Eagles can’t keep up with Clemson
CLEMSON, S.C. - Time for a break for Boston College.
Certainly, coach Frank Spaziani’s team needs some sort of timeout after losing to Clemson, 36-14, yesterday at Memorial Stadium.
Some BC loyalists could point out that the Eagles had a fair amount of chances to upset the eighth-ranked team in the country.
One could point to the touchdown called back because of a personal foul, a score that would have given the Eagles an emotional boost after a first quarter in which Clemson jumped to a 17-0 lead.
One could point to the defensive breakdowns that came just when the Eagles seemed to be getting a hint of offensive flow, provided by the running back duo of Rolandan Finch (19 carries, 81 yards, 1 TD) and Tahj Kimble (11 carries, 57 yards), who were filling in for the injured Montel Harris (knee) and Andre Williams (ankle).
But in the end, as it has been in five of six games for the Eagles this season, a season that is on the verge of becoming BC’s first losing campaign in a dozen years, it was too little offense, not enough defense.
The good news for the Eagles (1-5, 0-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) is they get a week off. The bad news is that when they resume their season in two weeks it will be in Blacksburg, Va., against Virginia Tech.
“We certainly weren’t good enough today,’’ said Spaziani, who has had to make the same statement five times this season. “They rocket-shipped out of there 17-0, real fast. They made some plays, and we didn’t make them. It’s 36-14 and there we go.’’
Spaziani did not disagree that the Eagles could use a week off.
“Certainly for this team, we could use a break right now physically,’’ he said.
The Eagles had enough opportunities to make statements in a game that stayed within reach until Clemson’s Andre Ellington (22 carries, 117 yards, 1 TD) broke through a hole on fourth and 1 in the fourth quarter and sprinted 35 yards to the end zone to turn a 29-14 game into a 36-14 rout.
After Clemson (6-0, 3-0) took its 17-0 lead, BC’s defense went into its classic bend-but-don’t-break mold, forcing Clemson to settle for field goal attempts. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Chandler Catanzaro made all five he tried.
“That’s 15 points,’’ said BC linebacker Luke Kuechly. “We have to do better than that.’’
Yes, the Eagles do. The defense still allowed Clemson to pile up 500 yards, much of it provided by quarterback Tajh Boyd, who ran the Tigers’ no-huddle offense to near perfection, completing 16 of 26 passes for 283 yards and rushing for 37 yards and a score.
But even when Boyd was knocked out of the game in the third quarter with a hip injury, backup Cole Stoudt came in and connected on 6 of 10 passes for 37 yards, which was just enough to keep the Eagles out of comeback mode.
“There’s improvement,’’ said BC wide receiver Bobby Swigert, who had seven catches for 93 yards, including a 24-yarder from quarterback Chase Rettig that cut the deficit to 26-14 with 5:09 left in the third quarter. “In the third quarter, we had a chance to be in the game. But it’s still the little stuff we’re doing wrong.’’
BC’s first big mistake came in the first quarter after Clemson had taken a 10-0 lead, when Rettig was flattened by defensive end Malliciah Goodman. Rettig’s fumble was recovered by Tyler Shatley, giving Clemson possession at the BC 16. Two plays later, Boyd scrambled out of the pocket and raced untouched 14 yards into the end zone to give Clemson a 17-0 lead.
“I wish we could have come out a little faster,’’ said Rettig (13 of 20 passing, 129 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception, 3 sacks, 1 fumble lost).
“We came out in the second half and we were running the ball, but we just couldn’t do it.’’
The other key play in the first half came when Rettig hit Swigert on a crossing pattern for an apparent 43-yard TD. But the play was called back when BC’s Ian White was called for a personal foul.
Such mistakes have plagued BC all season, and this one looked like it could be the deal-breaker in a game in which the Eagles were being pushed all over the field, much to the delight of the homecoming crowd of 78,000.
Finally, the Eagles put together a drive, and were even aided by a Clemson mistake, a roughing the passer penalty. The possession culminated in the 24-yard touchdown pass from Rettig to Swigert.
With 5:08 remaining in the third quarter, and the official word that Boyd had suffered a hip injury and would not return, the Eagles’ chances were suddenly improving, but they still needed to stop the Tigers.
Again, it didn’t happen, as Catanzaro kicked his fifth field goal, a 47-yarder that sneaked over the crossbar and increased Clemson’s lead to 29-14 with 31 seconds left in the third quarter.
As the game moved into the fourth, Clemson’s lead was solid, but not yet secure.
That changed in the first four minutes of the quarter when Ellington, on fourth and 1 from the BC 35, bolted through a hole on the left side and raced into the end zone for a TD that increased the lead to 36-14.
“I just missed it,’’ said Kuechly. “I was just in the wrong spot. They made too many big plays and we didn’t.’’
That, in essence, has been the Eagles’ lament through six games.
“We can’t get enough rolling and that’s the story of our season so far,’’ said Swigert.
Mark Blaudschun can be reached at email@example.com.