No. 3 Tigers battle past Eagles, 24-14

Defensive stands, sack-and-fumble touchdown keep Clemson unbeaten

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd celebrates after scoring a 6-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter against Boston College in the Tigers' 24-14 win over the Eagles.

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd celebrates after scoring a 6-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter against Boston College in the Tigers' 24-14 win over the Eagles.

Finally, no more not-looking-ahead for Clemson's third-ranked Tigers.

But first, a collective sigh of relief is in order.

Boston College gave Clemson all it wanted, and more, before the Tigers escaped their own lair, tested but still unbeaten, 24-14, on Saturday.

Clemson needed all the big-play defense and offensive perseverance and patience it could muster to finish off the dirty-work segment of its schedule, setting the stage for next Saturday's prime time showdown with also-unbeaten, sixth-ranked Florida State, which will arrive with ESPN's College GameDay in tow.

"If you're going to be a great team, you've got to win games like this," said Tiger coach Dabo Swinney. "Our defense was tremendous. We made them work hard for everything they got, and in the second half we took over in the trenches. We won the second half 21-7 and got to 6-0, and that's what we came to do."

It didn't come easy, as Swinney had warned his team it wouldn't.

"We expected exactly what we got from Boston College," said defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. "It was good for us to face some adversity and to overcome it. "

"They tested us," said running back Rod McDowell.

"It wasn't a matter of looking ahead at all," said wide receiver Adam Humphries. "We've not played a team that came out and challenged us like they did. To come on in the fourth quarter like we did, that's something we can build on."

The Tigers trailed 7-3 at the half, and were happy to be there.

During the first two quarters, they fumbled the ball four times, lost two, missed a chip-shot field goal, and muffed the hold on another.

They converted just two of nine third-down plays, and, until Rod McDowell broke free for a 32-yard run late in the half, averaged just 1.6 yards per rush against a defense that came in giving up more than 200 yards per game on the ground.

They experienced their first scoreless quarter of the season, and went scoreless on their first six possessions for the first time ever under offensive coordinator Chad Morris.

The Tigers ran 47 plays in the first half and rolled up 280 yards, but didn't score until Chandler Catanzaro booted a 35-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.

With the offense repeatedly misfiring, the Tigers leaned heavily on their defense to keep them in the game.

BC's Andre Williams, who entered the game as the nation's leading rusher, worked hard for his 43 yards on 13 first-half carries carries.

On the other side of the ball, Boston College exerted nearly constant pressure on Tajh Boyd, sending extra rushers from inside and outside on most plays, and being just disruptive enough to keep the Tigers on constantly shaky ground.

Clemson opened the game with 67-drive that included fumbles by Boyd and Zac Brooks, both of whom recovered the ball themselves, and ended when Catanzaro missed a 25-yard field goal, wide to the right. It snapped his string of 10 straight made field goals, and was his first miss from inside the 48-yard line in 28 tries.

After a fruitless Clemson possession and punt, the Eagles struck for the first half's only touchdown on with a 92-yard, 10-play, five and a half minute drive, capped by Myles Willis' 38-yard touchdown run against the offensive and defensive flow.

The Eagles took their time, twice converted third-down plays with play-action passes, and left the Death Valley crowd of 77,000 with a growing sense of unease.

The feeling only got worse as the first half progressed.

Twice the Tigers fumbled the ball away, a field goal chance slipped away when holder Corbin Jenkins bobbled the ball on Catanzaro's approach, and then Clemson let another chance go begging when McDowell was stopped just shy of the first-down marker on a third-and-six play inside the BC 30.

A three-and-out defensive stand gave the Tigers a final chance with 1:09 left in the half, and the offense finally cashed in by moving into position for a 35-yard field goal as time expired.

Swinney said the first half "was very frustrating" from an offensive standpoint.

"I told the guys not to press - to just keep playing," Swinney said. "They did - they showed a relentless will to win."

The game opened up in the second half with a back-to-back, quick-strike touchdown exchange that, at the time, seemed to do little to improve Clemson's situation.

On a second-down play from just inside BC territory, the Tigers apparently struck for a go-ahead score on a deep connection down the right sideline from Boyd to Bryant. A false start penalty against the Tigers nullified the touchdown however.

