This week the Clemson Tigers will embark on their first (and this season, only) invasion of the North in the expanded Atlantic Coast Conference, as they attempt to ground the Eagles and lay siege to Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Since the Boston Red Sox plummeted to the cellar of the AL East and finished well out of the playoff picture at 71-91 and twenty five games behind the division-champion Baltimore Orioles, the Boston Bruins are away at the Buffalo Sabres, and the Boston Celtics don't tip off the regular season for another week-and-a-half, there might actually be some semblance of a crowd on hand-in what will probably be for most of them their first college football game-when the Tigers and Eagles square off.
Boston College head coach Steve Addazio survived his first season with the Eagles despite nearly blowing a gasket on the sidelines almost every time out.
Seriously, this guy makes Dabo look lethargic and uninspired. Next to him Chad Morris seems cool, calm, and collected, and Brent Venables appears meek and mild. But that intensity has seemingly paid dividends, as he has the 2014 Eagles playing their best ball since Matty Ice graduated to the NFL, so we should be in for another anxiety-ridden affair on Chestnut Hill come Saturday.
Clemson and Boston College have a somewhat-surprisingly long history that dates back to the 1940 Cotton Bowl Classic, when Banks McFadden and the Tigers upset Charley O'Rourke and the Eagles 6-3 in what Frank Howard would likely have described as a "barnburner-so ugly it made me wanna burn my own barn." The two teams played sporadically but frequently between 1940 and 1960, but did not play again until 1982-1983 (the Doug Flutie years), and then had another hiatus until 2005, when they began to meet every year as ACC Atlantic Division rivals. The Tigers hold a 12-9-2 all-time record against the Eagles, but their record sits at just 7-6-1 away from Death Valley (1-0 in Dallas, TX; 4-2-1 in Boston, MA; 2-4 in Chestnut Hill, MA). Following' BC's entry into the ACC in 2005, and three nail-biters between the two new ACC rivals (the Matt Ryan years), the Boston College Gridiron Club decided in 2008 to fan the rivalry's flames and tout its illustrious history by awarding the winning team of the Clemson-Boston College game the O'Rourke-McFadden Trophy and rewarding the MVP of the game a replica leather helmet.
Since that time, Clemson has dominated the series and taken home the hardware and the helmet with a 5-1 mark.
Given this history and the location of the 2014 matchup in Chestnut Hill, this week we'll gaze back at three Tiger victories away from Clemson and Memorial stadium. The first has to be the 1940 Cotton Bowl Classic that in many ways put Clemson College football on the national map. The other two are far more recent, because most of Clemson's success in Chestnut Hill has been recently attained. The 2008 victory was Dabo Swinney's first as interim head coach of the Tiger program, while the 2012 win gave the Tigers their first road win en route to a stellar 11-2 season.
Clemson had finished the 1939 regular season at 8-1 (4-0 SoCon) and even broke into the national polls at #12 by season's end, earning them a spot in the 1940 Cotton Bowl Classic against Boston College, who came in at 9-1 and #11 in the polls. Ironically, both teams almost missed out the bowl season. The Cotton Bowl had initially extended its invitations to undefeated Texas A&M, who turned them down for the Sugar Bowl, and undefeated Tennessee, who turned them down for the Rose Bowl. Luckily supporters from both Boston College and Clemson College flooded the Cotton Bowl with telegrams, and the bowl authorities decided to pit Clemson and BC rather than cancel the game altogether.
The game itself was a classic defensive struggle. Head Coach Jess Neely's Tigers, led by QB Charlie Timmons and HB Banks McFadden, squared off against Head Coach Frank Leahy's Eagles, who were captained by HB Charley O'Rourke. Both offenses moved the ball at times but couldn't find the end zone, and special teams accounted for much of the game's early action. On the final play of the first quarter, Charley O'Rourke returned a punt 27yds to the Clemson 13-yard line, but the Eagles settled for a 36yd field goal from kicker Alex Lukachik to take an 3-0 lead early in the second quarter. An exchange of punts eventually led to the game's only offensive scoring drive midway through the second quarter. Clemson began the drive with good field position at its own 43-yard line, and rode the legs of Charlie Timmons and Banks McFadden down to the Boston College one, where Timmons bulled through the line for six. Shad Bryant missed the extra point, but the damage had been done, and the Tigers took a 6-3 lead that would turn out to be the final score.
Clemson was led by Timmons, who tallied 115yds rushing on twenty-seven carries, complemented by McFadden's 33yds on six carries, who also punted six times for a 42.6yd average, a key statistic in the defensive slugfest. The Tiger defense held Boston College to just 4/23 passing for 72yds and forced an interception. They also limited O'Rourke to just 41yds on the ground, and kept the Eagles out of the end zone all afternoon.
