Early Look: Clemson

Clemson has fallen to .500, and now the 4-4 Tigers (2-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) suddenly find themselves outsiders in the Atlantic Division race just one season after claiming the division crown.

The Tigers' mounting losses, including Saturday's surprising 16-10 defeat at hands of a Boston College team that had lost five straight, have resulted in a disgruntled fan base and second-guessing galore, particularly when it comes to the quarterback position.

"The quarterback always gets way too much credit and way too much blame," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Sunday.

The blame has been directed at sophomore Kyle Parker, the erstwhile baseball star turned quarterback. Parker's production has been below expectations this season, and a recent rash of unforced errors have fans wondering if it's time for redshirt freshman Tajh Boyd to get some meaningful snaps.

"We've got Tajh ready, and we won't be afraid to play him," Swinney said.

Parker threw two interceptions against Boston College, his completion percentage is hovering just above 50 percent, and his efficiency rating has slipped to 92.5 -- a figure that ranks 10th out of 10 ACC quarterbacks on the efficiency listing.

"Kyle did not play well (Saturday), and he's got to be held accountable for that," Swinney said. "But he's certainly not the reason we're 4-4. He just didn't manage the game as well as he's capable of. Kyle gives us the best chance to win, but Tajh is getting better and better."

Stay tuned.

And if the quarterback woes weren't enough, the Tigers found out Sunday afternoon that they'll be without running back Andre Ellington for at least the next two games. Ellington strained a ligament near his big toe against Boston College and missed the final three series of the game.

Ellington was the league's fifth-leading rusher, second-leading scorer and led the ACC in kick return average and all-purpose yardage.

-- Clemson is 4-7 on the road under coach Dabo Swinney, including an 0-3 mark this season. The Tigers haven't won a true road game since beating N.C. State last Nov. 14. "This team has not gone on the road and gotten it done, and that's the most disappointing thing to me," Swinney said.

-- Junior defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, who entered Saturday's game leading the ACC in sacks and tackles for loss, was held without both against Boston College. It was the first time he'd failed to have at least one sack and two tackles for loss in five games.

-- Dawson Zimmerman had a 76-yard punt Saturday against Boston College -- and it only ranked as his second-best effort of the season. Zimmerman had a 79-yard boot in the Tigers' season opener against North Texas. Those two efforts by the junior punter now rank as the second- and fourth-longest punts in school history.

-- Sophomore tight end Dwayne Allen tied a career high with seven receptions and was Clemson's top receiver with 57 yards. Redshirt freshman Bryce McNeal set career highs with four catches and 47 yards.

GAME BALL GOES TO: S Rashard Hall -- Hall was one of the Tigers' few bright spots against Boston College. The redshirt sophomore free safety scored Clemson's only touchdown on a 52-yard interception return on the Eagles' third offensive play of the game. It was Hall's first touchdown as a Tiger, but his eighth career interception. He also had six tackles in the game and is now Clemson's leading tackler this season with 51 stops.

KEEP AN EYE ON: The running back situation -- With Andre Ellington out for at least two weeks, Jamie Harper will assume the starring role in the Tigers' backfield. He'll also get help from Roderick "Hot Rod" McDowell, a slithery freshman who's cut from the same cloth as Ellington. Harper, a burly junior, has shown flashes of brilliance -- such as his 101-yard day in the season opener against North Texas -- but has tailed off since. McDowell had 86 yards on just nine carries earlier this season in a relief role against Presbyterian, but N.C. State, which is off to a 6-2 start, should provide a more difficult challenge this Saturday. It'll be interesting to see who emerges as the Tigers' go-to back in Ellington's absence.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "When you're 4-4, you aren't headed for a championship." -- Clemson junior tackle Landon Walker, on the Tigers' prospects after losing to Boston College 16-10 on Saturday.

Clemson's defense has kept the Tigers in games despite the offense's shortcomings. The Tigers have returned interceptions for touchdowns in two of the last three games and have allowed only four touchdowns in their last 14 quarters. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele also has shown a knack for making halftime adjustments as the Tigers have allowed only 20 second-half points in five ACC games this season.

STILL NEEDS WORK: Clemson's placekicking woes reached the breaking point against Boston College as Chandler Catanzaro missed attempts from 36 and 44 yards. Catanzaro missed from 29 yards last week against Georgia Tech and ranks last in the ACC with a 55.6 success rate (five of nine) on field goals this season.

On Sunday, coach Dabo Swinney said senior Richard Jackson -- who was beaten out by the freshman Catanzaro in fall camp -- would be elevated to the top spot.

Swinney said Catanzaro "hasn't been as consistent on game day as we need him to be," and that Jackson "has been patient and hoping for another opportunity." Jackson led the ACC in kicker scoring with 101 points as a junior and was the only player in the nation to make six field goals in one game -- coincidentally, against Boston College.

-- Redshirt sophomore RB Andre Ellington missed the last three offensive series of the Boston College game with a ligament strain near his big toe and is expected to miss at least the next two games.

-- DE Kourtnei Brown suffered a high ankle sprain against Boston College and will not play Saturday against N.C. State.

-- WR Jaron Brown suffered a slight ankle sprain against Boston College, but he is expected to play Saturday.

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