CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson, in dire need of a game that would get its offense untracked, got that and more Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers scored a school-record 31 points in the first quarter and cruised to a 59-0 victory against South Carolina State at Memorial Stadium.
"It's hard to play 92 guys and still get the shutout," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "I don't care who you're playing. I'm proud of our guys. They played a clean game for four quarters today. It was great for our team, our spirit and our morale."
Clemson, which slipped to No. 5 in the most recent Associated Press poll following a close win against Troy, left nothing to chance against the FCS Bulldogs, scoring early and often in improving to 3-0.
Clemson led 45-0 at halftime, matching the largest halftime margin in school history, and Swinney and S.C. State coach Buddy Pough agreed to shorten the final two quarters from 15 to 12 minutes.
That offered some relief for the visiting Bulldogs (0-3), who lost their third straight game against an FBS opponent to open the season. S.C. State managed only 102 yards and nine first downs.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson guided the Tigers to touchdowns on their first two possessions of the game to set the tone. Watson hooked up with Ray Ray McCloud for a 7-yard touchdown and running back Wayne Gallman capped the second drive with a 3-yard run for a 14-0 lead.
Sophomore safety Denzel Johnson recovered a fumble in the S.C. State end zone on the ensuing kickoff, then backup quarterback Nick Schuessler found freshman receiver Diondre Overton behind the secondary for a 45-yard touchdown on the first reception of Overton's career to push the lead to 28-0.
Kicker Greg Huegel added a 36-yard field goal for a 31-0 lead by quarter's end and the Tigers substituted liberally from there on both sides of the ball.
"I was concerned that Clemson had not played that well on offense and was afraid at what might happen," S.C. State's Pough said. "I knew that was a bad sign.
"Things didn't go as well as we would have liked, but one thing we can take away from this experience is that this will prepare us for our conference (the MEAC)."
Watson came back in to throw a 36-yard touchdown pass to McCloud on the first drive of the second quarter, then added a 17-yard scoring toss to Deon Cain before exiting for good having completed 12-of-15 attempts for 152 yards and three touchdowns.
Backup quarterbacks Nick Schuessler and Kelly Bryant also had touchdown passes and 15 different players caught at least one pass for the Tigers.
Freshman running back Tavien Feaster had 83 yards rushing on 12 carries to lead a Clemson ground game that amassed 227 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per attempt.
S.C. State was held scoreless for the second time this season. Bulldogs quarterback Caleb York completed 8 of 22 passes for 54 yards with an interception while Labron Morris led S.C. State in rushing with 41 yards on 12 attempts.
Linebacker Darius Leonard, an FCS All-American last season, totaled 19 tackles, including eight solo stops and a tackle for loss.
"We have traveled all over the world, we have made a few bucks and now we have it behind us," said Pough, whose team opened with road losses at Central Florida and Louisiana Tech. "We knew why we did it, and let's hope that it has us ready to play on our level."
The Bulldogs will open MEAC play at Florida A&M on Saturday.
Clemson's victory extended its school-record home winning streak to 18 consecutive games. The Tigers haven't lost at Memorial Stadium since a 51-14 loss to Florida State on Oct. 19, 2013.
Clemson, which opens Atlantic Coast Conference play at Georgia Tech Thursday night, improved to 31-0 against FCS opponents, winning 30 of the 31 games by double digits.
"I'm glad that we're 3-0," Swinney said. "The 'preseason' is over now. Our next goal is to win the division. We have eight straight conference games and we have a quick turnaround this week and we have a lot of work to do to get ready for Georgia Tech."
NOTES: Clemson has been ranked in the top five in the nation in 11 consecutive AP polls, the longest active streak in the nation. ...WR Artavis Scott passed Jacoby Ford to move into 10th place on Clemson's career receiving yards list with 1,995. ...Clemson LB Kendall Joseph is averaging 2.5 tackles for loss, the eighth-best total in the nation. ...S.C. State LB Darius Leonard, the team's leading tackler, is the brother of former Clemson linebacker Anthony Waters. ...WR Lynard Jamison leads S.C. State this season with 11 receptions for 116 yards. ...S.C. State coach Buddy Pough has led the Bulldogs to a 112-52 record in 15 seasons.