Clemson faces first test without Lawrence vs. Boston College

Dabo Swinney gives instructions to players during a game against Syracuse on October 24, 2020.
Dabo Swinney gives instructions to players during a game against Syracuse on October 24, 2020.(Ken Ruinard)
Published: Oct. 31, 2020 at 1:34 AM EDT
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CLEMSON, S.C. (WIS) - Before Halloween, one of the scariest things Clemson fans could have possibly imagined was being without their star quarterback for a game.

Trevor Lawrence hasn’t missed a start since being named the starter ahead of the Tigers' game against Syracuse on September 29, 2018. On Saturday, Clemson will be without Lawrence after testing positive for COVID-19 when the Tigers host Boston College.

Without Lawrence available, the Eagles will look to win their first game against Clemson since 2010. However, there may not be much of a dropoff from a talent perspective at the quarterback position. Freshman DJ Uiagalelei will likely get the start for the Tigers in Lawrence’s absence. In five games, the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Uiagalelei is 12-of-19 passing for 102 yards. Even with Lawrence out for Saturday’s contest, the Tigers' offense still possesses the ability to put up points in a hurry. This year, Clemson has outscored opponents 93-7 in the opening quarter leaving teams in a less than desirable position moving forward.

“You’ve got to try to stop them,” said Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley. “That’s the name of the game on defense. They have great players and they’re very well-coached. Coach (Tony) Elliott does a good job schematically with what he has. I think it’s more than just the players. He’s a really good coach. They have the ability to run the football, run the quarterback, throw the football down the field their [run-pass option] game, their screen game...they have it all and they’re really good at everything.”

Stopping offenses, however, has been a tall order for most teams who face Clemson. The Tigers average just over 48 points per game. However, the Eagles have been pretty decent on defense this year. BC allows just 25 points per game to their opponents. They hope to have similar success on Saturday.

“I think Coach Tem [Lukabu] has put together a great plan with our defensive staff,” Hafley said, “and we’re going to continue to work on doing the best we can down there. I’m excited for the challenge.”

As explosive as the Tigers have been on offense, they’ve been nearly equally as stingy on defense. Clemson has surrendered an average of 13.5 points per game to opponents despite missing key players on that side of the ball each week.

“It’s just our preparation and guys stepping up and being ready and I think that’s one of those silver linings,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Our defense is not easy. There’s a lot of moving parts and, sometimes, it may take a little longer for some guys to grab a hold of, but all of those Zoom meetings from March through July when normally we would not be able to meet and talk ball with our players, I think it’s a reflection of that.”

This week, the Clemson defense will look to stop BC quarterback Phil Jurkovec. The 6-foot-5, 228-pound redshirt sophomore has completed 64% of his passes for 1,671 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 109 yards and three touchdowns for the Eagles.

“He’s their second-leading rusher,” Swinney pointed out. “He’s a crafty guy. He’s not the kid from Miami and not the kid from Virginia as far as just straight out speed, but man, he’s so hard to get on the ground. He’s a big, strong body. He’s crafty, he can create, he can extend, adn these guys probably do as good a job as anybody with their scramble rules at receiver and they make a bunch of competitive plays.”

Should the Tigers come away with the victory, it would be their 10th consecutive win over the Eagles.

Clemson will host Boston College on Saturday at noon. Check your local listings for more information.

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