Spiller the Difference in Easy Win

CLEMSON - The Tigers improve to 5-5 on the season with a 31-7 Homecoming victory over Duke. Stay tuned to CUTigers.com for complete coverage of today's game, once it reaches its conclusion.

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 1980.

"It was another phenomenal game for C.J. Spiller," Clemson interim head coach Dabo Swinney said. 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 back.

"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 field.

James Davis scored on the next play to make score 17-0 with 47 seconds to go in the first half. 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.

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