CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd’s apparently a good actor, too.
“He was so dramatic. He was rolling (around) out there,” said backup Cole Stoudt as he stood alongside Boyd after the fourth-ranked Tigers defeated South Carolina State 52-13 on Saturday.
Stoudt poked fun at his teammate after Boyd lingered on the ground and jogged slowly to the sidelines on a second-quarter hit that knocked the wind out of Clemson’s starter.
“Like those movies where the gladiators are dying in the arena,” Boyd answered back.
Boyd ran for Clemson’s first touchdown and then mostly watched from the sideline as the Tigers (2-0) improved to 27-0 all-time against FCS opponents.
“I wanted to come in and steal that touchdown pass, too,” Boyd said of Stoudt’s 3-yard scoring toss to Charone Peake to finish that sequence.
It didn’t take long for Boyd to recover, though, and he returned for one final scoring drive before the half that put Clemson ahead 38-7.
Stoudt, the son of ex-NFL passer Cliff Stoudt, threw for three touchdowns and finished 19-for-20 passing — the best single-game showing percentage-wise ever at Clemson.
“Today was all about seeing how much depth we have,” Boyd said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who we feel comfortable playing with out on the field.”
Boyd’s front-and-center among them for Clemson. He accounted for five TDs a week ago, becoming an early Heisman Trophy contender after a 38-35 victory against No. 11 Georgia. He was nowhere near as crisp against South Carolina State, although he got the Tigers started on the romp.
Boyd led a 13-play field goal drive on Clemson’s first series then leaped over the pile to finish a seven-play drive that put the Tigers up 10-0.
Clemson’s defense, criticized for giving up 545 yards in the Georgia win, then showed its big-play ability with a pair of interception return touchdowns — 52 yards by Martin Jenkins and 35 yards by Darius Robinson — for the first time in program history.
“We kind of set the tone,” Jenkins said. “As a defense, we kind of have to.”
Boyd spent the second half in an orange baseball cap next to offensive coordinator Chad Morris, encouraging his backups the rest of the way. He finished 14-of-23 passing for 169 yards and was sacked twice.
Clemson opened 2-0 for a fourth straight season, also a program first. The Tigers are off next week and don’t return to the field until opening the Atlantic Coast Conference season Sept. 19 at North Carolina State.
The only way this game might affect the Tigers after last week’s stirring victory over Georgia was if they had lost. While Boyd wasn’t the crisp, Heisman chaser he was a week ago, he steadily led the Tigers in front and let the defense do the rest.
He directed a 13-play drive on Clemson’s first series that ended with Chandler Catanzaro’s 38-yard field goal. Two series later, Boyd had passes of 13 yards to Sammy Watkins, 18 yards to Peake and 21 yards to Adam Humphries to set up the quarterback’s 1-yard scoring leap for a 10-0 lead.
Jenkins, out all last season due to injury, increased the lead moments later after defensive lineman DJ Reader hit South Carolina State quarterback Richard Cue as he threw and the ball floated for an easy interception. Jenkins turned it up and cut the middle of the field for the score.
Robinson’s interception came at the start of the second quarter, a 35-yard run to the end zone that made it 24-0.
South Carolina State finally broke its scoreless streak at Clemson — the Bulldogs lost 54-0 in their only other game here in 2008 — with Cue’s 63-yard scoring pass to Tyler McDonald. McDonald added a 51-yard TD pass from TeDarrius Wiley in the fourth quarter. McDonald had a 74-yard touchdown catch in South Carolina State’s opening loss to Coastal Carolina.
Bulldogs coach Buddy Pough was proud of how his team played early on, stopping Tigers runner Rod McDowell on fourth-and-1 and forcing a pair of first-half punts.
“They are what they say they are,” Pough said. “The best part about it for us was we were able to hang in there and stop them a few times.”
The scariest moment was when Boyd didn’t get up right away from a second-quarter hit. The official word was he lost his breath and later returned to the game to direct a 77-yard TD drive that ended with D.J. Howard’s 19-yard run.
Clemson’s reserves, though, kept the offense churning. Stoudt threw for 143 yards. Fourth-string tailback C.J. Davidson led the Tigers with 63 yards rushing and had 14 players catch passes in the blowout victory to finish with a season-high 512 yards of offense.
Morris wanted his players to get faster and saw the Tigers get off 95 plays — nearly 20 more than they had a week earlier against Georgia. He was particularly pleased with his backups, who were told earlier in the week they’d see plenty of playing time.
“They had their mind right. I thought they did a really good job. They led us down and scored the first two times they were in there,” he said. “I think we definitely got better as an offense.”