CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Cade Klubnik was pleased to feel like himself and see Clemson play free and easy. It came just in time with powerhouse No. 3 Florida State looming a week from now.
Klubnik threw for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth as the Tigers (2-1) came out fast in a 48-14 victory over Florida Atlantic on Saturday night.
Klubnik threw for 169 yards including touchdowns of 30 and 2 yards to freshman receiver Tyler Brown. More important, Klubnik had no turnovers after having an interception and a fumble in each of the first two games.
“Felt great,” Klubnik said. “In control the whole game, it felt like we played like us.”
And on both sides of the ball as cornerback Nate Wiggins with a pick-6 return of 46 yards on the Owls' opening series.
Clemson never let up after that and held the Owls scoreless until Michael Johnson Jr.'s 2-yard TD run with 12:07 left in the game.
The showing against Florida Atlantic (1-2) came at the right moment with Clemson seeking momentum to carry into its showdown here next week with No. 3 Florida State.
“It's going to be a heck of a game,” Klubnik said with a smile. “They have a great team. We're going to enjoy this for about 24 hours then it's on to the next.”
The Owls, in their first season in the American Athletic Conference, showed some fire before the game, gathering at midfield on Death Valley's paw logo to the boos of the crowd.
Coach Tom Herman said no disrespect was intended: That's how the team ends all its pre-game warmups, be it home or away.
Still, any swagger ended at kickoff. Four plays in, Clemson's Wiggins broke in front of quarterback Casey Thompson's pass downfield and zig-zagged his way to the end zone.
Klubnik went 5-of-5 on the Tigers' first possession, the last a commanding throw to Brown for a 30-yard touchdown and a 13-0 lead.
Thompson's second interception of the opening period led to Klubnik's second scoring pass, 7 yards to tight end Jake Briningstool.
Klubnik, who ran for 35 yards, bulled into the end zone for a final first-half touchdown from a yard out and a 34-0 lead.
“I thought Cade played his best game. We had zero offensive turnovers for the first time this year,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “Really proud of that.”
Thompson, the Nebraska transfer who's started all three games for the Owls, took a hard, high hit in the second quarter and spent several minutes on the turf surrounded by trainers. He eventually got to his feet and walked, albeit unsteadily and with plenty of help, to the sidelines. Thompson, who came out in street clothes for the second half, did not return to play.
Tom Herman, Florida Atlantic coach, said it was too early to know if or how long Thompson might be out. “Obviously, significant enough for him not to return,” Herman said. “It would be premature for me to comment without (him) getting an MRI.”
LaJohntay Wester had game highs of 12 catches and 108 yards receiving for Florida Atlantic.
Florida Atlantic: The Owls were out of this one quickly. They ran for just 83 yards, made just two of their first 14 third downs and had four turnovers. At least Florida Atlantic took away a $1.2 million guarantee for its first trip to Clemson since 2006.
Clemson: The Tigers opportunity, perhaps its last one, to get back in the ACC and national title discussion comes next week against the Seminoles. As crisp as Clemson looked against Florida Atlantic, it will have to up its game even more against dynamic Florida State.
TIGER MARKY MARK
Movie star Mark Wahlberg was in Clemson this weekend — his daughter attends the university and it was Family Weekend — and spent plenty of time around the football team. He met with players, worked out in the weight room and came to the game. “He said he's going to be pulling for us all the way to Houston,” said Klubnik, who had a selfie taken with Wahlberg. Houston is the site of the national championship game.
Florida Atlantic continues its Power Five excursion, playing at Illinois of the Big Ten Conference on Saturday.
Clemson has an ACC showdown at home against No. 3 Florida State on Saturday.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll