No. 1 Tigers survive early surge to defeat Boston College

Updated: Oct. 31, 2020 at 6:58 PM EDT
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CLEMSON, S.C. (WIS) - Things got a little spooky for Clemson on Halloween on Saturday, but the Tigers ultimately treated their fans to a sweet victory.

Behind a masterful first start by DJ Uiagalelei, a record-breaking effort by Travis Etienne, and a second-half shutout by the defense, the top-ranked Tigers rallied to defeat Boston College 34-28, capturing the largest comeback ever at Death Valley.

“Just want to congratulate Boston College,” said Swinney following Saturday’s game. "What an awesome job they did. You noticed the guys played their tails off. Jeff [Hafley] had them ready to play. They played a really, really, really hard-fought game and I knew they would. I told our team this week I thought this was the best team we’d play to this point. You could see the confidence in them.

“Those guys played hard, but it’s all about our team and our guys and I’m just so proud of them. What you saw today is uncommon. We talked about being uncommon. What you saw today is not the normal. It is uncommon and it is the epitome of team and, to be honest with you, what I saw was inspiring.”

Boston College came out firing early. Behind the play of Jurkovec, the Eagles marched down the field 74 yards in four plays with Jurkovec tossing an 11-yard touchdown pass to Zay Flowers putting BC ahead 7-0 with 13:08 to go in the first quarter.

Clemson immediately responded. DJ Uiagalelei threw his first career touchdown pass to Travis Etienne. The 35-yard touchdown tied it 7-7 and gave Etienne the record for most consecutive games with a touchdown (42).

“That touchdown to Etienne when they blitzed [DJ], that was unbelievable,” Swinney said. “That was an amazing play by that veteran running back and a young quarterback.”

The Eagles regained the lead with 8:44 to go in the quarter. BC continued to remain aggressive on offense thanks to a 48-yard catch by Jaelen Gill. Six plays later, David Bailey rushed into the end zone from two yards out making it a 14-7 game in favor of the Eagles.

Clemson again marched down the field and got inside the 5-yard line, but a fumble by Travis Etienne was picked up by Brandon Sebastien and returned 97 yards with 12:14 left in the half. That extended BC’s lead to 21-7.

Following a BT Potter field goal, Boston College took advantage of an aggressive Clemson defense. The Eagles lined up for a field goal only to call an audible with John Tessitore getting under center. Nyles Pinckney jumped offsides giving the Eagles a first down. On the next play, CJ Lewis came up with a touchdown catch after bobbling the ball initially. The 18-yard pass put BC up 28-10 with 1:02 left in the half.

A 50-yard field by Potter cut the lead and Clemson entered the half down 28-13.

Despite being down 15 at the break, Swinney thought his team responded well.

“It was good,” he said about the team morale in the locker room at halftime. “We obviously made some mistakes. Really disappointed in a couple of the miscues that we made. But no panic. It’s a two-score game. We’re going to get the ball. Let’s get a good return. Let’s get a score. It’s a one-score game. Let’s get control in the third quarter and win it in the fourth.”

Clemson took advantage of getting the ball first in the second half. With Uiagalelei leading the drive, the Tigers make it an 8-point game with the freshman taking the option read 30 yards for the score and it’s 28-20 with 11:38 left in the third.

Clemson cut the lead to two later in the quarter with Uiagalelei connected with Amari Rodgers on an 8-yard pass. However, the Tigers weren’t able to come up with the 2-point conversion, but the Tigers sliced the deficit to 28-26 with 6:16 left to play in the quarter.

Uiagalelei was 30-of-41 passing for 342 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 25 yards and a score on six carries.

“He’s going to be great for us moving forward,” said Etienne. “I think he came out there, he was very cool, calm, [and] collected as he’s always been through our practice. He came out there and showed the world what he has in store for him.”

Clemson took their first lead of the day with 11:34 to go. Etienne carried it 17 yards to cap a 10-play, 91-yard drive pushing the Tigers ahead 32-28.

“It was just great to be there for my teammates,” Etienne said when asked about being challenged to step up with Lawrence out this week. “Knowing they need me, just to be able to be someone they can rely on play in and play out.”

Etienne, who became the ACC’s all-time leading rusher in this game, finished with 20 carries for 84 yards and a rushing touchdown along with seven catches for 140 yards and a receiving touchdown.

Clemson responded to the Eagles' first half by scoring 24 unanswered points.

Meanwhile, Boston College was not able to get anything going offensively. In the first half, they put up 239 yards on offense. In the second half, they were held to just 66 yards.

“We were just on the right side of it,” said Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables. “The first half, we couldn’t get out of our own way at times. That was obvious. I felt like they executed with precision.”

Clemson added to their lead late in the quarter on Boston College’s final drive. With Jurkovec looking to pass, Bryan Bresee sacked Jurkovec in the end zone as he tried to get rid of the ball. Officials called the Eagles for intentional grounding resulting in a safety making it 34-28.

“I got my first win against Boston College 12 years ago tomorrow on November 1st,” Swinney recalled, “and I’ll never forget that one and I’ll never forget this one.”

Clemson moves to 7-0 on the year and will face Notre Dame next Saturday.

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