CLEMSON, SC - Tajh Boyd threw for 310 yards and two scores to move into second place on Clemson's all-time passing touchdowns list, as Clemson won for the 30th straight time in its series against in-state foe Furman with a 41-7 victory Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
The No. 11 Tigers (3-0) took a 20-7 lead into halftime and held the Paladins (0-3) scoreless in the second half to roll into next week's showdown with ACC Atlantic Division rival Florida State.
"One of the things I was disappointed in last week (against Ball State) was we lost the second half," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. "The challenge this week was to win all four quarters, and our guys responded and did that."
The Paladins marched 63 yards on 13 plays to open the game, but the Tiger defense stood tall and held Furman to an apparent field-goal attempt inside its own 5. Instead, Furman shifted into a spread formation and threw for the end zone, but Will King's pass was intercepted by Rashard Hall and the Paladins' drive went for naught.
"Our red zone defense spoke for itself today," Hall said.
Andre Ellington soon opened the scoring with a 10-yard burst off tackle right to put the Tigers up early 7-0. The run capped a seven-play, 80-yard drive that featured two first-down catches apiece for Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, who led Clemson's receivers with seven catches for 95 yards on the day.
Watkins increased the Tigers' edge to 14-0 on 58-yard burst out of the backfield just after the second quarter began. The sophomore All-American took a handoff from Boyd and exploded down the sideline to pay dirt. The run was both the longest run of Watkins' career and his first career rushing touchdown.
"That was a great play. My teammates had some great blocks downfield," Watkins said. "I was patient on the run, and it just opened up and it was great timing."
Chandler Catanzaro made the score 17-0 with 9:34 to go in the first half on a 46-yard field goal.
Hall came up with another big play to keep the Paladins off the scoreboard on their ensuing possession, as a botched field-goal snap turned into a tackle for loss by the senior safety when he disrupted both the holder and kicker in one fell swoop for a loss of nine yards and a turnover on downs.
Furman finally broke through on its next possession, as Reese Hannon found Jordan Snellings wide open down the sideline for a 37-yard score to cap a three-play, 85-yard drive and cut the Tiger lead to 17-7.
"I thought the whole game, particularly in the first half, we were into the game, but we got bogged down there at the end," Furman head coach Bruce Fowler said. "We played a very good football team."
Catanzaro stretched Clemson's advantage back out to 20-7 with a 22-yard field goal that matched Obed Ariri's school record of 14 consecutive made field goals dating to last season and provided the halftime margin.
"I just take it one kick at a time," Catanzaro said of matching the record. "You can't really think about those things. You do the little things right, and all the big things come together later. I've taken it one kick at a time, and my confidence is just sky-high right now."
Quandon Christian made the first big play after halftime, picking off a Hannon pass across the middle and returning it to the Furman 14.
"I think it was a game-changer," Christian said of the turnover. "I ran and shuffled, and the guy stepped into my zone on a crossing route. This game is all about opportunities, seizing the moment. I told myself if I got the chance I would step in and seize the moment."
Five plays later, Ellington waltzed in from one yard out to put the Tigers up 27-7 early in the third quarter. Ellington's four carries accounted for all 14 yards on the five-play drive.
Clemson then made its lead 34-7 when Brandon Ford got free on a wheel route and hauled in a Boyd pass with an acrobatic, off-balance catch for a 30-yard touchdown to cap a five-play, 69-yard drive.
Boyd hooked up with Martavis Bryant on a 39-yard touchdown into tight coverage to stretch the Tigers' lead to the final margin of 41-7 with action just under way in the fourth quarter. That score moved Boyd past Woodrow Dantzler for the second-most passing touchdowns in school history with 43. Boyd now trails only Charlie Whitehurst, who had 49 career passing touchdowns, on the all-time list.
Clemson came up two yards shy of reaching 500 yards of total offense for the third straight game to open the season. The Paladins, meanwhile, rolled up 352 yards of offense and actually held the ball for 38:19 of the game's 60 minutes.
And while he said the team achieved its main goal of getting the victory, Swinney also acknowledged the Tigers had plenty of work to do prior to next Saturday's prime-time showdown with the Seminoles.
"There are a lot of things that we are going to have to improve to take another step as we get into conference play this week against a team that a lot of people have picked and are picking to win the national championship," Swinney said. "So, big task at hand in preparing our football team to go down to Tallahassee."