CLEMSON, S.C. - All-America wide receiver Sammy Watkins returned to Clemson's lineup Saturday afternoon, but apparently all the Tigers need is DeAndre Hopkins.
Even with Watkins back in the fold after missing the Tigers' most recent game with a virus, Hopkins continued his torrid pace, catching seven passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns to help No. 15 Clemson to a 47-31 victory over Georgia Tech Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
"DeAndre made huge play after huge play," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "He turned plays that didn't look like they were going anywhere into big gains."
Clemson (5-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), which won its 10th consecutive home game, also got a big day from junior quarterback Tajh Boyd, who passed for a career-high 397 yards - the second-highest single-game total in Clemson history.
Boyd completed 26 of 41 passes, including a pair of touchdowns that gave him a school-record 51 for his career.
Boyd also continued to show increased mobility on the ground after shedding 20 pounds since last season, rushing for a career-high 63 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown.
Watkins had six receptions for 42 yards, and his longest catch of the day was only nine yards, but Clemson's offense still managed to amass 601 yards, which was the eighth-best total in school history.
The teams combined for 1,084 yards of offense, the second-most in the Clemson record book.
"They're the best crowd we've played offensively," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "They've got some really good skill players. I don't know, after the opening series, if they ever punted."
They didn't, but the Yellow Jackets (2-4, 1-3) punted just once themselves. Georgia Tech's triple-option offense confounded Clemson time and again, breaking off six runs of 25 yards or more and finishing with 339 yards rushing.
Orwin Smith rushed for 117 yards on just seven carries for Tech while quarterback Tevin Washington added 104 yards on 16 attempts.
But the Tigers' defense came up big down the stretch, allowing just three points over the game's final 25 minutes by finally containing the Yellow Jackets on the ground.
"We struggled with the perimeter, but we made the changes that were necessary and forced Georgia Tech to put drives together," Swinney said. "In the first half they made a lot of big plays and we took that away from them in the second half."
The game was a back-and-forth affair for much of the day, with neither team leading by more than a touchdown until the game's final 10 minutes. That's when Hopkins snagged a 35-yard touchdown pass from Hopkins to give Clemson a 38-31 lead, then the Clemson defense took over.
Georgia Tech fumbled the ensuing kickoff and took over on its own 3. Two plays later, Clemson linebacker Spencer Shuey sacked Washington in the end zone for a safety and a 40-31 lead.
Clemson's Josh Watson blocked a David Scully field goal attempt on Tech's next possession to all but seal the win. The Tigers drove 80 yards in 13 plays on their final possession, culminating with Roderick McDowell's second 1-yard touchdown run of the day, to put the finishing touches on just their third win over Tech in their last 10 meetings.
With four of its final six games at home, Clemson could be poised to make challenge for a third ACC Atlantic Division crown in four seasons. But there's room for improvement.
"When people look at this they'll see 600 yards and think we had a pretty good day," Boyd said. "But we've got to keep getting better and expanding on this offense. We haven't peaked."
Clemson has a bye week before returning to action with a home game against Virginia Tech on Oct. 20.
NOTES: Clemson kicker Chandler Catanzaro made all three of his field goal attempts, extending his school-record streak to 19 in a row over the past two seasons. ... Boyd's 460 yards of total offense was the second-highest total by an individual in Clemson history. ... Hopkins has eight touchdown catches this season and 17 for his career. ... Georgia Tech's Orwin Smith has just 32 carries this season but is averaging 11.5 yards per attempt. ... Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson lost for just the second time in six games against Clemson.