Clemson rolls past Ball State

Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins pulls in a reception for a touchdown while being covered by Ball state's Jason Pinkston in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson S.C. (AP Photo/ Richard Shiro)

CLEMSON — After Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins caught his third touchdown pass of the first half Saturday in No. 12 Clemson’s 52-27 win over Ball State, Sammy Watkins approached him on the sideline with a request.

Watkins told his teammate not to catch too many more TD passes because Hopkins was ‘running away’ from him.

Hopkins was not able to increase his statistical head start over Watkins because Clemson pulled its offensive starters late in the second quarter after building a 35-point lead.

Clemson’s offense proved for the second consecutive week that it can make big plays and score without Watkins, who was serving the second game of his two-game suspension stemming from a drug arrest over the summer.

So what will happen when Watkins returns?

“It’s going to get ugly,” Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd said.

Ugly for opposing defenses, Boyd suspects.

The Tigers (2-0) host Furman (0-2) next Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Clemson has a talented veteran quarterback and an offensive line that has come together quicker than even the staff imagined — no sacks allowed the last six quarters. With Hopkins and Watkins, Clemson could produce two 1,000-yard receivers in the same season.

Hopkins tied a program mark of three touchdown catches in a game, a record shared by Rod Gardner, Tony Horne and Dreher Gaskin.

He has 19 catches for 224 yards and four touchdowns this season.

His contributions have helped Clemson begin the season with consecutive games of 500 total yards of offense for the first time.

“(Hopkins) is one of the best receivers in the country,” Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “There’s no doubt. Now with us getting our full arsenal back, getting Sammy back, it should create a lot more opportunities for both of them.”

Hopkins was impressive for a second straight game. But so was Boyd, who has been poised, accurate, mobile and sound in his decision making.

Boyd completed 19 of 23 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns (no interceptions) in less than two full quarters of play. As Ball State focused on stopping the run, Boyd consistenly move the Tigers down the field with quick, accurate throws in the short passing game.

“Without the drops versus Auburn, he very well could have been in the 85 to 90 completion percentage range,” Morris said of Boyd.

“I thought he was very efficient and operated the system exactly like it needed to be. I was pleased with Tajh.”

Morris was also pleased with the pass protection of his young offensive line for the second straight week.

“I thought we protected very well,” Morris said. “They were bringing a lot of different fronts and pressures and I thought we did a good job picking that up and executing.

“You just see them getting better, growing up.”

And with Watkins returning this week, how much more can the Clemson offense grow?