CLEMSON, S.C. – South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough knew the Bulldogs would have their hands full with No. 4 Clemson. He just wishes his players did a better job keeping their hands on the football.
South Carolina State fell to 0-11 all-time against Bowl Subdivision opponents in a 52-13 loss to the Tigers on Saturday.
The game got out of hand when Clemson returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns to put the Bulldogs in a 24-0 hole they could not climb out of.
"What I am disappointed in is that we turned the ball over and gave them some scores," Pough said. "If we don't give them scores, then it's a little different kind of ball game. But they're a top-five team and you better make sure you understand that."
That wasn't always apparent early on. South Carolina State held Clemson to a field goal on the opening drive after the Tigers had driven to the Bulldogs 21. They stopped Clemson tailback Rod McDowell on fourth-and-short on the Tigers' next series.
But the Bulldogs couldn't sustain the effort against the bigger, faster, taller Tigers. Pough hopes his players will learn from this as they challenge for a title and an NCAA playoff bid in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
"Playing a team of this caliber will get us ready for the rest of the season," Pough said.
Boyd ran for Clemson's first touchdown and the reserves kept the pressure on throughout to move the Tigers to 27-0 all-time against FCS teams.
Boyd 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.
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.