Boston College came to Death Valley to take on a Clemson team that was left without its starting quarterback due to a coronavirus infection. As reported on this site, and everywhere else in the Clemson world, Trevor Lawrence tested positive for COVID-19, presumably on Wednesday. Fan expectations for the impact on today’s game were obvious when the majority of discussions focused not on Boston College, but on whether he would be able to play against Notre Dame. Hopefully the team would be focused on taking care of BC with talented freshman D.J. Uiagalelei at QB. The Tigers were also without several key defensive starters.
Clemson won the toss and deferred. BC started at their 26 and moved down to the Tiger 39 on a long pass. The Eagle offense continued to cut through the Tiger defense like a knife through hot butter, and scored with relative ease. With 13:08 left in the 1st quarter, BC led 7-0. Everyone was worried about Lawrence’s absence, but it was clear that not having James Skalski, Tyler Davis, and Mike Jones on defense was going to be a problem. Travis Etienne picked up a couple of yards on 1st down. D.J. hit Amari Rodgers on a nice throw to make it 3rd & 1, and then Etienne bulled ahead to get the 1st down at the 48. After a short Etienne gain, D.J. hit Cornell Powell for a 1st down. A pass interference penalty gave the Tigers 1st & 10 at the BC 35. The Eagles then blitzed, but D.J. picked it up quickly and hit Etienne in the flat, and he took it to the house. At 10:54, the score was tied 7-7.
The Eagles started at the 25 and continued their aerial onslaught with a long pass down to the Tiger 27. A stuffed run and an incomplete pass put BC at 3rd & 11. The Tigers appeared to have them stopped, but sloppy tackling let BC QB Phil Jurkovec get loose for the 1st down. One thing was obvious: Clemson’s DBs were doing a poor job of getting their heads around on long throws. A pass interference penalty put BC at the Tiger 2, and they ran it in from there. BC led 14-7 with 8:41 to go in the 1st quarter. I began to think that I had mistakenly tuned in to a Big 12 game. Lyn-J Dixon returned the kickoff to the Tiger 22. D.J. was making crisp throws underneath and moved the Tigers out near midfield. On 3rd & 6, though, D.J. was sacked. Will Spiers punted and the Tiger coverage was non-existent. BC returned it for an apparent TD, but a penalty, thankfully, brought it back. Where the hell was the Tiger football team?
BC had one nice pass completion but the Tiger defense finally forced a 3 & out. After the punt, Clemson had the ball at their 30. On 3rd down, D.J. threw a strike to Powell for a 1st down. A chop block penalty followed by an incomplete pass made it 2nd & 25. A nice slant throw to E.J. Williams picked up 9 to set up 3rd & 16. D.J. then threw an absolute strike to Rodgers across the middle to move the chains. Etienne picked up 5 on 1st down and a substitution penalty on BC penalty gave the Tigers a 1st down at the BC 40. Etienne took it outside and got to the Eagle 29 as the 1st quarter ended. D.J. looked for Powell in the end zone on his second read and BC was called for pass interference. A couple of Etienne runs moved the ball to the 2, 1st & goal. Two Etienne runs made it 3rd & goal from the 1. Then disaster struck. D.J. and Etienne fumbled the exchange and BC scooped and scored from 97 yards out. It looked to me like Etienne was too anxious to get the ball and reached for it instead of letting D.J. put in the breadbasket. Best team in the country? The Tigers weren’t even the best team on the field at this point.
Dixon took the kickoff out to the 21. Gaining a few yards on the 1st two downs, D.J. hit Etienne down the sideline to move into BC territory. He then connected with Powell to the Eagle 23. On 3rd & 10, D.J. scrambled and got the ball to Powell but not enough for the 1st down. B.T. Potter came in and hit a 33-yard FG. BC led 21-10 with 8:44 to go in the half. Clemson’s defense needed a good series to turn the momentum back in the right direction. BC started at the 25 after the touchback and the Tigers forced 3rd & 12. Despite getting decent pressure on the QB, the Tigers let the BC TE make the catch for the 1st down. Clemson got BC to 3rd down and put good pressure on the QB. Nolan Turner appeared to get an interception, but offsetting holding and roughing the passer penalties gave BC another chance, and they took advantage of it, converting the 1st down. BC kept moving and got to the Tiger 32. Clemson got BC to 4th & 2 and the Eagles lined up to attempt a FG, and I was thinking, “Be careful.” BC shifted into an offensive formation and true to today’s form, the Tigers jumped offside. BC then went for the jugular and got it with a TD strike. With a minute left in the half, Clemson was down 28-10. No two ways about it, BC was kicking Clemson’s ass up and down the field.
