DURHAM, N.C. -- So it took them a little while to get started. The important thing was the win that popped up on the schedule.
No. 25 Clemson overcame a sluggish start to post the blowout everybody expected, 47-10 over hapless Duke on Saturday. It was the Tigers' third straight win, also the third straight game in which they scored at least 30 points, and kept up their torrid offensive explosion.
Clemson (7-2, 4-2 ACC) has scored 147 points in its last three games, a needed confidence-booster after the two games before the stretch provided the Tigers' only two losses. It's why nobody seemed too concerned after the Blue Devils turned Clemson's failed first possession into a touchdown and a 7-0 first-quarter lead -- once the Tigers' offense clicks, it's going to score some serious points.
Or at least, it will against an obviously overmatched opponent (see Central Michigan and Maryland). The Tigers spent the postgame discussing their ACC championship situation -- they must keep their three-game winning streak rolling while watching the scoreboard, hoping division-leading Boston College trips up.
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And the next three opponents -- No. 21 Wake Forest, No. 2 BC and No. 23 South Carolina -- probably won't be as forgiving as the Blue Devils, who dropped their 23rd straight ACC game.
"We have to have some help," shrugged James Davis, after running for 118 yards and a touchdown. "I ain't going to lie. We have to have some help, but we can still do it."
The Tigers could afford to talk about what could be because of the way they handily disposed of Duke. How would you feel if you were part of a team that scored 16 points in 39 seconds?
"We made our guys very aware of the history up here," coach Tommy Bowden said, pointing out the 13-12 edge Clemson had in the series at Wallace Wade Stadium and that most of them had been close. "They scored that touchdown and it was like, 'Here we go again.'
"But I told them, 'Still got 59 minutes.'"
Trailing 7-0, Clemson got a 39-yard field goal from Mark Buchholz before Cullen Harper faded an 18-yard spiral to Aaron Kelly for a second-quarter, go-ahead touchdown. Trying to notch another score before the half, Harper saw Tyler Grisham with a step in the middle of the field.
Grisham ran out of one shoe but still made a diving catch on the 3-yard line. Harper rolled out on the next play, and after spending all the time he wanted to checking receivers, finally decided to run it in.
"I guess it's my mentality," Harper said. "Look, look, look for the pass."
His first career rushing TD boosted the score to 17-7 with 1:18 to go. The Tigers pinned the Devils (1-8, 0-6) deep and after burning their timeouts hoping for a lucky bounce, got one.
With only 50 seconds to go before halftime, Duke's Thaddeus Lewis scrambled from the 10. Cortney Vincent jumped over the Devils' undersized blockers and ran Lewis down for a safety.
Comfortably ahead 19-7 and with only 45 seconds to go, Clemson prepared for the kickoff. C.J. Spiller waited on the 16, cradled the catch and headed to the right sideline.
Stop if you've heard this one -- Spiller ran through several broken tackles, dodged the guys trying to shove him out of bounds and didn't stop running until he was in the end zone, 84 yards later with a 26-7 lead.
"The defense did a great job blocking for me," Spiller said. "Deandre (McDaniel) took out a couple of guys."
The second half was formality, a Michael Hamlin interception deep in Clemson territory turning into a career-best 70-yard touchdown run from Davis one play later. With 10:37 to go in the third quarter, the Tigers relaxed and got all the subs some playing time.
It ended up being a blowout victory and a feel-good afternoon, which was what the Tigers wanted. Bowden brushed aside the looking-ahead question, saying BC was a good team and all Clemson was interested in was Wake Forest next week.
"We're pretty much on a week-to-week basis," Bowden said. "I've always coached that way."
That being said, would he be pulling for his father, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, when the Seminoles were set to take on Boston College late Saturday? "Well, I always do," the younger Bowden said. "As long as he keeps winning, we win."
n INJURIES: As expected, offensive lineman Chris McDuffie (sprained ankle) and defensive tackle Rashaad Jackson (sprained knee) didn't play. Grisham was hit hard in the third quarter and did not return. Early reports had him with a slight concussion.