GRADES: Survive and advance

It was far from perfect, but for the second straight week Clemson found a way to win a game against a tough opponent.

The running game still leaves plenty to be desired, but some how, some way, this unit found away to grind out just enough production to get the win. Cole Stoudt was steady against one of the top defenses in the league, earning his first road win as a starting quarterback. The big play late was C.J. Davidson's 32-yard touchdown run to put the Tigers ahead, but Wayne Gallman's scoring scamper was big in the second quarter, and Artavis Scott proved to be a reliable target in the short passing game too. Mike Williams did the bulk of the down field damage with eight catches for 128 yards, but failed to reach the end zone. Also, lost in the shuffle was an injury to Adam Choice, who figured to be a central part of the offensive game plan. Credit Chad Morris for improvising on the fly to find a way to get the job done as Gallman, Davidson and even Stoudt kept the chains moving. Lastly on Stoudt, he continues to show his toughness as a senior, requiring shots before the game and during halftime to keep pain his shoulder to a minimum. Fans won't be thrilled with just 17 points scored, but considering the opponent and the defense it had to go against, and the final outcome, Clemson's offense did just fine Saturday, thank you.

What else can you say about this group? Knowing it was probably going to be a low-scoring affair, the only offense the Eagles could consistently muster felt more like trickery than anything else. B.C. converted just 2-of-14 on third down was held to a mere 120 yards rushing, nearly 200 yards below its season average. In addition, the Tigers recorded 14 tackles for loss, including five sacks, which kept Boston College behind the chains most of the game. As expected, B.C. did a good job neutralizing Vic Beasley, but that paved the way for two sacks from Tavaris Barnes, who seems to have found his second wind after scoring the first touchdown of his career against Louisville. Brent Venables complained afterwards his unit has to be better against the wheel route and has to be more disciplined versus trick plays, but other than that, his defense has proven to be one of the best in the nation. Just ask Steve Addazio, who sang its praises once again after Clemson's hard-fought win.

Ammon Lakip converted his only field goal attempt, and Bradley Pinion helped keep B.C. pinned deep in its own territory for a majority of the second half, averaging more than 41 yards per punt. He also had a 55-yarder to force the Eagles to drive 82 yards for the potential go-ahead score on their final possession. The return game wasn't spectacular but the rest of Clemson's special teams came through when they needed to. In the last four weeks this crew as gone from a liability to a borderline strength.

In a very short period of time, the identity of this team has transitioned from fun-and-gun to dominant defense. So it goes without saying the coaching staff deserves credit these last two weeks for playing to its strength. Saturday's performance was exactly what was expected but pundits, odds makers and coaches alike - a defensive slug-fest that would be won by the team that made the fewest mistakes and biggest play late. Fortunately, that team was Clemson. It was totally gut-wrenching, but a win is a win. With Deshaun Watson out of the mix the next couple of weeks, the Tigers have to continue to be in survive and advance mode. Lean on the defense. Win with special teams. And manage the game on offense. The good news is with Louisville and Boston College in the rear view mirror, the Tigers shouldn't have as much trouble against Syracuse and Wake Forest coming up.

Believe it or not, Saturday's victory in Chestnut Hill could very well go down as one of the biggest of the season. It was huge because it happened without your star quarterback, Deshaun Watson, playing a single snap. It was huge because it was a win on the road against a physical team. And it was huge because the next two games appear to be very winnable against inferior opponents before Watson is welcomed back into the starting lineup. It didn't matter how ugly it was or how close it was, the important thing was to get the win and that's exactly what the Tigers did. At 5-2 and 4-1 in the ACC, the goal of winning out after a 1-2 start looks more obtainable than ever before. Also, given Florida State's win over Notre Dame late Saturday, if the Tigers can do it, that could mean Clemson will be Orange Bowl bound for the second year in a row. While there's a lot that has to happen between now and then, the chances of all of that happening went up exponentially after this road win. Bring on the Orange (bowl and Syracuse)! Top Stories