Offense electric, defense needs work

When a team like Clemson hosts a team like Ball State early in a season, there are three main goals for the home team.

1. Win easily.

2. Get a lot of players some playing time.

3. Avoid any major injuries.

Check.

Check.

And check.

Clemson's 52-27 win over Ball State on Saturday wasn't perfect or always pretty, but it was effective for the very reasons these kinds of games are scheduled.

The offense was dynamic and high-flying in the first half, and it was good enough that the starters didn't play at the end of the second quarter, and some of them didn't return to the field in the second half.

The defense did enough in the first half to help turn the game into a blowout, although there were some problems stopping the run.

And the special teams were solid with a record-setting field goal by Spencer Benton, although there was a missed extra point.

All in all, it was about what you'd expect from a game like this. Ball State, after all, is a legitimate FBS program; Clemson didn't line up a bottom of the rung FCS program like some other teams have played recently (we're looking at you Oklahoma State and Florida State for scheduling Savannah State).

No matter what some fans thought might happen in this game, Clemson wasn't going to embarrass Ball State or run up the score. And the Tigers weren't going to keep piling up the points once they pulled their starters because the Cardinals have a solid program, and their backups can match up with Clemson's second- and third-teamers and beyond.

That said, the time on the field for the Clemson reserves should help with depth and experience in the future, and it should also help those players' morale because it rewards them for all their hard work in practice. It's not easy for those kinds of players to go to practice every day and then not get on the field, which happens for most of the season. A game like Saturday helps remedy that. That will make this team better as it moves forward.

TERRIFIC TAJH: Tajh Boyd isn't putting up video game-type numbers through the first two games of the season like he produced in his sophomore campaign, but he has been right on the money through the first two weeks.

Boyd has completed 43-of-57 passes (a 75.4 completion percentage) for 437 yards and four touchdowns. And remember, the Tigers had six drops in the opener against Auburn, and those would have added to his completion percentage and his yards to make his numbers look even better.

With Boyd running Chad Morris' offense to near perfection in the first half, the Tigers rolled up 45 points and 382 yards on 55 plays. If Boyd would have stayed in the game much longer -- he came out with about five minutes left in the first half -- he would have indeed put up some much more eye-popping numbers.

Still, statistics aside, Boyd is making good decisions, and his growth over last year is easy to see. He's not forcing the ball into coverage. He's not taking sacks or being loose with the ball. He's making the plays that need to be made, both with his arm and his feet, and if he continues to play this way and grow in his knowledge of the offense, there is no limit to how good he can become as a quarterback.

WORK TO DO: Defensive coordinator Brent Venables looked frustrated on the sideline for parts of Saturday's game and with good reason. Ball State piled up 380 total yards, including 252 on the ground, and kept the Clemson defense off balance at times. Horactio Banks had 120 yards on just seven carries and got the Cardinals on the board with a 54-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

There were some positives for the defense: Ball State was 3-of-14 on third-down tries, and interceptions by Darius Robinson and Stephone Anthony led to Clemson touchdowns, but for the second straight week, there were missed assignments, problems with alignments and sloppy tackling throughout.

For the second straight week, Clemson allowed a runner to top 100 yards, and Banks make it look easy, averaging more than 17 yards per carry. That just can't keep happening if this team wants to reach its goals. As good as the offense has been, it is going to hit a speed bump eventually, and it will need the defense to step up when it does.

Venables was brought in because of these very problems. Those are the same issues that plagued the Clemson defense last year and keep the Tigers from having even a better season than they did, and those issues will have to be fixed for the Tigers to have a championship season.

BRING ON THE PALADINS: Clemson fans should expect more of the same as far as the highlight reel – make that much more – in the Tigers' next game. Furman carries a winless record into Death Valley this coming Saturday after losing to Coastal Carolina, 47-45 in three overtimes.

The Paladins don't have nearly as much talent as the Cardinals, who could end up being contenders in the MAC, so it could get ugly in Clemson's third game of the season. Remember, Sammy Watkins hasn't even played yet, and the offense is already rolling.

But the Tigers could use another game like this to get their backups and reserves some more action as they head to Florida State the following week for the beginning of the meat of their schedule.

Another win like the one over Ball State would be a big plus in getting those players ready for the toughest part of the schedule.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter @DM_Shirley

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