CLEMSON - Boston College gained 8 yards on its first play from scrimmage Saturday.
First impressions can be misleading.
The Eagles didn't manage to top that opening-play effort until less than two minutes remained in the third quarter. By then, Clemson led 19-0, and the defense had stated its case in what would become a 25-7 victory Saturday at Death Valley.
"We came out focused," Clemson's Ricky Sapp said. "We talked about having a complete game and we came out and played four quarters, baby."
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Clemson held the Eagles to 55 total yards - the second-lowest total ever for a Clemson opponent in an ACC game.
"They manhandled us, and I would like to think we are better than that," Boston College coach Frank Spaziani said.
The Eagles did nothing to back up their coach's talk Saturday.
Clemson's defense was particularly dominating early, holding the Eagles to minus-2 yards of offense in the opening half. BC's lone first down in the game's first 43 minutes came via penalty, and the Tigers did not allow BC to cross midfield until late in the third quarter. Of the Eagles' 17 possessions, only one lasted more than four plays.
And when BC finally managed to mount its first serious offensive threat - advancing to Clemson's 30-yard line on the next-to-last play of the third quarter - Clemson freshman end Malliciah Goodman nailed Montel Harris for a 1-yard loss, and sophomore Da'Quan Bowers followed with a 9-yard sack of quarterback Justin Tuggle.
End of threat.
The Tigers' defense, which entered the game with 12 tackles for loss and three quarterback sacks in its first two games, posted similar numbers in 60 minutes Saturday, accumulating nine tackles for loss and four sacks.
"I can't say enough about the defense," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "They've faced three different styles of play in three weeks ago and played well."
On Saturday Clemson experimented with what Swinney called a "speed package" which essentially moved defensive ends Sapp and Bowers to just about every defensive post except the secondary. The result was positive as Sapp recorded his sack out of the middle linebacker position; Bowers was lined up as a defensive tackle on his sack. Both were delighted with the variation.
"It was great," Sapp said. "Anytime you can make plays like that, it's fun."
"This is a boost of confidence for us," Bowers said. "We put in some schemes that worked very well and I'm looking forward to doing them next week. The defense is built for playmakers. I'm not calling myself a playmaker, but I am a versatile athlete."
The Tigers also got another big game from safety DeAndre McDaniel, who picked off his fourth pass in three games Saturday. Freshmen Rashard Hall and Jonathan Meeks each added an interception, the first of their careers.
"The boys were out there making plays," McDaniel said. "It's the scheme. The defensive line is pressuring the quarterback and making him get it out of there quick and we're making plays in the secondary."
Whatever the case, it was an effort that cleansed the palate following last week's 30-27 loss at Georgia Tech.
"We played a good second half against Georgia Tech," Bowers said, "but we wanted to come out and play a complete game."
The Tigers did just that.