Clemson got the five yards back on a short pass from Boyd to Sam Cooper, and on third down went back to the well, this time with Boyd lofting the ball again down the right sideline to Watkins, who went hand to hand with a BC defender, gained separation, hauled in the pass and sprinted to the end zone, putting Clemson on top for the first time, 10-7.

"It was the exact same play," explained Watkins. "We just came back in a different formation and ran the same play."

The Tigers' lead lasted less than 20 seconds.

On a first-down play from his own 31, BC quarterback Chase Rettig fired deep for Alex Amidon, who ran past Clemson freshman safety Jayron Kearse for a 69-yard touchdown.

The game began to turn in Clemson's favor with a defensive stand. The Tigers pinned the Eagles back to their own seven with a 46-yard punt by Bradley Pinion, gave up a 17-yard run by Williams on the first play of the series, but then slammed the door.

Vic Beasley dropped Williams for a five-yard loss on second down, and third down - following a pair of false start penalties against BC - Garry Peters and Robert Smith again stopped Williams in the backfield, this time for a two-yard loss.

Nate Freese punted from his own end zone, and the Tigers took the ball at the BC 48 after Humphries' fair catch.

The Tigers converted a fourth-and-one with a four-yard run by McDowell, and then Boyd threw 19 yards to Stanton Seckinger, who leaped high over a BC defender to pull down the ball.

Three plays later, Boyd bulled his way into the end zone on a six-yard keeper, and the Tigers were back up by three, 17-14.

Then, fittingly, the defense provided some breathing room.

Corey Crawford and DeShawn Williams pressured Rettig into a first-down incompletion, and on second down, Smith and Stephone Anthony stopped Williams after a two-yard gain.

On a third-and-eight play from the 27, the Tigers pressured Rettig to his left, and linebacker Tony Steward broke through the pack and chased down Rettig, who lost the ball on the sack. Beasley picked up the fumble on the bounce and returned it 13 yards for a touchdown. Catanzaro's PAT made it 24-14 with 12:42 remaining.

"When I saw the ball, I thought 'Ah, yes!" Beasley said. "I've been waiting for this moment my whole career. It was my turn, I guess. The touchdown gave us a lot of momentum, and going back out there on defense put the crowd on our side."

The Tiger defense finished things off with three more late-game stops, and the offense ran out the clock inside the BC red zone.

Clemson finished with a 496-286 edge in total offense. The Tigers converted just four of 17 third-down plays, but held the Eagles to just three of 15.

Boyd completed 30 of 44 passes for 334 yards and one touchdown. Adam Humphries caught a career high nine passes for 81 yards, while Watkins had seven receptions for 101 yards.

McDowell led Clemson with 91 yards rushing, while BC's Williams finished with 70 - his second lowest total of the season - on 24 tries. He gained two yards or less on more than half his carries.

Clemson's Beasley was named as winner of the O'Roarke-McFadden leather helmet as MVP. He finished with five tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, a PBU and a fumble return for a touchdown.

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Comments » 4

brookesdad729 writes:

Beasley aka "Beastley" is da man babyyy! No sore ribs here boys! Go Tigers! This game scared me long before it was played and I believe this one woke us up! We'll be ready for Winston and company. He hasn't played against Clemson's D! Go Tigers! Beasley got dinged up a bit but it didn't phase him. He didn't take himself out of the game!He kept it coming babyyy!We're playing team ball now as a complete unit, not relying on the offense to score a 1000 points and pray that the other team scores 999. I love it!

clemvol writes:

Enjoy this win....for tonight only. Now its time to get busy. You've heard it so many times....IF YOU WANT TO BE THE BEST YOU BEAT THE BEST. Come on Tigers, this coming week, for every rep in practice foe every minute of practice, for every single play your are getting ready to play, with all your focus, with all your strength, for every snap of the ball give everything you have, then, another goal will be achieved. Nobody comes into Death Valley without taking a loss. It's time to get this done. Don't settle for nothing less. Get mean, get nasty, let the noles know who the man is.

TigerNE writes:

This is the second week in a row Dabo has had to thank our defense for the win. We need a more effective offense next week. I don't think we can rely on defense to win the game.

rsb8931#286014 writes:

We won.

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