CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is not yet satisfied with his offense, despite a 45-point first half that was the Tigers' highest-scoring since their 1981 national championship season.
No. 11 Clemson (2-0) scored touchdowns on five of its first six possessions and even got an ACC-record setting 61-yard field goal from Spencer Benton to lead Ball State 45-10 at the break. The Tigers hadn't scored that many in a half since getting 49 in an 82-24 victory over Wake Forest on the way to the school's only national title 31 years ago.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd threw three touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins, tailback Andre Ellington had two short scoring runs as the Tigers opened the year with consecutive games surpassing 500 yards of offense — something it hadn't accomplished since 1980.
"Listen, I know we racked up a bunch of yards, but there's so much to coach," Swinney said Sunday. "There's just ton of things that we can improve upon, mistakes that were made. Maybe they didn't show up to the naked eye, but we certainly know what they are."
The Tigers starters spent the second half on the bench in the 52-27 victory over Ball State.
Swinney said there are plenty of leaders on offense — Boyd and Hopkins are juniors, while Ellington and center Dalton Freeman are seniors — who understand continued success won't come without focus to the system the Tigers have built under offensive coordinator Chad Morris.
"That's the message. They're playing within the system and that's why they're having success," Swinney said.
One thing Swinney's not worried about? Returning star Sammy Watkins disrupting the offensive flow. Watkins will play Saturday against Furman after serving a two-game suspension for an offseason drug arrest.
Watkins didn't travel with Clemson to the Georgia Dome for its opening 26-19 win over Auburn. He was back on the sidelines Saturday watching the teammates put on a show.
Ellington got things going early, his 4-yard TD run capping a 72 yard drive. He followed with a 2-yard scoring run on Clemson's next possession, ending a 74-yard series. In the second quarter, Hopkins took attack to the air. He caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Boyd to make it 20-7, then had scoring receptions of 34 and 15 yards the next two drives to make it 35-10.
Hopkins had a school-record 13 receptions in the win at Auburn and collected six more against Ball State. His four touchdowns so far lead the Atlantic Coast Conference as the junior has gotten to shine with Watkins on the sideline.
Swinney said he joked with his sophomore star Watkins that he'd better return quick or people will forget about him.
"I can promise you, there's nobody more excited for his teammates than Sammy Watkins," Swinney said. "I don't worry about that. We've got great chemistry."
And a seemingly endless supply of offensive playmakers.
Ellington, who set a career best with 228 yards against Auburn, left Ball State with only 41 yards on 13 carries. Sophomore Charone Peake, starting for Watkins, had seven catches.
But no one's stood out more than Hopkins. He had 72 catches for 978 yards last season — he would've led the Tigers in catches in all but three of their seasons — but got lost in Watkins' spectacular freshman year (82 catches, 1,219 yards, 12 TDs).
Swinney was glad Hopkins, nicknamed "Nuk," has shown everyone how special he is.
"It just felt great to come out and make plays for my team," Hopkins said. "Coach Morris trusts me to put the ball in my hands."
Swinney might put the ball Benton's foot for more long tries. Swinney recounted how he and defensive coordinator Brent Venables disagreed letting Benton go for it with a few seconds left before halftime. Venables was concerned about giving Ball State a Hail Mary chance at the end of the period.
But Swinney prevailed and Benton sent the ball high and straight for the conference mark, bettering the 60-yard kick of Florida State's Gary Cismesia from 2007.
"How about that?" Swinney cracked. "Sometimes I actually do something right."