DURHAM, N.C. — Chad Morris said earlier this week that Duke uses as little safety help and plays as aggressively with its corners as any opponent Clemson has faced this season.
The Clemson offensive coordinator said he is surprised when opponents use man coverage against his talented receivers. It’s a dangerous gamble for a defense against the Tigers.
On Saturday, Duke rolled the dice and lost. Morris called his most aggressive game of the season — taking deep shot after deep shot. The result was a record-breaking night for several Clemson players.
Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins easily beat the Duke coverage and quarterback Tajh Boyd had the protection to make accurate throws downfield en route to a 56-20 win over Duke.
Boyd accounted for six touchdowns, tying his team record with five touchdown passes — all coming in the first half. He broke Woody Dantzler’s record for career touchdown responsibility (69). He totaled 388 yards of total offense in the first half, also a Clemson record.
“We had a lot of one-on-one matchups,” Boyd said. “One of the things that was stressed this week in practice was we knew we were going to get things of that nature, safeties blitzing, things like that. But we have to win those matchups.
“It’s a challenge for receivers, it’s a challenge for linemen, it’s a challenge for me to be able to put the ball on them.”
Yes, Duke (6-4, 3-3 ACC) does not have the talent of Clemson. Yes, the Blue Devil defense was banged up. And, yes, the Blue Devils’ defensive game plan was perhaps poorly conceived. But no defense has come up with a blueprint to stop the Clemson offense this season.
The No. 10 Tigers (8-1, 4-1) are on track to break program records for points and scoring average in a season.
Clemson averaged 37 points per game in 1900. The modern record is 34.7 points per game in 2000. Clemson is averaging 42.7 points per game this season.
Clemson scored a program-record 470 points last season — in 14 games — but is on pace to break that mark with 554 points this year in 13 games.
Clemson nearly broke the single-game yardage mark of 756 yards versus Wake Forest in 1981 with 718 yards Saturday.
“I’ve pretty much seen them all,” said Boyd of defensive schemes. “That’s a great part about playing in this system where defensive coordinators try to figure out how (to slow us) by mixing and matching, which helps me out because I’ve seen most of the looks.”
Hopkins caught three touchdown passes in the first quarter en route to breaking a number of program records. Hopkins easily beat man coverage on touchdown catches of 58, 45 and five yards.
Clemson led 42-17 at the half.
“We knew they were going to press us up and take our chances and we were going to have to protect (Boyd) and be able to hit on some of our shots,” Morris said. “And we were able to do that.”
Clemson had 487 yards of total offense in the first half, a school record for a half. The previous high was 393 in the second half against Wake Forest in 1981.
What Clemson has not had for the first half of the season was balance. They’ve possessed a prolific offense paired with a defense that has often been a liability. But Clemson has been showing signs of becoming an improved defense, holding a third straight opponent to 20 points or less.
Said coach Dabo Swinney: “This was a dominant performance.”