On Saturday, it was quarterback Tajh Boyd's eight touchdowns—five passing and three rushing—that led the No. 11 Tigers (10-1, 7-1 Atlantic Coast) to a 62-48 win over North Carolina State (6-5, 3-4).
Clemson won 10 games in the regular season for the first time since 1981, and perhaps more importantly, has finally gone through a season without losing to a team it was supposed to beat. Coach Dabo Swinney said if the Tigers can knock off No. 12 South Carolina next week, they should be in a BCS bowl even though they won't play for the ACC title.
"We've certainly proven to be one of the better teams in the country," Swinney said.
Boyd's eight touchdowns set a school and ACC record. The Tigers gained 754 yards, just two away from the school's best. Clemson ran 102 plays, the most in school history.
Boyd was responsible for every Clemson touchdown, throwing for TDs of 69, 62, 40, 27 and 7 yards and running for a 4-yard score and two 9-yard touchdowns. He also has broken his own ACC record with 41 TDs so far this season.
Boyd was 30-for-44 for 426 yards and ran for 105 yards—the combined 531 yards set another school record.
"Any time you see smiles throughout the game, it's fun," Boyd said. "Overall, it was a fun game."
The Wolfpack led 24-13 early in the second quarter. It was a situation Clemson hadn't seen since their only loss of the year, 49-37 to Florida State. The Tigers responded by scoring 42 straight points.
"We've been taking care of business pretty early the past few games. It was really good for us to go out there and face some adversity and overcome it," Clemson center Dalton Freeman said.
Freeman anchors an offensive line that has been critical to Clemson's success. For the second week in a row, the Tigers o-line faced the team leading the ACC in sacks and didn't allow the quarterback to go down once.
The Tigers won a share of the ACC's Atlantic Division title, but their loss to Florida State will keep them out of the title game. Still, that didn't prevent Swinney from bringing the trophy for winning at least part of the division for the third time in four seasons to his news conference.
N.C. State moved the ball, too. Tobias Palmer also set an ACC record with 496 all-purpose yards. He had 277 yards on kickoff returns and caught seven passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns. Mike Glennon was 29-of-53 for 493 yards and five touchdowns. Four of N.C. State's touchdown drives took just one play.
The Wolfpack gained 597 yards, and the teams combined for 1,351 yards and the 110 combined points were just seven off the ACC record set by Georgia Tech and North Carolina last week.
But with all the offense, the Tigers may have won the game thanks to its defense making plays at critical moments. They stopped the Wolfpack on fourth down twice deep in Clemson territory. They picked off Glennon in the end zone and forced a fumble that gave the Tigers one more scoring drive in the first half.
"We left too many points on the board—way too many opportunities to score," N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien said. "You get a little bit closer or slow them down once, but they had too much skill for us I guess."
Andre Ellington ran for 124 yards on 22 carries. Sammy Watkins caught 11 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown, all in the first half, while Brandon Ford had five receptions for 101 yards and two TDs for Clemson.
Marion Carter caught seven passes for 105 yards and a score, while Shadrach Thornton ran 21 times for 114 yards and a touchdown for the Wolfpack.
Meanwhile, Clemson's offense keeps clicking. Since their only loss, the Tigers are averaging almost 48 points a game. In its 11th game, Clemson has scored a record 491 points. Last year's team set the mark at 470 in 14 games.
"The best are always trying to get better," Swinney said. "I think we came up two yards short for the all-time school record tonight, so we have some improving to do. There is a lot out there for this group."
And just in case Clemson fans didn't know their archrival South Carolina is up next, the Tigers mascot was shown on the big screen with 32 seconds left, swinging a Gamecock around on a noose. Clemson has lost three in a row to South Carolina—the last time that happened was 1968-70.
"A huge game. State pride on the line. It's important to every person," Swinney said. "It's probably even important to the people who aren't even fans of either team."