CHESTNUT HILL — Facing the second-ranked team in the country was a big enough mountain to climb on its own. Losing its starting quarterback left Boston College practically no chance Saturday night.
After knocking out Anthony Brown on the first offensive series of the game, the No. 2 Clemson Tigers wore down No. 17 Boston College, held the Eagles to just 113 yards of total offense and prevailed 27-7 Saturday night at sold out Alumni Stadium. The game was the end of a remarkable day of festivities on campus as ESPN’s College Game Day show originated from Stokes Lawn and the pregame introductions and halftime featured extravagant pyrotechnic displays.
Star running back A.J. Dillon was held to just 39 yards on 16 carries and also appeared to be injured late in the fourth quarter, as the Tigers defense repeated their effort of 2017 when they stacked the box and eventually pulled away for a 34-7 win. BC was outgained 424-113 in total yards and gained just eight first downs all night.
While Clemson’s road survival Saturday may not have left No. 1 Alabama shaking in their boots, they did manage to do enough to likely stay in the runner-up spot when the rankings are released on Monday. They also clinch the Atlantic Division title in the ACC and a berth in the ACC Championship Game Dec. 1 in Charlotte, N.C. Clemson came in averaging 55 points in its previous four wins, including last week’s 77-16 romp over Louisville. Saturday’s 20-point win was actually Clemson’s third-closest game of the season.
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) November 11, 2018
Boston College suffered its first home loss of the season in six tries, with one remaining on Nov. 24 against No. 13 Syracuse. The Eagles are now 7-3 and 4-2 in the ACC, with a road game next week at Florida State and a regular season finale against the Orange.
The first half featured several bizarre plays and one game-changing injury. Boston College showed early on that they could hang with the No. 2 team in the country.
After Trevor Lawrence connected on a 41-yard pass down the left side to Travis Etienne down to the BC 18, the Eagles red zone defense stiffened and held the Tigers to a 30-yard Greg Huegel field goal and a 3-0 lead.
Boston College tried everything conceivable to catch the No. 2 Tigers off guard, including coming out in no huddle and hurry-up formations.
But on BC’s first possession of the game, they lost their starting quarterback for the game when All-Amercian defensive lineman Christian Wilkins broke through on third down, pressured and landed on Anthony Brown. He was hunched over on his knees for several minutes as training staff tended to him. He was ruled out with an unspecified injury as EJ Perry from Andover took over at quarterback.
Boston College’s first sellout crowd since the Notre Dame game in 2017 was rewarded with an electrifying 74-yard punt return from Michael Walker that gave BC its only lead of the first half, 7-3.
But Clemson responded with its only touchdown drive of the first half, and needed a 4th-down conversion to complete it. Facing a 4th-and-goal from the BC 2, Trevor Lawrence threw a pass to his wide open tight end Milan Richard in the back of the end zone.
BC’s defense was the star of the show for most of the first half. Despite being outgained 260-24 in the first half, the Eagles held the Tigers to 3-of-9 on third down and just 1-of-3 in the red zone.
Perry was held to 3-of-5 for 17 yards. And following his first completion of the night for 17 yards to Kobay White, the next snap sailed through Perry’s hands for a loss of 32 yards back to the BC 26. BC would eventually lose seven more yards and face a 4th-and-49 from their 19. On the punt, BC caught a huge break when Amari Rogers called for a fair catch at the Clemson 44. Taj-Amir Torres appeared to clearly interfere with Rogers’ ability to catch the ball but the ball was muffed and Rogers recovered the ball at the Clemson 42.
But BC could do nothing with the momentum, as they were called for holding on the first play from scrimmage after the muff. BC punted away and gave Clemson the ball at their 10. They drove down the field to the BC 42 but poor clock management allowed the Eagles to get off the field without allowing another point and head to the locker room down just 13-7 despite Clemson holding an overwhelming advantage in nearly every category.
BC went 3-and-out to start the second half and Clemson needed just three plays to march 64 yards for its second touchdown. Travis Etienne opened the drive with a rush of 25 yards. The key play was a Lawrence-to-Hunter Renfrow connection of 33 yards to the BC 6. On the next play, Lawrence ran into the end zone untouched for a touchdown and a 20-7 Clemson lead with 12:12 left in the third quarter.
Watch him scoot!
The punt return for TD by Rodgers was Clemson’s first since Ray-Ray McCloud returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown against NC State on Nov. 4, 2017https://t.co/L3LcOUi84A
— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) November 11, 2018
With BC struggling to find any rhythm on offense, Clemson salted the game away with an Amari Rodgers punt return of 58 yards for a touchdown and a 27-7 lead with 11:39 left in the fourth quarter.