Furman falls 41-7 in Watkins' Clemson return
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP)
Furman coach Bruce Fowler found progress in the program's latest loss to a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent.
The Paladins lost their 30th straight game to No. 11 Clemson, 41-7, on Saturday.
It was also their 12th consecutive defeat when playing college football's biggest teams, dating to 1999 win at North Carolina.
Still, Fowler liked some of what he saw from his overmatched team.
''When you get beat 41-7 and you're talking progress, that doesn't sound very good,'' Fowler said. ''But we had progress in some of the intangible areas in our team.''
Fowler thought his team executed well early on, although it couldn't cash in on most first-half opportunities. The Paladins also had a 17-minute edge in time of possession, keeping Clemson's high-powered offense on the sideline for long stretches.
That's why it took the Tigers (3-0) until the third quarter to gain control. A week earlier, Clemson led Ball State 45-10 at the half and sat its starters before the break.
''So our plan in some areas was effective,'' Fowler said. But ''they're hard to stop.''
Especially when you miss chances to keep it close. Furman got to the Clemson 5 on its opening series, but a fake field goal on fourth down turned into an interception. A bad snap in the second quarter ended another field goal chance.
''I thought the whole game, particularly in the first half, we were into the game,'' Fowler said. ''But we got bogged down there at the end.''
Tajh Boyd threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns and Sammy Watkins had a 58-yard scoring run in his first game back since his two-game suspension.
Boyd's three scoring throws gave him 43 for his career, second all time at Clemson and just six behind the record held by Charlie Whitehurst.
Boyd said Watkins' presence, even if he doesn't touch the ball, opens things up for Clemson's other playmakers.
Tigers receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who caught four touchdown passes the first two games, was again the team leader with seven catches against the Paladins.
Furman of the Football Championship Subdivision opened 0-3 for the first time since 1979.
It didn't take long, though, for Watkins to make his mark. He had catches of 12 and 19 yards on Clemson's first scoring drive, which ended on Ellington's 10-yard run.
Watkins was dazzling the next time the Tigers had the ball, running along the offensive line and smoothly taking the handoff from Boyd. He burst through the right side of the line, then outraced defenders Marcus McMorris and Reggie Thomas to the end zone.
''It was great to see him back and get him going,'' offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. ''And definitely, there's a whole other level of explosion when you see him out there.''
The Tigers' offense, though, had to work a bit harder with Watkins back for their instate rival - Furman's a 35-mile drive northeast of Clemson - than when Watkins missed last week's 52-27 victory over Ball State. In that one, Clemson scored touchdowns on five of its first six possessions and was up 45-10 at half.
This time, Boyd and the first-teamers needed a third-quarter surge - and some help from the defense - to put the game away.
Linebacker Quandon Christian's interception deep in Furman territory led to Ellington's second touchdown. Boyd was back at it a series later, finding a wide-open Brandon Ford on a 30-yard scoring pass and a 34-7 lead.
Boyd's final touchdown came when he hit Martavis Bryant in triple coverage on a 39-yard pass.
The Tigers bogged down after Watkins' score, ending two second-quarter drives with Chandler Catanzaro field goals of 46 and 22 yards. Catanzaro had made 14 consecutive kicks, tying Obed Ariri's school mark.
What was troubling, though, for a team that's yet to live down a 70-33 Orange Bowl embarrassment to West Virginia was Furman's success moving the ball on the defending ACC champions.
Paladins quarterback Reese Hannon drove 63 yards to the Clemson 5 on the opening series. Furman coach Bruce Fowler switched from a fourth down field goal attempt into a trick pass, but Will King overthrew fullback Tony Caldwell in the end zone and Rashard Hall intercepted to end the threat. Furman had another field goal stopped because of a bad snap.
''They're obviously a good football team and you could see the problems we had stopping them at times,'' Furman's Fowler said. ''To say that would've made a difference? I don't know.''