No. 11 Clemson 41, Furman 7

Sammy Watkins is ready to run the football, giving opposing

defenders something else to worry about with Clemson’s star

receiver.

Watkins had a 58-yard touchdown run in the 11th-ranked Tigers’

41-7 victory over Furman on Saturday. It was Watkins’ first rushing

touchdown and came just three touches into his sophomore debut.

”It was like he just shot out of a cannon,” Clemson coach Dabo

Swinney said. ”It was a thing of beauty.”

Prepare for more beautiful plays involving Watkins now that he’s

back from a two-game suspension for an offseason drug arrest.

”I didn’t run the ball a lot last year, but they’re going to

put me in the running game a lot this year, out of the backfield,”

Watkins said.

Watkins finished with four catches for 52 yards and 119

all-purpose yards as Clemson won its 30th straight game over the

Paladins. Tajh Boyd threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns and

Andre Ellington had a pair of rushing TDs for the second straight

game.

”It kind of felt like it was very easy, also, being a year in

this offense,” Watkins said. ”So I was very comfortable out there

on the field.”

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney joked this week the Tigers had gained

more than 500 yards of offense in both victories without Watkins

and his star better not mess things up.

Well, the Tigers came up just short of the mark this time with

498 yards against Furman.

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.

A day that started with excitement over Watkins’ return, ended

with plenty of questions about Clemson’s defense with No. 5 Florida

State ahead next Saturday night.

There were many fans dressed in Watkins’ No. 2 Clemson jersey

during pre-game tailgates and Watkins got a rousing ovation when he

stepped off the bus for the traditional Tiger walk entrance into

the locker room.

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.

”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.”

Furman lost another scoring chance with a bad snap on Ray

Early’s 42-yard field goal attempt as Clemson smothered the

ball.

The Paladins finally broke through with Hannon’s 37-yard

touchdown pass to Jason Snellings to cut the lead to 17-7. Jerodis

Williams also had a 39-yard run right before to set up the scoring

play.

Hannon was 19 of 29 for 235 yards in his first collegiate start.

Furman finished with 352 yards and left Clemson coordinator Brent

Venables with a lot to worry about heading into Florida State, a

52-0 winner over Wake Forest earlier Saturday.

”They’ll break the scoreboard next week if we don’t play

better,” Venables said.