D.J. and Powell moved the Tigers down the field but eventually got to 4th & 10. Potter came in and kicked a 50-yard FG to hopefully give the Tigers a little momentum going into halftime, trailing 28-13. D.J. had played well, with his only issue appearing to be throwing outs to his left. Having coached QBs for a few years, I can tell you that young QBs with strong arms often have this problem. It’s a long throw and they tend to overestimate the juice needed. D.J. wasn’t the problem. The problem was the Tiger defense. Could Brent Venables make adjustments to shut down the Eagle offense?
Etienne returned the 2nd half kickoff out to the Tiger 44. A short run and an incomplete pass, gave the Tigers 3rd & 7. D.J. hit Powell over the middle to pick up the 1st down at the Eagle 39. Clearly the D.J. to Powell connection was working, as they connected for 8 on 1st down. Two plays later it was 3rd & 3. D.J. ran the ball but came up about a yard short. Clemson went for it on 4th and D.J made a beautiful read on the defensive end on a read option to take it to the end zone. BC was up 28-20 at 11:38 in the 3rd quarter. Now we would see what the Tiger defense had figured out at halftime. A few plays in, BC fumbled but recovered it when Trenton Simpson tried to pick it up and run it rather than just getting on the ball. Holding on BC was called on the play, and two plays later they punted. A turnover would have been a big momentum builder. Instead, Clemson got the ball at their 36.
Two plays in, D.J. hit Etienne with a perfect throw down to the Eagle 20. On the next play, he almost had Rodgers in the end zone but the ball bounced off his hands. A pass to Powell and a D.J. run gave the Tigers 1st & goal from the 8. He then threw another strike, hitting Rodgers with a back-shoulder throw for the score. Clemson went for 2, but couldn’t convert it. BC led 28-26 with 6:16 left in the 3rd quarter. Clemson’s defense was doing reasonably well, but a holding penalty by K.J. Henry on 2nd & 27 was simply awful. The Tigers eventually forced 4th & 7 and the punt was covered at the Tiger 1. The Tigers finally got a break when BC was called for an illegal shift. The Tigers just couldn’t get a break though, as the punt was covered inside the 5. But BC committed a hold, and on the return Rodgers took the punt to the 19, but a block in the back by the Tigers pushed them back 10 yards.
A pass to Rodgers and a pitch to Etienne moved the ball out to the 36. A few plays later Etienne converted a 4th & 1 to move the ball into BC territory. Clemson moved into the red zone with Etienne and Powell catches plus a roughing the passer penalty. Etienne capped off the drive with a 17-yard run to put the Tigers up on the Eagles for the first time. The Tigers were going to go for two, but after a false start and nearly getting a delay of game penalty they changed their minds and went for the kick. Potter doinked it off the right upright. The score was 32-28 Clemson with 11:34 left. Now more than ever, Clemson needed a big series from their defense. Derion Kendrick got beat but the BC receiver couldn’t haul it in. He had gotten beat earlier and didn’t look like he was playing his normal game. But the defense forced a 3 & out, and Clemson took over at their 29.
Incomplete passes and a penalty led to a 3 & out for the Tigers. Spiers’ punt took a great roll down to the Eagle 9. The Eagles were moving with their run game, but Xavier Thomas got a 1st down sack. On the next play Baylon Spector got an interception, but it was called back when the X-Man committed an incredibly stupid targeting foul while roughing the passer. BC kept the ball at their 43. Three plays later, Andrew Booth made a great tackle to keep BC from getting a 1st down. BC went for it on 4th & 3 from midfield. The backup QB hit his TE for just enough to move the chains. The Tiger defense put BC at 4th & 9 and the Eagles went for it. It looked like BC was going for the kill, but the deep pass sailed way past the receiver and the Tigers took over on downs.
Clemson wasn’t able to run out the clock and punted down to the BC 4. Bryan Bresee got to the QB in the end zone and forced him to commit intentional grounding. Since it occurred in the end zone, it was ruled a safety. Clemson led 34-28 at the 1:18 mark. BC went for the onside kick, but the Tigers covered it and ran out the clock in the Victory formation.
The game was definitely a tale of two halves, and the Tigers were lucky to come away with a win. Yes, Clemson was down a few important starters, but the play was way too sloppy in all three aspects of the game today. Coming into the game, everyone was focused on how the offense would do without Lawrence, but let me tell you this Tiger fans, D.J. Uiagalelei is the real deal and played very well today. He’s not (yet) at Trevor’s level, but he’s close enough that I’m not worried about the offense if Trevor goes down. The defense, on the other hand, has some work to do if Clemson is to be the best team in the country at the end of the year. Let’s hear what you think in the comments section below. Next week the Tigers travel to South Bend to take on Notre Dame. As always, we’ll have complete coverage of today’s game and previews of the clash with the Irish next week. Thanks for stopping by.