By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON — Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney told his players following Saturday’s 45-31 victory over Boston College that he believes they are a special team.
The Tigers, who moved up two spots to No. 15 Sunday in the latest Associated Press College football poll, showed they have that potential at Chestnut Hill, Mass. Clemson (4-1, 1-1 ACC) got big plays in just about every facet with long kickoff returns, long passes, long runs and two interceptions.
The Clemson offense racked up 576 yards, while the defense, which was much-maligned a week ago, held the Eagles to 51 rushing yards and had three sacks. This all came a week after an emotional loss in Tallahassee, Fla., when the Tigers had Florida State on the ropes but could not deliver the knockout bunch.
“I am really proud of our guys for bouncing back,” Swinney said Sunday during his weekly teleconference. “We had some adversity throughout the game. I really thought last night, and confirmed it today on the film, that we grew up on defense in the second half.
“We still gave up too many chunk plays and just making some critical mistakes and really doing a poor job with our eyes in particular. Overall, though, we improved and we found a way to win. It was just a great job by the whole team in getting it done. There were some big plays on both sides. And again we had to overcome some adversity on both sides.”
For the third time this year, Clemson also overcame the fact it did not have one of the most explosive players in college football on the field. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins instead watched the game back at Clemson as he recovered from a stomach virus that forced him to miss the trip to Boston College.
Like before, though, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins stepped up to the plate and delivered the Tigers to victory, as did quarterback Tajh Boyd and running back Andre Ellington.
Hopkins was the headliner, though. The 6-foot-2 wideout, who grew up playing high school football in Clemson’s own backyard at nearby Daniel High School, caught 11 passes for a school-record 197 yards, while also scoring his sixth touchdown of the season.
Through five games, Hopkins has hauled in 42 catches for 604 yards, which leads the ACC in both categories. He is on pace to catch 105 passes for 1,451 yards and 14 touchdowns in the regular season.
“Last night was I thought his most complete game,” Swinney said. “That is probably the biggest thing. He is just a more complete player. He is a more technical route runner, which is huge.
“He wasn’t very polished when he came here. He was just a great athlete and he has really developed technically, from route running to setting things up. He is a much more physical player. He has picked up probably twenty plus pounds since he came to Clemson. That has really helped him tremendously.”
As for Watkins, Swinney said he was taken to have more blood work done Sunday afternoon, but the Clemson head coach said his star wideout looked fine. He said he doesn’t expect any new updates on Watkins until tomorrow.
In other injury news, Swinney says D.J. Howard is the only player that is listed as questionable for next Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech, which will air on ESPN at 3:30 p.m. Howard injured his shoulder in the first half Saturday. He will be reevaluated again later in the week.
The news is good for center Dalton Freeman. The All-American candidate injured his thumb in the win over BC, but Swinney said it is just sore and he should be fine by Wednesday and will be ready to go against Georgia Tech. Freeman played with the injured thumb for a good bit of the game Saturday.