DURHAM, N.C. — Tajh Boyd threw for 344 yards and tied a school record with five touchdown passes for the second straight week to help No. 10 Clemson beat Duke 56-20 on Saturday night.
DeAndre Hopkins caught three of those TD tosses in the opening quarter for the Tigers (8-1, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who scored 42 points by halftime and rolled to their fifth straight win – all by at least 14 points. Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant also had first-half touchdown catches, helping Clemson rack up nearly 500 yards by halftime and 718 for the game.
The win moved Clemson into a tie with No. 9 Florida State atop the ACC’s Atlantic Division, though the Seminoles beat the Tigers in September for the head-to-head tiebreaker in the division race to reach the ACC championship game.
The loss dropped Duke (6-4, 3-3) a game behind Miami for the Coastal Division lead.
Duke is already bowl eligible for the first time since 1994 and entered the week tied atop the Coastal with Miami and North Carolina, though the Tar Heels are ineligible for the division crown due to NCAA sanctions. That success had put the long-struggling Duke program in the unusual position of playing meaningful games in November, though some of that momentum has ebbed after a brutal two-game stretch.
First came last week’s 48-7 loss at FSU. Then came Saturday night, with the Blue Devils managing more offensive success but finding no way to slow Boyd or the Clemson receivers sprinting downfield for big gains.
It was Duke’s first loss in six games at Wallace Wade Stadium this season.
Boyd threw for a school-record 428 yards with five touchdown passes in an easy win at Wake Forest last week, then added another five TD passes by halftime against Duke. He also ran for a 21-yard score to give Clemson a 42-17 halftime lead, setting up the Tigers for a stress-free second half.
The Tigers played almost the entire game without Andre Ellington, the ACC’s second-leading rusher. Ellington suffered an unspecified leg injury on a 26-yard carry on the game’s first offensive play and didn’t return. But it didn’t matter with the Clemson passing attack humming so well.
Boyd hit Hopkins for a 5-yard touchdown 2 1/2 minutes in, then connected with him again over the middle for a 58-yard TD on a ball that slipped by the outstretched arm of top Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell for a 14-3 lead midway through the first.
Boyd and Hopkins connected again minutes later, this time for 45 yards out in a sign that Duke’s secondary – featuring three players that had been named ACC defensive back of the week – was in for a long night. Boyd found Watkins for a 30-yard touchdown for a 28-10 lead with 16 seconds left in the first quarter, then found Bryant for a 41-yard TD midway through the second.
Boyd left the game late in the third quarter. Hopkins finished with four catches for 128 yards, reaching the 1,000-yard mark for the season while also setting the program record with his 22nd career touchdown catch.
Sean Renfree threw for 240 yards and a 77-yard scoring pass to Jamison Crowder for the Blue Devils, while Brandon Connette also had a touchdown pass.
Credit: The Associated Press.