Ball St.-Clemson Preview

The Associated Press

The Clemson Tigers are accustomed to winning at home, and there's little reason to believe that won't continue in their 2012 opener at Death Valley.

The 12th-ranked Tigers meet Ball State on Saturday for the first time in a decade.

Clemson surrendered an average of 25.7 points per game while going 7-0 at Death Valley last season, the first time in 21 years the Tigers finished a season unbeaten at home. However, they were lit up for 70 points in an Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia, prompting a change in defensive coordinators with Kevin Steele dismissed and Brent Venables brought in from Oklahoma.

Everything clicked on both sides of the ball for Clemson (1-0) in last Saturday's 26-19 win over Auburn at the Georgia Dome.

"There's a lot of room for improvement. We've got to be a lot more consistent," Venables said even though Clemson surrendered just one touchdown and 374 total yards. "We can't give up big plays and leave guys uncovered. But we knew it wasn't going to be easy, either."

The Tigers' short-handed offensive unit also shined. Playing without star wide receiver Sammy Watkins - suspended two games for an offseason drug arrest - Clemson got a career-best 231 rushing yards from Andre Ellington and quarterback Tajh Boyd accounted for 266 total yards and two scores.

"This is a stepping stone. We've got to keep building off of it," said Boyd, whose lone passing touchdown went to DeAndre Hopkins – one of his school-record 13 receptions.

However, all that's in the past, Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said.

"It was a great start," he said Monday. "It was a really good first game and, 'Whoop-dee-do,' now we've got to go on to the next one."

Even though the Tigers will still be without Watkins, who had team highs of 1,219 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman in 2011, Morris probably shouldn't expect a letdown. Clemson is 12-2 at Memorial Stadium this decade and has just 99 losses there after opening in 1942. Also, Clemson has won both previous meetings against Ball State by a 54-17 margin.

Saturday's game will be the Cardinals' first against the Tigers since a 30-7 defeat in 2002. Ball State has dropped 12 straight against Top 25 teams since a win over Toledo in 2001.

Ball State (1-0) began its season Aug. 30 with a 37-26 win over Eastern Michigan. Sophomore running back Jawahn Edwards had a career-best 200 rushing yards on 20 carries and tied a career high with three rushing TDs. Edwards was selected as the Mid-American (West) Conference player of the week honors on Monday.

Clemson will have to contend with a Cardinals offense that ran for 329 yards, and the unit's 596 total yards were the fourth-highest in school history.

"I think this is a good way to start," said Cardinals coach Pete Lembo. "It is an important win because it is a conference win. … But I also know we have a tough stretch of games, starting (Saturday), so hopefully we can clean up some things between Week One and Week Two."

Junior quarterback Keith Wenning threw for 267 yards against Eastern Michigan, and needs 124 to move past Wade Kosakowski into fifth place on Ball State's all-time list.

What to Read Next