Duke was supposed to be better, and it was supposed to give Clemson a run for its money Saturday. But as improved as the Blue Devils have been this year, the one thing that still stands between them and a win at Death Valley is a running back with the skills of C.J. Spiller.
The Clemson junior continued his assault on ACC defenses with another
record-breaking day as the Tigers beat Duke for the 14th straight time in Death
Valley with a 31-7 victory. Duke has not beat Clemson at Memorial Stadium since
"It was another phenomenal game for C.J. Spiller," Clemson interim head coach Dabo
Spiller proved he was the difference maker against the Blue Devils. The junior
rushed for 71 yards, but more importantly caught 7 passes for 108 more. His third
quarter 83-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass on the second play of the third
quarter allowed him to break the single-game record for receiving yards by a running
"He makes it easy on me sometimes," quarterback Cullen Harper said. "He made some
phenomenal plays. I thought that touchdown that was called back, just for him to
even get it near the end zone, was incredible. He is just a special player."
The touchdown called back was an 8-yard completion in the second quarter where
Spiller carried several Duke players to the one, and reached the ball out for what
was first ruled a touchdown. Replay officials, however, overturned the call on the
James Davis scored on the next play to make score 17-0 with 47 seconds to go in the
Spiller made up for the lost touchdown by busting off his 83-yard score when he
touched the ball for the first time in the third quarter. It was Spiller's sixth
touchdown in the last three weeks and his 12th career score of 50 yards or more.
"I'm just out there having fun," Spiller said. "That's just the main thing for me
right now. I'm just having fun and I love doing what I'm doing."
Spiller wasn't the only Tiger having fun Saturday. Davis also had two touchdown runs
of one and three yards. He finished the day with 43 yards on nine carries, but his
third-quarter touchdown run was his only run of the second half.
"He was running the ball down hill and finishing plays north-south," Swinney said.
"He was just doing what he does."
Wide receiver Aaron Kelly had fun as well, catching 11 passes for 96 yards. But what
made his day special was his 11th catch when Harper came back in the game and hit
him for an 11-yard completion that allowed the 6-foot-5, 190-pound senior to break
the ACC's all-time career reception record at 217.
"It was nice to do that in front of the home crowd and it was nice to have Cullen be
the guy to throw the ball to me. That made it really special," Kelly said.
Harper's day was special too. The senior went out and completed 20-of-26 passes for
292 yards without an interception.
The game was special in just about every phase. Even with daily reports and
speculation of whom athletic director Terry Don Phillips was interviewing for the
head coaching job left open with Tommy Bowden's forced resignation last month, the
Tigers appeared nothing but focused on Duke.
"You hear about it and you hear rumors, but we weren't too worried about that,"
Clemson left guard Thomas Austin said. "We have too much respect for Coach Swinney
and obviously we would love to see him stay. We know the university is going to make
a decision that is best for the school as whole so we are going to have to play
these next two games and see how it all plays out."
As for Swinney, he preached all week about his team playing a complete game, and the
Tigers answered their coach's call with by far their best outing of the year. The
offense racked up 466 yards, while the defense held Duke to 168 — 83 rushing and 85
passing. Duke was averaging 332 yards a game coming in and led the ACC in passing
yards per game at 221.0.
"We felt like in the past few weeks that either the offense didn't put up enough
points or that the defense didn't stop them enough. Finally, to come together and
get a good win, that feels good," Harper said.
Spiller the Difference in Easy Win
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