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Tigers pull away late
Posted Sep 3, 2011
CLEMSON - Tajh Boyd was 20-for-30 for 264 yards and three touchdowns in his debut as Clemson's starter, leading the Tigers to a 43-19 season-opening win over Troy on Saturday.
Boyd had a shaky first half running offensive coordinator Chad Morris' faster new spread set, and the Tigers were booed as they left the field down 16-13 at half. But Boyd came back out and led Clemson on two third-quarter touchdown drives, going 11-for-13 for 142 yards.
A couple of freshmen played key roles for the Tigers.
Sammy Watkins had seven catches for 81 yards. His first reception went for a 33-yard touchdown. Mike Bellamy took his first carry 75 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
In all, freshmen gained 266 of Clemson's 468 yards.
Cory Robinson went 24-for-42 for 258 yards, a touchdown and one interception for Troy, while D.J. Taylor ran five times for 63 yards for Troy.
The Trojans have won five straight Sun Belt Conference titles but haven't beaten a BCS team since knocking off Oklahoma State in 2007. Clemson has never lost to a Sun Belt team.
This is a critical season for Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. He brought the Tigers to their first ever Atlantic Coast Conference title game in 2009, but followed that up with Clemson's first losing season since 1998.
This season also started out rough. Clemson's first half left already-anxious Tigers fans hot and angry. Clemson was 0-for-8 on third-down conversions and had just four first downs. Boyd looked uncomfortable in the pocket with several bad throws and a few near-interceptions broken up by his receivers.
But the Tigers first third-down conversion of the day seemed to give Boyd the confidence he had been lacking. He made a nice throw just over the shoulder of wide-open tight end Dwayne Allen for a 54-yard touchdown that put Clemson up for good at 20-16 with 6:56 to go in the third quarter.
The Tigers finally seemed to grasp Morris' offense on the next drive. Boyd completed all nine of his passes, broken up by a few nifty runs by Andre Ellington. Boyd ended the drive with his best pass of the day, threading a ball through two defenders to Jaron Brown for a 7-yard score that put Clemson ahead 26-16 just before the end of the third quarter.
Boyd completed 13 passes in a row at one point in the second half. But he was stuffed twice by Troy's defense while trying to sneak in for a fourth-quarter touchdown and finished the day with minus-7 yards rushing on 11 attempts.
Ellington ran 18 times for 89 yards. Freshman quarterback Cole Stoudt came in late in the fourth quarter and led the Tigers on a 42-yard touchdown drive where only freshmen ran or caught the ball. The drive ended on a 1-yard TD run by D.J. Howard.
Clemson kicker Chad Catanzaro made three field goals, all 45 yards or more, but he missed an extra point.
Troy had 13 different receivers catch passes, led by Eric Thomas' three catches for 63 yards.
Saturday night Dabo Swinney audio
Sep 3, 2011
Sunday teleconference report
Sep 4, 2011
Mondays with Morris
Sep 5, 2011
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