CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris wasn't worried about his players' emotional well-being heading to Boston College — until he watched them go through a ho-hum, pregame warm-up session.
"Something wasn't right," Morris recalled Monday.
Maybe not early on, but the 15th-ranked Tigers took control of things right before halftime in 45-31 victory over the Eagles. Not that anyone would blame Morris for his concerns, especially given the team's recent history in bouncing back from big defeats.
Clemson (4-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) was still reeling from its lone loss at No. 3 Florida State on Sept. 22 as it gave up a two-touchdown lead — and 667 yards of Seminole offense — to fall 49-37
Then late Thursday, the team found out it would travel to Boston without star receiver Sammy Watkins, diagnosed with an abdominal virus that struck him in the middle of the week. The All-American returned to practice Monday and Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said Watkins was expected to play against Georgia Tech (2-3, 1-2) at Death Valley on Saturday.
Along with Watkins' absence last week, the Tigers were also without backup Martavis Bryant for two games because of a groin injury. None of it matter for Clemson against Boston College.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another while receiver DeAndre Hopkins had 11 catches for a school record 197 yards. The Tigers moved in front for good right before the half on Boyd's 4-yard scoring pass to Brandon Ford. Two third-quarter touchdowns put the Tigers ahead 38-21 and the Eagles couldn't recover.
Swinney was proud of his players for concentrating on the game, not their struggles. The offense, he said, excelled again without Watkins while the young defense grew up after Boston College took a 21-17 lead in the second quarter.
"Overall, we improved," Swinney said. "We found a way to win. It's just a great job by the whole team in getting it done."
Receiver Jaron Brown said the players didn't worry about the things they could not control and called on the depth they had developed during the offseason. "We just wanted to make the necessary adjustments and have other guys step in," Brown said.
It's happened before this season. Watkins missed the team's first two contests, serving a team suspension for an offseason drug arrest. Hopkins set a school record in the team's opening victory over Auburn with 13 receptions, then tied a record a week later with three TD catches against Ball State.