Player of the game: Deshaun Watson
Boston College came into the game #1 in total defense, allowing just 202 yards per game. They were also #1 in pass defense and #16 in scoring defense. I thought those statistics were inflated by their soft early schedule against teams like Buffalo and UMass and that Clemson would expose them, which is why I predicted a 55-10 Clemson victory. Unfortunately for me, Greg Huegel decided to make all of his PAT’s on Friday night, so I was one point off from a perfect prediction. All bragging aside, it really was great to see the offense continue to click on all cylinders, putting 21 points up in the first quarter on the road and taking the crowd right out of the game. As they did against Louisville, the Tigers scored at a lightning-quick pace. At BC, they scored their first 4 touchdowns in a total of just 15 plays and 5:30 off the clock. In the previous game against Louisville, the Tigers’ first 5 touchdowns were scored in a total of 12 plays and 2:30 off the clock! The offense never let up, scoring another 28 points in the second half, and the big early lead allowed the staff to clear their benches and get a lot of meaningful game experience for a lot of young players. To wit, we saw Tavien Feaster rip off his best run of the season for 45 yards and score his second career touchdown!
Watson was 14-24 for 266 yards and 4 touchdowns in limited action. He had no interceptions. In fact, the Tigers didn’t have any turnovers at BC after 5 of them against Louisville, so that was a huge improvement on offense. Watson also had what would have been his first rushing TD of the season, but it was negated by a block in the back call on Deon Cain, which was basically inconsequential to the paly. Gallman had his second consecutive 100-yard game on Friday with 109 yards and a touchdown on 12.1 yards per carry. Over the past couple games, the Wayne Train has definitely resembled what we saw in 2015, and a lot of that has to do with the offensive line doing a better job finishing their blocks. Mike Williams had just two catches, as he left the game early with a tweaked hamstring, but those two catches were a diving 59-yard reception and a touchdown. Deon Cain picked up where he left off against Louisville, scoring two more touchdowns at BC. He now has 2 TD’s in each of the last 2 games and has 6 TD’s with just 13 catches on the season! Artavis Scott added 4 more catches for 45 yards, and Jordan Leggett had another big game with 2 catches for 66 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown. Leggett broke Dwayne Allen’s all-time Clemson tight end touchdown record with the game-winning TD against Louisville, and he has now caught a TD in each of the last 3 games. Cornell Powell added 2 more catches for 15 yards to his resume and now has 11 catches on the season as a true freshman.
The offense rolled up 499 yards for the game and had 3 plays of over 50 yards in the first quarter alone. They were again very balanced with 272 yards passing and 227 yards rushing, and that enabled them to play with great tempo and hit several explosive plays. The offense was 6 of 12 on 3rd down and a perfect 3-3 in the red zone with 3 touchdowns. The offensive line allowed 2 sacks—one on Watson and one on Schuessler.
One of the few negatives for the offense was Deon Cain’s mental mistake just before halftime. After making a catch that would have put the Tigers in field goal position, instead of going straight down so they could call a timeout and stop the clock, he tried to run after the catch and time expired. Dabo called a timeout prior to that play, and he said he told them exactly what to do going into that play, so it was a bad mistake by Cain that ruined what would have been an incredible scoring drive with less than 30 seconds before halftime.
Player of the game: Van Smith
It was another stellar performance on the road by the Clemson defense—their third of the season. It all started with the quick change after a fumbled punt by Ray-Ray gave BC the ball inside the Clemson 10-yard line. They were suffocating from that point on, allowing just 251 total yards and 96 passing yards on the night. Even after the reserves came in, there was no drop off. In fact, Mark Fields provided the exclamation point with a 42-yard pick-six with 1:30 left in the game.
BC converted only 6 of 19 third downs and scored just one touchdown in 3 trips to the red zone. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the performance by the defense was that goal line stand before halftime, up 21-3. The Tigers forced a fumble on 4th down that was overturned by an offsides call on Tankersley, who was not involved on the play, giving BC a 5th opportunity to score. A lot of teams would have succumbed at that point. It's hard to mount a goal line stand to begin with--let alone when you're up 18 points and the opponent was just given a 5th down. The other really impressive takeaway was that—like the Louisville game—the Tigers’ defense was on the field for an inordinate amount of time because of the speed at which the offense scored. BC possessed the ball for 38:08 compared to just 21:52 for Clemson. Yet, unlike the Louisville game, the defense never broke down. Part of that had to do with the opponent and part of it had to do with the offense holding onto the ball. They had 5 turnovers against Louisville compared to none at BC. The Clemson defense played 99 snaps against Louisville versus 72 for BC. The defense had 3 sacks, 8 tackles-for-loss and 2 turnovers. Ben Boulware forced a fumble, and Mark Fields had the pick-six. They also stopped BC on a 4th down, so that is essentially another turnover.
Massachusetts native Christian Wilkins left his big homecoming game early, but not before he recorded a sack and another tackle-for-loss! The big sophomore defensive lineman had over 100 friends and family in attendance!
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-
Player of the game: Jamie Skalski
The kickoff coverage unit continued its impressive play, allowing 19.2 yards on 6 returns. Huegel had 2 touchbacks in his 7 kickoffs, and Spence got in for 2 kickoffs. Andy Teasdall averaged 37.2 yards on his 5 punts, including a 51-yarder, and landed 2 inside the 20. He didn’t allow a single punt return. The Clemson return game left something to be desired, however, on both punts and kickoffs. Of course, the biggest disappointment was the drop by Ray-Ray on the first punt by BC that set them up inside the 10. Thank goodness it came in a blowout, but those things cannot happen in Tallahassee, for example. Ray-Ray also dropped a punt in Atlanta, but Chad Smith jumped on it and recovered. Ray-Ray has had some good punt returns this season, but he’s also misjudged far too many, and he is often catching them as he is retreating—something you should never do. Let’s hope they get that cleaned up soon! No field goal attempts by Huegel in the game, and he was a perfect 8-8 on PAT’s. Finally, Dabo tried an onside kick when the game was well in hand as a dress rehearsal for later in the season, but the Tigers were unable to come up with a recovery.
This was a great team win on the road in a place the Tigers have struggled over the years—much like the Georgia Tech win in Atlanta. The Tigers are clicking on all cylinders on both sides of the ball. They were able to play 67 of the 72 players that made the trip north and saw little or no drop off. Clemson is the only Power Five team with 3 true road wins, and the Tigers have just one more home game with NC State before a nicely-timed bye preceding the big game in Tallahassee. NC State is 4-1 (1-0 ACC) and coming off a win over Notre Dame, so you know they will have the Tigers’ full attention on homecoming. 6-0 and 9 to go!