"Fun" win for Clemson

Just before kickoff Saturday afternoon, ESPN captured embattled Virginia coach Mike London giving a fiery pregame speech to his Cavaliers.

"All things are possible!" London screamed. "All things are possible! Don't let this moment pass you by. Run to the middle of the ring and throw some haymakers!"

It was the kind of rhetoric you'd expect from the coach of a 2-6 team, one with, in London's words, "nothing to lose."

On this day, however, Clemson scored a TKO – and it wasn't even close.

The No.8 Tigers (8-1, 6-1 ACC) had their most complete performance in a month, waxing the hapless Cavaliers 59-10 in Charlottesville, Va. Following sometimes-sluggish efforts against Boston College and Maryland, sandwiched around the embarrassing 51-14 defeat to Florida State, Dabo Swinney was more defensive than usual this week.

He noted that he'd turned down the sound on ESPN's broadcast of the 40-27 win over Maryland because the negativity of Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham made it sound like Clemson was losing 35-7.

He rattled off the streaks that illustrate the Tigers' newfound consistency: 39 consecutive weeks in the top 25 (currently seventh-best nationally and the third-longest streak in Clemson history), 10 consecutive weeks in the top 10 (fourth-longest streak in the nation), seven consecutive wins away from home (most since 1978-79) and 15 consecutive wins over unranked teams by double digits (currently second-best nationally behind Alabama).

Saturday, that consistency was on full and brilliant display.

Save a second-quarter sequence that saw the Tigers' offense put together a pair of three-and-outs and a Tajh Boyd interception, Clemson was utterly dominant.

"I liked how our guys showed up with great focus and great energy. Really had some good, clean execution tonight in all three phases, probably our most complete game in a while, as far as just putting it all together. We've been really close, but we just haven't been able to put it all together," Swinney said. "Tonight, we did."

Boyd played only two and a half quarters, but left with a 42-7 lead. He completed 24 of 29 passes for 377 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Junior wideout Sammy Watkins piled up another big day at the office, with eight catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns.

And how about that touchdown? Boyd and Watkins' final offensive play of the game was a doozy. Facing a third and 15 at his own 4, Boyd just unloaded with Watkins in coverage against freshman cornerback Tim Harris, a frequent target. Watkins got behind Harris in coverage at the 40, took three steps and was gone. It was a 96-yard touchdown, the second-longest offensive play from scrimmage in program history.

It was his second-consecutive 160-yard receiving game, backing up Swinney's unusual declaration that Watkins will be a top-10 pick in next April's NFL draft. Following a down sophomore season, he looks every bit like the best receiver in the nation – and like a guy who only has four games left in his college career.

Meanwhile, it was Boyd's second-best passing performance of the season, behind the 455 yards he put up in a 49-14 rout of Syracuse – which was, not coincidentally, the Tigers' last truly complete effort.

Clemson trailed Boston College entering the fourth quarter. The less said about Florida State, the better.

And while it took a late Maryland score to make the final score respectable, the Tigers sputtered to an ugly 16-7 halftime lead in College Park, turning their first four red zone trips into three field goals and generally looking out of sync.

There were no such quibbles Saturday. Up 14-7, the game changed following a pair of Jayron Kearse-induced turnovers – an interception and a forced fumble. Clemson turned both into touchdowns for breathing room and a 28-7 lead.

Boyd's final drive of the first half was one of his best of the season. Poor London clock management gave Clemson the ball at its own 14 with 55 seconds left. Working the sidelines and middle of the field, Boyd completed all six throws on the drive – to five different receivers – for 84 yards, finishing the drive with a one-yard touchdown run and 13 seconds to spare.

He might as well have ripped out Virginia's collective heart and paraded it around Scott Stadium's concourse on a pike. Game over, man. Game over.

In a week when Boyd and Swinney were asked if Boyd was having fun, this was most definitely fun. Halfway through the third quarter, Boyd wore a baseball cap, a headset and a smile on his face. It was a perfect final collegiate home appearance in Virginia, two hours up the road from his hometown of Hampton.

Fun is watching all four quarterbacks on the roster – Boyd, Cole Stoudt, Chad Kelly and Nick Schuessler – get into the game and be involved with scoring drives.

Fun is holding Virginia to 10 points, the fifth time Clemson has held an ACC foe to 14 points or fewer this season. Brent Venables' defense continues to impress in his second season, showing stinginess and playmaking ability.

Fun is having a week off to prepare for Georgia Tech's flexbone option attack in a rare Thursday night game in Death Valley.

Fun is staying in contention for the program's second BCS berth in three seasons, if you can take care of business against Tech, The Citadel and South Carolina.

For Clemson, there was plenty of fun to go around Saturday afternoon.

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