Boston College Eagles: Valiant effort falls short vs No.1 Clemson

CHESTNUT HILL, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 24: Head coach Jeff Hafley of the Boston College Eagles looks on during a game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Alumni Stadium on October 24, 2020 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)
CHESTNUT HILL, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 24: Head coach Jeff Hafley of the Boston College Eagles looks on during a game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Alumni Stadium on October 24, 2020 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images) /

The Boston College Eagles gave the Clemson Tigers all they could handle but couldn’t quite piece together enough firepower to pull off the upset.

This is a loss that will likely linger with the Boston College Eagles, knowing they had every opportunity to knock off the top-ranked Clemson Tigers.

The Eagles went toe-to-toe with the Tigers, nearly taking advantage of this gigantic opportunity. Ultimately, it was Boston College’s final play on offense that was indicative of their second-half play.

Staring at their own four-yard line with just over 1:20 left in the game, Phil Jurkovec was called for intentional grounding in the end zone. This led to a safety and secured a 34-28 comeback victory for Clemson as they survived this scare by the Boston College Eagles (3-3, 4-3).

The offense for Boston College struggled for much of the second-half, totaling only 66 yards. On the rare occasion they did get some momentum, the Eagles hurt themselves with penalties and mistakes. Twice, excellent punts by Boston College punter Grant Carlson that pinned Clemson deep were negated by penalties.

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Overthrows by Jurkovec to Zay Flowers and offensive pass interference calls stalled Boston College drives. They appeared to be on their way to score — holding the ball for over six minutes — in the final quarter, but ultimately failed on 4th-and-9 with 2:21 left on the clock.

Clemson (6-0, 7-0) did dial up the pressure in the second-half, forcing Jurkovec into hurried throws and sacking him four times overall. Still, the play calling seemed to lean towards the conservative side in the second-half and it very much was reminiscent of season’s past with runs on first and second down followed by an incomplete pass.

The loss is tough to swallow, but there was still plenty of good to takeaway from this game.

Offense on a roll in the first half

The Boston College Eagles offense got off to a blistering start, making an opening drive statement in scoring in only four plays.

Phil Jurkovec found Zay Flowers to open the game with a 35-yard reception, followed by a toss to CJ Lewis for 13 yards. After a scramble by Jurkovec for 15 yards, he connected with Flowers on an 11-yd strike to open the scoring.

Continuing to spread the ball around early, Jurkovec connected with Jaelen Gill for 48 yards to open the next drive. The drive was capped off by a David Bailey two-yard touchdown run.

The running game was basically non-existent in the first half, but the passing attack was firing on all cylinders. Jurkovec did throw an interception, but that was negated by a roughing the passer call. Later, he found Lewis in the end zone, who made a circus catch to give the Eagles a 28-10 lead.

The Eagles also converted on a fake field goal earlier in that drive when holder John Tessitore was able to draw Clemson off side.

After starting the game a perfect 4-4, Jurkovec did have trouble, completing only 8-20 the rest of the way. He finished with 204 yards and no interceptions.

Zay Flowers finished with 3 catches for 63 yards and the score. But he was targeted 10 times and that percentage needs to go up for the Eagles to be consistently successful.

Clemson did a good job of stopping the run (67 yards) and kept Hunter Long in check all day. Long three receptions but was only targeted six times.

Defense runs out of juice

All told, the defense of the Boston College Eagles did a fine job on Saturday afternoon. It wasn’t spectacular but it was good enough to win.

If only they could have found a way to contain Clemson running back Travis Etienne, especially in the second-half.

Etienne was held in check on the ground in the first-half, totaling only 29 yards on 11 carries. It was his play in the passing game, though, that proved costly to Boston College. Etienne racked up 140 yards on seven receptions with a score, doing damage on deep routes and screen passes alike.

He found momentum after halftime on the ground as well, finishing with 20 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown. Etienne also became the ACC’s all-time leading rusher during the game, passing a record set by former N.C. State star Ted Brown.

Boston College was able to keep Clemson from too many huge plays, but that seemed by design on the Tigers’ behalf. The trouble was a lack of pressure from the defensive line and a secondary that allowed too many receptions of around ten yards.

Freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei was 30-41 for 342 yards and two touchdowns in his first start.

The highlight for Boston College’s defense was a 97-yard fumble return for a score by Brandon Sebastian, who also had seven tackles on the day.

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All told, it was a valiant effort by Boston College. They gave Clemson all they could handle. And while the loss may sting for a couple of days, it should also give this team plenty of confidence as they prepare for the final four games of the 2020 season.