Clemson overwhelms Duke in 56-20 win

lkeeley@newsobserver.comNovember 4, 2012 

— Duke had no answers for the Clemson offense. None.

And, as a result, the Tigers won 56-20.

“They kept scoring and we couldn’t really stop them,” cornerback Lee Butler said. “It was just tough.”

The game was effectively over when Duke (6-4, 3-3 in the ACC), trailing by 32 points, opted to send Ross Martin for a 47-yard field goal attempt with two minutes remaining in the third quarter. Clemson (7-1, 5-1) sat starting quarterback Tajh Boyd on the ensuing drive.

Boyd, though, had quite the game, going 16-for-23 for 344 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions (Duke failed to turn any of the picks into points). He also ran for 72 yards and another touchdown, giving him 416 yards of total offense. That’s more than five teams (including North Carolina) managed against the Blue Devils earlier this season.

All of Boyd’s five touchdown passes (which tied a school record he set last week against Wake Forest) came in the game’s first 25:31. DeAndre Hopkins caught three touchdown passes in the first quarter, setting a new school record for career touchdowns in the process. The Tigers ran 10 plays for at least 21 yards in the first half and had 296 total yards of offense in the first quarter alone. By the half, it was 487 yards to Duke’s 240.

“He was very accurate tonight,” cornerback Ross Cockrell said. “Boyd was on his game, that was very evident, and they made plays.”

Duke coach David Cutcliffe said repeatedly this week that Clemson would connect on a few big plays—that was inevitable. But the Tigers had at least one big play on nearly every drive in the first three quarters. Most drives ended with Boyd burning Duke’s secondary with long touchdown passes, even if said defenders were in decent position.

Hopkins came down with his first touchdown pass on a 5-yard fade to the left corner of the end zone over Duke cornerback Lee Butler, who was also beat for Clemson’s fourth and fifth scores. That initial touchdown was set up by a third-and-11 conversion from Boyd to Jaron Brown in between Jordon Byas and Tony Foster for 34 yards.

Hopkins scored his second touchdown a 58-yard pass from Boyd. Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell was with Hopkins stride for stride, but he missed on a swat attempt, and Hopkins caught the perfectly thrown pass. That touchdown was the 21st of Hopkins career and set a new school record.

“He was in good shape,” Cutcliffe said about Cockrell. “At first, upstairs, they thought he had knocked the ball away. Sometimes, as they say, it’s a game of inches.”

Duke did find a few holes in the Clemson pass defense early. Sean Renfree had three pass completions of at least 10 yards on Duke’s first possession, which ended with a 46-yard Ross Martin field goal. And on Duke’s next offensive drive, Renfree found Crowder for a 77-yard touchdown in which he beat and outran Clemson cornerback Xavier Brewer. That was the longest play the Tigers’ defense had given up all year, and it was the longest pass and catch for Renfree and Crowder, respectively.

Renfree finished 23-for-39 for 240 yards and a touchdown, and Crowder ended with seven catches for 167 yards. But he had a crucial third-down drop in the second quarter after Duke safety Walt Canty had stolen a possession by stripping Hopkins of the ball (after a 22-yard pass completion).

Just like in last week’s blowout loss the Florida State, the Blue Devils forced four turnovers, but none of those were converted into points. Over the past two games, Duke is plus-8 in turnovers but was also outscored 104-27.

Clemson, meanwhile, did not punt until there was 9:59 left in the fourth quarter and the score was 56-20. The Tigers’ 718 total yards of offense as the second-most productive day in school history, trailing only a 756-yard output against Wake Forest in 1981.

Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley

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