Coming off of an impressive victory over a previously unbeaten Louisville team, the Tigers’ offense struggled early Saturday afternoon to get the ball moving as the Eagles’ front seven proved to be a tough matchup. As a strictly defensive game to start, this may have been the Tigers’ worst offensive outing of the season to begin a game. Quarterback Kelly Bryant was forced to evade defenders with his legs from the start as the Eagles did a terrific job at keeping him under duress. Throughout the Tigers’ first three offensive drives, the Eagles did not allow them to cross midfield, and it was not until a 13 play, 96-yard drive capped by an 11-yard Bryant run with 5:56 in the 1st quarter that Clemson had got on the scoreboard.
The Eagles had Bryant struggling through the air. However, they could not keep the Tigers’ quarterback from beating them with his mobility as he kept pounding the ball through the Eagles’ stout defense looking for a spark on offense. This Eagles defense fared pretty well in the beginning against a Clemson offense that is ranked #3 in the ACC and allowed only 91 passing yards through the first three-quarters. As the game progressed, it proved to be a smart decision for Clemson to stick to the run as the Tigers successfully managed the ball and the clock from then on. The Tigers controlled the ball for about 10 minutes longer than the Eagles with a time possession of 34:56, and they were only four yards shy of having double the total yardage the Eagles had.
The Tigers ran the ball 25 times for 162 yards, Bryant was their leading rusher through the first two-quarters with 79 yards on 13 carries, which was more than he had through the air, only attaining 67 passing yards on 10 completions. Unfortunately, two interceptions and a costly fumble by Bryant hindered Clemson’s chances of capitalizing on their early lead, and the offense was stagnant from then on until the fourth quarter began.
Bryant completed 17 of 26 passes for 140 yards and added 106 yards rushing on 22 carries with two touchdowns for the game. While he did have two interceptions, one of them was tipped off of WR Hunter Renfrow’s hands as the offense just wasn’t firing how they were supposed to. Bryant took control with his footwork and his ability to extend the play created much more opportunities considering how he was constantly under pressure.
Tigers running back Travis Etienne added nine carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns, and the team as a whole rushed 58 times for 342 yards and five touchdowns. When one scheme did not work, the Tigers plowed their way through the Eagles strongest attribute and imposed their will on a great defense. Clemson scored 27 points in the last 12 minutes of the fourth quarter and tallied up a total of 342 rushing yards.
When asked after the game if there were any adjustments made specifically for the fourth quarter, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney responded. “I told them to just keep playing and wear them down. Eventually, we will get the momentum going for the running game, and we started to complement each other really well. I feel like throughout these last four games, our players have been battle-tested, and they will only keep getting better.”
The Eagles played a great game, on one side of the ball. Defensively they were making all of the right stops and holding Clemson to minor yardage. Safety Lukas Denis led the way with 13 tackles and an interception. Eventually, the defense ran out of gas midway through the 4th quarter, and things started to go down hill for BC.
Offensively, the Eagles were not present as their lone touchdown came off of a goal-line run by true-freshman running back A.J. Dillon. Eagles redshirt-freshman quarterback Anthony Brown struggled against the Tigers pass rush. Brown had to make many desperation throws as he finished 14 of 30 passing for only 133 yards and an interception to go with it.
The Eagles defense was keeping the Tigers at bay, but not long enough. They could not get the ball moving on offense and had only 238 total yards, which was 96 yards less than the amount Clemson had in just rushing. Sitting at 1-3, Boston College may be facing an uphill battle offensively as the defense did all it could.
After the game, Boston College head coach Steve Addazio tried to put the focus on the positives in the game. “I’d really like to focus on what we did in the belly of the game,” the fifth-year head coach said. “We took this team, the No. 2 ranked team in the country (Clemson), and we took them late into the fourth quarter and our kids played their tails off. That is the story line of the game.”
Boston College will look to regroup when they host Central Michigan next Saturday in Chestnut Hill. Clemson will look to keep their undefeated season intact when they travel to Blacksburg, VA, for a rematch of last year’s ACC Championship against Virginia Tech.