No. 13 Clemson beat Duke soundly Saturday -- in the first half.
The numbers were ridiculous -- more 700 yards of total offense and nearly 9 yards per play for the Tigers -- and Clemson was relentless in a 56-20 victory. Quarterback Tajh Boyd had another record-setting day, while Duke’s defense was embarrassed and outplayed to the extent it was easy to forget the Blue Devils are already bowl-eligible.
Boyd threw for 344 yards. Ran for 72 more. Accounted for six touchdowns. It was 42-17 at the half.
Boyd tied the Clemson single-game record for touchdown responsibility in the first half with five through the air and one on the ground. His 388 yards of total offense was a school record for a half. He had three interceptions among Clemson's four turnovers, and it didn’t matter one bit. Clemson continued to take deep shots downfield, ran an up-tempo offense, and got the backups some valuable reps in the fourth quarter. Duke simply couldn't overcome the speed and athleticism of Clemson's playmakers.
Clemson (8-1, 5-1 ACC) did exactly what it was supposed to do -- win -- and it left no doubt that it was the better team. Despite yet another humbling experience against ranked opponent, though, Duke can still play in the ACC championship game if it closes the season with victories over Georgia Tech and Miami. How Duke responds to this drubbing on the road in two weeks at Georgia Tech will be critical. The Blue Devils (6-4, 3-3) have a bye week to regroup, and they’re going to need every second of it after this one.
Clemson, on the other hand, should be 10-1 heading into the regular-season finale against rival South Carolina. The Tigers have now won five straight heading into next week’s game against depleted Maryland before hosting struggling NC State. This Clemson team has not stumbled this season. It has proven it is a more consistent squad than in years past. Clemson has been a program notorious for losing games it shouldn’t.
This season, it has won every game it should. Don’t expect that to change in the next two weeks.