CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Clemson’s offense is getting cranked up.
There was a time, namely before Friday night’s game at Boston College, when the Tigers were last in the ACC in plays of 40 yards or more.
In fact, they had only produced one play in that range and none of 50 yards or more.
"We just hit some big plays and got control of the game pretty early," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. "The execution was tremendous, outside of a couple of snafus like at the end of the first half. Dominant second half and that was good to see."
Clemson showed no effects of an emotional letdown coming off last week’s big win over Louisville or the difficulty of preparing during a short week.
Clemson (6-0, 3-0 ACC) improved to 8-1 against BC under Swinney behind a balanced offense that picked up right where it left off last week when it produced 507 yards against Louisville.
"Just really proud of them. It’s our eighth consecutive road win, which ties a Clemson record. I’ve been doing this a long time," Swinney said. "There’s a reason that record is only eight. It’s really hard to do. Just proud of our team for coming up here and getting themselves ready."
Against Boston College’s top-ranked total defense, Clemson racked up 261 total yards in the first half, when it built a 21-3 lead despite a scoreless second quarter. The Tigers finished with 499 total yards.
Wayne Gallman, who had 109 yards on nine carries, got it started when he ripped off a 59-yard touchdown run on Clemson’s second drive of the game for a 7-0 lead.
On its next possession, Deshaun Watson found Mike Williams on a 50-yard pass that Williams laid out to haul in. That set up a 9-yard strike from Watson to Williams that put Clemson up 14-3 with 3:12 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers weren’t done. Tight end Jordan Leggett caught a short Watson pass, made a couple cuts and went 56 yards for the touchdown on the only play of the drive with 1:29 left in the first quarter.
"The three plays of 50-plus yards in the first quarter against the No. 1 defense in the country was just tremendous execution and some just want to," Swinney said. "The balance of our offense was tremendous, run for 200-plus, pass for 20The Eagles (3-3, 0-3) came into the game having given up just two plays from 50 yards or more all year, and they were only allowing 124 passing yards per game.
Watson had that in the first 15 minutes, and he finished with 266 yards on 14-of-24 passing and four touchdowns for an offense that's looking more like the one from last year than the one that started slow in 2016.
"Once we connect on those passes and do the little things right, the big things open up," said Watson, who added 28 rushing yards. "Once we start clicking, it's hard to stop us."
Clemson receiver Deon Cain was on the receiving end of a pair of third quarter TD strikes from 29 and 16 yards.
The Clemson offense did post another big play late in the game when freshman running back Tavien Feaster went 49 yards for a TD run.
It was the second consecutive year that BC came into this divisional showdown with a top-ranked defense, but ended up struggling against Watson and the Tigers.
This year, the Eagles had not faced an offense like this against Georgia Tech, UMass, Wagner and Buffalo. Virginia Tech did throw for 256 yards against BC, though.
Clemson made it look easy for the most part. The Tigers did struggle some in the second quarter when they went 0-for-3 on third-down conversions, and by the fourth quarter, when they led 42-10, the stars were done for the night.
The Clemson defense got a fourth-quarter, 42-yard pick-six from Mark Fields, and it held BC out of the end zone until the third quarter when Bobby Wolford caught a 1-yard TD pass from Patrick Towles.
The Tigers overcame an early hole when Ray-Ray McCloud fumbled a punt return deep in BC territory, but Clemson’s defense held the Eagles to a field goal, despite them having first-and-goal.
BC, which finished with 251 total yards, was outmatched for much of the night on both sides of the ball, and the Eagles extended their 11-game ACC losing streak with the loss.
"I thought we played pretty spirited in the first half," BC head coach Steve Addazio said. "Really felt like we should have been (down) 21-10 at halftime. We let up some big plays, a few big plays, but aside from a couple of big plays, we were playing hard, playing fast and right in the middle of that game."
Clemson carries a 12-game conference winning streak into next Saturday’s noon game against N.C. State at Memorial Stadium.
Brad Senkiw writes for The Anderson Independent-Mail, part of the USA TODAY Network.
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