CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — For the third time this season, Sammy Watkins was not on the field with his Clemson teammates on game day.
And just like before, Watkins could only watch Saturday as teammate DeAndre Hopkins showed the country Clemson has another star receiver.
Hopkins caught 11 passes for 197 yards, a Clemson single-game record, in the 17th-ranked Tigers’ 45-31 victory over Boston College.
Watkins did not travel with the team because coach Dabo Swinney said Watkins’ blood tests on Thursday were “scary” and “out of whack.” Clemson’s medical staff said Watkins apparently has a stomach virus. He is scheduled to have more tests on Monday, Swinney said Watkins was feeling slightly better Saturday.
Like in Clemson’s season-opening win against Auburn when Watkins was absent because of a two-game suspension, Hopkins picked up the slack.
“Everyone feels like they have to step up because we are all on scholarship here and it’s on us to step up without Sammy,” Hopkins said.
He broke Rod Gardner’s previous Clemson mark of 182 yards against
North Carolina in 2000 and proved again Clemson’s offense is potent even without Watkins.
With scouts from 10 NFL teams on hand — including the receiver-needy New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars — the 6-2, 205-pound Hopkins demonstrated his flypaper-like hands and strength.
Clemson (4-1, 1-1 ACC) might be worried Hopkins is playing too well this season as he is draft eligible.
“Coming into offseason I knew I needed to work on little things like beating defenders down field if I wanted to take my game to the next level,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins is on pace to shatter every major receiving record at Clemson with 42 catches for 604 yards and six touchdowns through five games.
“He is the most dependable guy we have on this team,” Swinney said. “He’s made clutch play after clutch play after clutch play. You go ‘Oh, he had 197 yards’ like it’s no big deal.
“He just makes it look so easy.”
Hopkins wasn’t the only Clemson player putting his name in the record book Saturday.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd threw three touchdown passes Saturday to give him 49, tying him with former Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst for the program’s career record.
Whitehurst needed 3-1/2 seasons as a starter to get the mark. Boyd has had 19 starts.
Boyd’s 48th career scoring pass went to Brandon Ford right before the half to give Clemson a 21-17 lead. The Tigers never trailed in the second half against Boston College (1-3, 0-2).
Even without Watkins, Clemson produced 576 yard of total offense Saturday — 10th best in school history — and now has three 500-yard games this season, one off the single-season record. All this with Watkins having only 76 receiving yards on 10 catches this year.
How good can Clemson be when Watkins returns?
“We are waiting. We’re waiting,” Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “These guys are doing a pretty good job. The great thing about this is other guys are stepping up. There is no selfishness.”
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