Hopkins had a school-record 197 receiving yards on Saturday, catching 11 passes from Tajh Boyd to help the No. 17 Tigers beat Boston College 45-31. Hopkins had already set the Clemson single-game record for receptions by catching 13 passes in the season-opening victory over Auburn, and tied another with three touchdowns against Ball State the next week.
“I feel like every athlete should have goals, on and off the field,” said Hopkins, who has been listing his in a notebook since high school. “It’s pretty long, but it’s not a novel.”
Boyd threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns and ran in another himself as Clemson (4-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) bounced back after blowing a two-touchdown lead to No. 4 Florida State last week. Boyd completed 28 of 38 passes and ran 11 times for 42 yards and a score.
“When he’s playing like that, everything’s good. He’s our leader out there,” said Andre Ellington, who ran 25 times for 132 yards and a touchdown. “He was good and got the flow of the game going at his pace.”
With All-America receiver Sammy Watkins out with an abdominal virus, Boyd found Hopkins often. The junior receiver, who is known as “Nuk,” caught a 58-yard pass from deep in Clemson territory in the first half and had a 35-yard touchdown in the second.
He also had one touchdown called back in the first half because of a penalty away from the ball, and lost another when he kicked the pylon while trying to keep his back foot in bounds in the end zone.
“Nuk’s just always there. He’s the most dependable guy we have,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “And it’s not like people don’t know we’re going to throw him the ball.”
Chase Rettig, who entered the day as the leading passer in the ACC, completed 25 of 43 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns. Alex Amdion caught eight passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns for the Eagles (1-3, 0-2), who led 21-17 before giving up three unanswered touchdowns.
“The pitfall with that is sometimes you start thinking you’re good enough,” Eagles coach Frank Spaziani said. “We’re not good enough to think like that.”
Clemson was unbeaten and ranked 10th in the nation when it travelled to Tallahassee last week to play ACC Atlantic rival Florida State. The Tigers opened a 28-14 lead in the third quarter before the Seminoles scored 35 of the next 38 points.
This time it was Clemson rallying with an offensive outburst, scoring three unanswered touchdowns after falling behind 21-17.
“We finished stronger than last week,” Boyd said. “But we’ve got so much more room for improvement. We’ve got to go look at the film and put a lot of things together for the next game. I’m really excited about the potential this team has.”
Clemson led 17-7 before BC took the lead when Rettig hit Johnathan Coleman from 3 yards out and Amidon for a 31-yard score with 4:12 left in the first half. But Boyd hit Brandon Ford for a four-yard TD just before the end of the half, then capped Clemson’s first drive of the second half with Roderick McDowell’s 16-yard touchdown run.
After Rashard Hall’s interception set the Tigers up at the BC 33, Boyd hit Jaron Brown for 30 yards and Ellington ran it in from the 1 to make it 38-21.
Amidon caught a 42-yard touchdown pass, then Clemson added its last TD when Boyd hit Hopkins from 35 yards to make it 45-28 with 1 minute gone in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles made a final push by cutting it to two scores with Nate Freese’s field goal and then stopping Clemson on a fourth-and-1 near midfield. Rettig hit Amidon for 17 yards, with another 15 yards tacked on because Garry Peters threw Amidon to the ground after he was already out of bounds.
But on third down, Peters picked off Rettig at the 5. BC got the ball back at Clemson’s 33 when Boyd fumbled, but the Eagles weren’t able to get a first down.
The Tigers ended the game by taking a knee on the BC 1.