SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Clemson coach Dabo Swinney seems to have it down pat: find a way to befuddle defences and then let quarterback Tajh Boyd do the rest.
Coach and star player were on the same wavelength again on Saturday. With his talented receiving corps repeatedly running alone in space, Boyd threw for 455 yards and five touchdowns in three quarters of work as the third-ranked Tigers beat Syracuse 49-14 to spoil the Orange's Atlantic Coast Conference debut.
"I got guys here who flat just go out there and get it, some of the best skill guys in the country," said Boyd, who finished 20 of 27 with his first two interceptions of the season. "We try to put these guys in the best position possible. We played a pretty complete game and are getting close to where we want to be."
Boyd, who matched his school record in TD passes and eclipsed his Clemson record for passing yards in a game by 27, hit a wide-open Adam Humphries with scoring passes of 60 and 42 yards in the first quarter to help stake the Tigers to a big early lead. And when Syracuse threatened to rally in the final minute of the third quarter, Boyd, standing at his own goal line, hit Sammy Watkins with a perfect spiral in stride at the 45-yard line, and he outraced the lone defender for Clemson's final touchdown.
"That play really sealed the game," said Watkins, who had four receptions for 126 yards. "Tajh did such a great job of getting the ball out so quick and so fast, it's real easy for the wideouts. Being on the road, you have to jump on a team pretty quick to hold them back."
Clemson (5-0, 3-0 ACC) entered the game as one of just 20 undefeated teams remaining in the Bowl Subdivision, and the Tigers made sure they wouldn't slip up against the Orange (2-3, 0-1) and their raucous Homecoming crowd, a near-sellout 48,961, by taking a 21-0 first-quarter lead.
The Tigers also upped their streak to 13 straight wins by double digits against unranked teams. Only top-ranked Alabama has a longer streak (21) in the FBS.
"We talked about getting a fast start," Swinney said. "We knew it was going to be a tough place to play, but our guys came out focused and really executed at a high level early in the game. It keeps us where we need to be."
Boyd's performance against the Orange pushed his career total offence to 10,421 yards in less than three full seasons. That's third all-time in the ACC, behind only North Carolina State's Philip Rivers (13,582) and Georgia Tech's Joe Hamilton (10,640).
Syracuse had won six straight at home dating to the 2012 season opener and had beaten two eleventh-ranked teams handily in the Carrier Dome the previous two seasons.
Boyd had a nearly flawless first half against Syracuse's blitzing defence, hitting 15 of his first 17 passes for 317 yards and four scores as his receivers repeatedly broke free. Sandwiched between the two scoring catches by Humphries was a 1-yard touchdown run by Zac Brooks that was set up by an 18-yard pass from Boyd to Watkins.
Orange middle linebacker Marquis Spruill blamed the early Clemson barrage on the defence.
"Miscommunication resulted in touchdowns, unfortunately. That's what killed us," Spruill said. "If you allow a great team like that to get open spaces on the field, open receivers are going to take advantage. It's a big disappointment. It's hard when you lose, but this one especially, the first ACC game."
The Tigers upped the lead to 28-7 when Boyd hit Stanton Seckinger in the right corner of the end zone early in the second quarter. Boyd completed his first-half barrage by hitting Martavis Bryant with a 40-yard scoring pass midway through the second quarter for a 35-7 lead.
Rookie Syracuse coach Scott Shafer became irate when Swinney tried for a touchdown on fourth down from the Syracuse 5 instead of kicking a field goal in the final minute of the first half. Shafer got some satisfaction when his defence sacked Boyd, and Shafer was contrite afterward.
"Dabo's a competitor. I'm competitive," Shafer said. "I just felt bad I was a little over the top there."
The Orange's extra week of rest wasn't much help. The Clemson defence held Syracuse to 139 yards of offence in the opening half and nearly half that total came on Jerome Smith's 66-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter.
Sophomore quarterback Terrel Hunt, making just his second career start for the Orange, finished 8 of 24 for 52 yards with three interceptions and was sacked four times.