Clemson University

Tigers destroy Chippewas

CLEMSON -- James Davis stood in the circle of offensive linemen, duplicating the Superman pose he had struck after the first of many Clemson touchdowns.

Look, up in the sky ... it's the Tigers' ascending morale level.

"When you score a lot of points like that, it makes everybody feel good again," Davis said.

Riding an offense that suddenly looked more powerful than a locomotive -- thanks in dual part to an opposing defense that surrenders points faster than a speeding bullet -- Clemson took the first step in recovering from its two-game losing streak Saturday, walloping Central Michigan 70-14 in record-setting fashion.

Last week's open date doubled the time the Tigers (5-2) had to chew on external criticisms and the perception their season was in dire straits.

With that admittedly serving as motivation, their demonstrative response had more to do with proving resolve than proving skill.

"These boys had been beaten down pretty good the last two weeks and were ready to play," coach Tommy Bowden said. "I think they kind of caught us at a bad time."

"I hope we'll forget it quickly because five wins won't get you far around this place."

Which is Bowden's way of trying to leverage the chip on Clemson's shoulder back into ACC play, starting with next Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game at division foe Maryland.

In the wake of consecutive losses to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, Tommy Bowden rallied players during a team gathering this week by ensuring everyone knew which groups were being publicly vilified for the team's overall shortcomings.

The Tigers then took out their frustrations on a defense that had yielded 34.7 points per game and ranked among the bottom 10 nationally in yardage allowed.

• The 70 points stand the most Clemson has scored since romping Wake Forest 82-24 in 1981. It was the team's seventh-highest scoring game in school history, second-highest since 1945 and second-highest in Death Valley.

• The Tigers accumulated more than 300 yards apiece in the rushing (341) and passing (315) categories for the first time in program history.

• Eight of their 10 touchdown drives took less than two minutes.

• Redshirt junior quarterback Cullen Harper continued stockpiling records against nonconference foes.

Harper completed 20 of 22 passes for 273 yards and five touchdowns in less than three quarters, establishing the school marks for consecutive completed passes in a game (15), TD passes in a quarter (four) and single-game completion percentage (90.9) while tying his own single-game touchdown record.

"It's been a very difficult couple of weeks for a lot of people, especially our offensive line," coordinator Rob Spence said. "I don't think you can estimate how difficult it is for players when things aren't going well. We came out today determined to show a lot of mental toughness and unity."

Perhaps more impressively, Clemson's passing defense fared well in its first stiff challenge of the season.

After Central Michigan (4-4) shredded its zone coverage to score on the opening drive, the Tigers did not yield a series of more than six plays or longer than 28 yards for eight possessions.

By then, the Tigers had surged ahead 42-7 and were comfortably en route to extending the Chippewas' season-long streak of outcomes decided by 20 points or more.

Central Michigan finished with a season-low 292 total yards and converted just 3 of 11 third downs after its initial drive.

"Basically, we just didn't let anything get behind us and it worked out," sophomore cornerback Crezdon Butler said.

Bowden, though, worked quickly to put such a potentially ego-inflating rout behind them.

He downplayed improvements in various segments of Clemson's performance, offering the Tigers' lack the luxury of facing a MAC opponent again next week.

In the grand scheme, throttling Central Michigan technically has no bearing on whether Clemson winds up in the mix for the ACC title.

Yet the Tigers did show signs that another one of Bowden's traditional stretch runs cannot be ruled out just yet.

"We'll find out next week how good we are," Bowden said. "I don't think this is going to be a good indication."

Cent. Michigan 7 0 7 0 -- 14

Clemson 7 28 28 7 -- 70

• Clemson O-line getting act together • 3D

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