Each week, Clemson student Brad Adams gives us an inside look at Clemson football in his column “Behind Enemy Lines.”
Clemson breezes past Ball State 52-27
Coach Dabo Swinney has to love what he’s seeing out of the Tigers’ offense so far this season. Clemson scored 45 points in the first half Saturday against Ball State, capped by an ACC record 61-yard field goal from kickoff specialist Spencer Benton. ”It felt pretty good when I hit it,” Benton said. “I saw it coming off and thinking, ‘Go. Go. Go.’ Then I saw everybody in the background jump up and I was like, ‘Yes!’
Running back Andre Ellington rushed for touchdowns on each of Clemson’s first two drives before DeAndre Hopkins caught touchdown passes of 13, 34, and 15 yards on the Tigers’ next three possessions. Sammy Watkins jokingly confronted Hopkins on the sidelines after his third scoring reception, asking him to “slow down the pace” so that he wouldn’t be too far ahead of Watkins statistically when he makes his return to the lineup against Furman this Saturday. Tajh Boyd had an outstanding game, completing 19 of his 23 passing attempts for 229 yards with no interceptions to go along with his three touchdown passes to Hopkins. It was all part of a dominating offensive performance that saw the Tigers surpass the 500-yard mark for the second consecutive week.
Ball State had intentions of using its fast paced offense to keep Clemson guessing early, but the plan backfired. Quarterback Keith Wenning threw two early interceptions leading to two Clemson touchdowns. Just about everything went Clemson’s way in the first half, and the coaches began to pull starters after Roderick McDowell’s 27-yard touchdown run with 2:27 left in the second quarter. Critics searching out Clemson flaws have to look to the defensive side of the ball. The Tigers struggled against the run, allowing Ball State running back Horactio Banks to rush for scores of 54 and 21 yards in his second college game as a redshirt freshman. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables stressed having a run first mindset and better gap recognition as Clemson tries to stay undefeated against Furman before its first road test against Florida State on September 22nd.
The Dynamic Duo
As I predicted in week one, receiver DeAndre Hopkins has emerged as a legitimate threat in the ACC. Through two games (even though he only played the first half against Ball State), he already has 19 catches for 224 yards and four touchdowns. Some suggest that he is better than Sammy Watkins, and others are even putting him in the early Heisman polls.
Not so fast my friend. Hopkins has been spectacular recently, but Sammy Watkins will return this week against Furman and receive many targets from Boyd. Both receivers have proved their worth in the ACC, and with equal ball distribution, could be one of the best receiving tandems in college football. Catches will have to be apportioned strategically to properly utilize each player, both of whom could be the number one receiving threat at nearly any school in the country, taking away from individual statistics. Don’t get me wrong, both players will have good seasons. But the fact that they’re both catching balls in the same orange uniform should take both men out of the Heisman conversation, especially since Sammy Watkins didn’t have Ball State to pad his stats.
Facing the Paladins
Clemson hosts the Furman Paladins Saturday afternoon in Death Valley. Clemson will rely on their offense to put the game out of reach early as they did against the Ball State this week. Furman has come up just short in two consecutive weeks, falling to Southern Conference foe Samford 24-21 and dropping a 47-45 overtime heartbreaker to Coastal Carolina. But the Paladins do have a history of knocking off bigtime opponents on the road. South Carolina fans should know. The sky fell on thousands of them in October 1982 after the Paladins walked out of Williams-Brice a 28-23 winner.
Setting history aside, though, Clemson shouldn’t have much to worry about this week. The Paladins do have a solid quarterback in Reese Hannon, who threw for 255 yards and four touchdowns last week. Clemson should be able to handle Furman on athletic ability alone, but the Tigers have some work to do in preparation for a huge game against Florida State next week with ACC and even BCS implications. Clemson must look to get Sammy Watkins comfortably incorporated back into the offensive scheme while continuing to develop chemistry among the receiving corps and offensive line. Defensively, run stopping will be a vital area of improvement before the Tigers get into ACC play. If Clemson’s defensive is able to gel this weekend, they’ll be well suited to transition into conference play at 3-0.
Photo Credit: Associated Press