Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt played through a shoulder injury to beat Boston College on Saturday and earned a fitting reward for toughing it out.
The son of former NFL quarterback Cliff Stoudt was presented with a leather helmet as the Most Valuable Player in the Tigers' victory, a prize that harkens back to the birth of the rivalry in the 1940 Cotton Bowl.
"He had a heck of a night," coach Dabo Swinney said after Stoudt set career highs with 29 completions and 45 attempts and finished with 285 yards to lead No. 24 Clemson to a 17-13 victory. "I'm really proud of him stepping up, especially on the road."
The starter out of training camp before losing the job to Deshaun Watson in Week 3, Stoudt re-inherited the job when the highly touted freshman broke a finger last week. Stoudt had an injury of his own — a sprained left shoulder — but he wasn't going to let this opportunity pass.
Receiving a shot before the game and another at halftime to help him tolerate the pain, Stoudt led the Tigers on a six-play, 82-yard, rain-soaked drive to take a 17-13 lead with 9:35 left in the fourth quarter. The Clemson defense twice stopped BC, and the Tigers held on for their fourth consecutive win — their first on the road.
"I really didn't think about the shoulder or the rain," said Stoudt, who posed for pictures with the leather helmet after the game. "That's why you play football for situations like that."
C.J. Davidson ran 32 yards for a touchdown to give Clemson (5-2, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) the lead for good. Needing a touchdown at the end of the game because of a missed extra point, the Eagles (4-3, 1-2) moved to the Clemson 29 and then converted a fourth-and-1.
Tyler Murphy found Tyler Rouse open and streaking for the end zone, but the sophomore running back couldn't hold onto the ball. Clemson took over on downs and ran out the clock to take home the O'Rourke-McFadden Trophy, named for the stars of the respective 1940 Cotton Bowl teams.
Murphy, who had averaged 118 yards rushing entering the game, ran for 55 yards on 13 carries and also completed 8 of 19 passes for 108 yards. The Eagles started the day as the No. 4 rushing team in the nation — averaging 315 yards — but Clemson held to them to a season-low 120.
"We had some plays we could have made," Murphy said. "It almost brings back the same taste as Colorado State, a game we just let slip away."
The Tigers converted 10 of 21 times on third down; BC did not convert a single third down until the fourth quarter. Wayne Gallman had a 17-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, and Mike Williams caught eight passes for 128 yards.
The traded touchdowns in the second quarter before Ammon Lakip's 23-yard field goal gave the Tigers a 10-7 lead at halftime. It stayed that way until Murphy hit Josh Bordner on a scrambling, cross-field pass from 6 yards out to give Boston College the lead.
Mike Knoll's attempt on the extra point was shanked to the right, leaving the Eagles up 13-10. Stoudt needed less than 90 seconds to lead the Tigers 82 yards, hitting Williams for 32 yards on a third-and-10 and then, three plays later, handing off to Davidson for the winning score.
The teams traded punts and then, on the second play after BC took over at its own 18 with 3:25 left, Murphy broke free for 43 yards to the Clemson 38. Jon Hilliman gained three on a fourth-and-1 from the 29, and on the next play Rouse was wide open and inside the 5 but the ball went off his fingers.
Three more incomplete passes and the Tigers took over.
Having already beaten then-No. 9 Southern California in Alumni Stadium, Boston College was hoping to improve to 2-0 against ranked teams and move just one win from bowl eligibility. Instead, the Tigers protected their ranking a week after moving into The Associated Press Top 25.
"A ranked team or anyone else, when you're that close to a victory and it gets away from you, it just hurts," linebacker Steven Daniels said. "They're a good team, but we had them."
Tigers hold on
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