Since the final polls were issued before the bowl season in the old days, Clemson at 9-1 and BC at 9-2 remained in their respective poll positions after the game. Frank Leahy would lead the Eagles to an undefeated national championship season the following year, winning the Sugar Bowl to go 11-0. Clemson would lose head coach Jess Neely to the Rice Owls of the Southwest Conference before the following season, which began the legendary career of new head coach Frank Howard, who would lead the Clemson football program for the next thirty years, retiring in after the 1969 season with an overall record of 165-118-12 with eight conference championships to his credit.
In 2008, Clemson was in the midst of a tumultuous season. They started the year with a dismal defeat to Alabama 34-10 in the Georgia Dome, and limped to a 3-3 start, with the only credible win coming in week three against lowly NC State. Head coach Tommy Bowden resigned after a 12-7 loss to Wake Forest in Winston-Salem in week six, and Dabo Swinney was appointed interim head coach the following week. Under Swinney, the Tigers lost to GA Tech in Death Valley the week before traveling up to Chestnut Hill to take on the Boston College Eagles under head coach Jeff Jagodzinski. The Tigers jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead thanks to two early scores by RB James Davis and QB Cullen Harper and a stiff defensive effort. However, Clemson squandered its lead in the third quarter, as BC roared back with twenty-one unanswered points to take a 21-17 lead. It was then that star RB CJ Spiller took over for the Tigers, taking off on a 57yd scamper that set up one touchdown, and hitting the seam for a 64yd kickoff return that set up another touchdown. All told Spiller compiled 105yds receiving on six catches (a school record for a running back), 55yds on just eight carries on the ground, and the pivotal 64yd kickoff return en route to 242 all-purpose yards in the game. Davis chipped in with another 52yds and a score on the ground, while Cullen Harper aired it out for 252yds and a crucial touchdown toss to WR Aaron Kelly, but threw three costly interceptions that had assisted Boston College in hanging around and coming back. But in the end Spiller proved the difference in the game, and the Tigers triumphed 27-21.
Boston College finished the year 9-5 (5-3 ACC) and claimed the Atlantic Division crown, only to lose the ACC Championship Game 30-12 to Virginia Tech, which they then followed up with a 16-14 loss to Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl to end the season unranked. Clemson ended the year 7-6 (4-4), but went 4-3 under Swinney to close out the season, losing 26-21 to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl to finish unranked in the final polls. That finish and the bowl appearance was enough to earn Swinney the permanent head coaching job, and began an upward trend in the progression of the Clemson football program that has continued into the present.
In 2012, Dabo Swinney's Tigers reaped the benefits of those difficult early lessons, coming off the program's first ACC title in twenty years in 2011 and entering the Boston College game at 3-1 and #17 in the country. Boston College came in at 1-2 and unranked under fourth-year head coach Frank Spaziani. The Tigers put on an offensive clinic in this one, compiling 576 total yards (367 passing, 209 rushing), but the defense proved equally adept at giving up yards and points to the Eagles, who amassed 420 total yards (369 through the air) in the shootout. Clemson was led by QB Tajh Boyd's 28/38 for 367yds and 3tds passing and eleven carries for 42yds and another score on the ground, RB Andre Ellington's twenty-five carries for 132yds and a score. But the true offensive star was WR Deandre "Nuk" Hopkins, who hauled in eleven receptions for a then-school-record 197yds and a touchdown. Despite this offensive production, however, the game was a back-and-forth affair thanks to Eagles QB Chase Rettig's 341yds and three tds passing and WR Alex Amidon's eight catches for 193yds and two scores. In the end, though, the Clemson offense proved more potent that its defense was porous, and the Tigers prevailed 45-31.
Boston College struggled to a 2-10 finish and ended the season unranked. Clemson, meanwhile, rode the momentum all the way to an 11-2 season, which was capped off by the Peach Bowl 25-24 thriller over LSU in the Georgia Dome. It was the program's first back-to-back ten-win seasons since the late 80s/early 90s, and the first ever back-to-back eleven-win seasons.
For the complete game, click here.
In 2014, both teams come in at 4-2, having lost one conference game apiece, and both lean on stout defenses. Offensively, however, the teams are polar opposites, especially since the Tigers have lost freshman phenom Deshaun Watson to a broken finger. The Eagles have ridden a punishing running game, led by Florida-transfer QB Tyler Murphy, en route to 315yds rushing per game, while the Tigers have struggled to maintain anything resembling a consistent ground attack with Cole Stoudt
under center in shotgun. We'll see if Clemson can improve its ground game and maintain anything close to its league-leading passing proficiency to keep the chains moving and put enough points on the board to soar over the Eagles for a win.