DURHAM, N.C. -- For exactly 7:25, Duke played No. 7 Clemson to a scoreless draw. But once the Tigers found the end zone midway through the first quarter, the rout was on.
The Tigers exploded for four second-quarter touchdowns en route to an easy 52-22 thumping of lowly Duke in front of a sparse crowd of 16,872 at Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday.
Clemson, which improved to 5-0 for the first time since 1997, piled up 527 yards of total offense, including 308 total yards from junior Heisman Trophy candidate Woody Dantzler.
Dantzler became the first Clemson player in history to record three consecutive 300-yard games.
Clemson scored the most points in a road game since 1984 and handed Duke its worst defeat at home in the series, but none of the players seemed happy with the win, and most of the defensive starters weren't talking after the game.
"Duke, by scheme took away a lot of the running game, which other teams have been giving us in the past," said Clemson coach Tommy Bowden. "They did that by design. They put a lot of pressure up front. They blitzed a lot and took away a lot of our running game."
The Blue Devils scored two late fourth-quarter scores, all against the Tigers' second team defense. On one of the Blue Devils' touchdowns, a fumbled kickoff gave Duke the ball at Clemson's 7-yard line.
"We're happy with the win, don't get me wrong," junior center Kyle Young said. "We're just perfectionists. I don't think we'll ever be satisfied. If we play a perfect game, then maybe we'll have something to say."
Duke (0-5, 0-2 ACC) managed to cross midfield just one time in the first half -- on the Blue Devils' final possession, which stalled at the Clemson 34. Duke finished the first half with just 42 yards of total offense.
"In the past, that hasn't been happening," Bowden said of his team's defensive performance in the first half. "Our defense has been letting them out and changing field position, which limits your offensive play-calling when you're backed up.
"By holding those guys back, pinning them back and keeping them back, it gave a lot more flexibility on offense in calling plays."
In the second quarter, Clemson's defense had a hand in setting up all four scoring drives. The longest distance the Tigers had to move was 46 yards for a touchdown.
Brian Mance intercepted a Duke pass at his own 39 and returned it to the Duke 4-yard line, setting up one of Travis Zachery's two touchdown runs of the day.
Duke scored nine points in the third quarter, marking the first time all season the Tigers defense had allowed an opponent to get on the board in the third quarter.
On the Tigers' first possession of the second half, a blocked punt in the end zone resulted in a Blue Devils safety.
Duke used that momentum to tack on another score late in the quarter, trimming Clemson's lead to 42-9.
Dantzler was especially critical of himself, even though he reeled off one of his more impressive runs of the year. Early in the second quarter, Dantzler broke key tackles on his way to a 34-yard touchdown run that gave the Tigers a 28-0 lead with 9:27 left in the half.
"I think I played probably the worst football I've played in my life today," Dantzler said. "I made too many mistakes. The first half, it was like I wasn't even there. It was so unreal. I made so many mistakes that halted drives; mistakes that I made cost us those drives, and I'm pretty upset with that right now."
The Blue Devils' 22 points are the most Clemson has allowed all season. The Tigers have outscored their first five opponents 238-48 and have yet to be tested.
"I thought Virginia was a good test, and even though Missouri didn't test us, they played Michigan State tough and look like they have a pretty good team," Bowden said. "We haven't had a fourth-quarter game yet, so we haven't been tested in that regard, but I think we've played some pretty good teams."
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216.