yard field goal against Appalachian State in 1990, and Obed Ariri, who had a 57-yarder against Wake Forest in 1977.

It was a rewarding moment for Benton, a senior punter and backup kicker who has emerged as the Tigers' designated long-range specialist. He missed a 55-yard attempt against Auburn last week but drilled his only effort Saturday.

"When you kick a ball from that far back, everything has to click," Benton said. "And it did. It was a perfect operation; the snap and the hold were perfect. It felt good when I hit it; I'm not going to lie."

Boyd yielded to backup quarterback Cole Stoudt late in the first half and did not return. Ellington also played sparingly, carrying only 13 times for 41 yards.

Stoudt, the son of former NFL quarterback Cliff Stoudt, completed a career-high 12 of 18 passes for 123 yards while McDowell -- a third-string back behind Ellington -- led the Tigers with 59 yards on eight carries.

Ball State (1-1), which amassed 596 yards and a school-record 36 first downs in a season-opening victory over Eastern Michigan last week, found both tougher to come by against Clemson. The Cardinals managed only seven first downs and 159 yards in the first half.

The Cardinals scored two touchdowns and a field goal in the second half, but that came against a Clemson defense that played 32 defenders on the day. Jahwan Edwards, who had 200 yards rushing in the Cardinals' opener, managed only 54 yards on 11 carries.

Ball State was just 3 of 14 on third-down conversions.

"We have to throw and catch better," Lembo said. "And penalties hurt us at times. When you go into games like this, you can't afford to turn it over. I just didn't feel like we were completely in sync."

NOTES: Clemson starting left guard David Beasley sustained a knee injury on the Tigers' second possession of the game and did not return. He was replaced by fellow sophomore Kalon Davis and his status for next week's game against Furman is unknown. ... Clemson's Reid Webster, a second-team left guard, was suspended for Saturday's game and next week's game against Furman for a violation of team rules. ... Hopkins' three receiving touchdowns tied a school record shared by Rod Gardner (2000), Tony Horne (1997) and Dreher Gaskin (1953). ... Ball State managed just 69 plays after running 96 plays, the third-highest total in school history, last week.
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