Clemson University

Clemson storms past Boston College

Clemson linebacker Brandon Maye and Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel combine to tackle Boston College running back Josh Haden.
Clemson linebacker Brandon Maye and Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel combine to tackle Boston College running back Josh Haden.

CLEMSON | CLEMSON - A nearby lightning strike first brought Clemson's five-hour marathon game to a halt midway through Saturday's third quarter.

Based on the lopsided affair inside Memorial Stadium, some might have wished that conference officials had invoked a mercy rule in the Tigers' favor.

Because of two lengthy delays, Clemson's 25-7 triumph over Boston College was a tale of four halves - the first two of which the Tigers (2-1, 1-1 ACC) controlled well enough to make the final two exercises in clock management.

C.J. Spiller's 77-yard punt return touchdown early in the first quarter allowed Clemson to play-call conservatively. It paved the way for its defense - and six field goals from junior kicker Richard Jackson - to pace a rout in this typically close interdivisional series.

"One of our commandments that we live by, No. 7, is 'Clemson football is 60 minutes or as long as it takes to finish,'" coach Dabo Swinney said. "And we kept reminding ourselves with the delays today that that's one of our commandments, whatever it takes."

That might be the rallying cry for next Saturday's 3:30 p.m. Death Valley showdown against No. 15 TCU, pending the availability of junior left tackle Chris Hairston, who left the Boston College contest with a sprained left knee during the third quarter.

He is viewed as the only dependable tackle on Clemson's roster.

Perhaps the most important data the Tigers gleaned in stifling the Eagles (2-1, 0-1) was that their defense - debuting coordinator Kevin Steele's base scheme after two games - could be as salty as advertised.

Clemson allowed 55 yards, second-lowest against an ACC opponent and sixth-lowest period in program history.

The Eagles managed one first down through their first 12 series. That came when corner Crezdon Butler held a receiver on an overthrown pass to earn a penalty.

Steele unveiled packages that put ends Da'Quan Bowers and Ricky Sapp at linebacker. The complexity provided window dressing for an already overwhelming dominance.

Sapp and Bowers accounted for three of Clemson's four sacks; the Tiger coaxed four turnovers, and Boston College's quarterbacks completed 5 of 21 passes for 23 yards and three interceptions.

The Eagles' run game netted more than 6 yards on two of its 28 rushes.

"Those guys up front made a name for themselves," sophomore linebacker Brandon Maye said. "I didn't get to make as many plays as I wanted, but that's what happens when those guys dominate like they were."

Had Clemson running back Andre Ellington not fumbled away possession at the Tigers' 13 early in the fourth quarter, odds would have favored Boston College getting skunked.

"It's just a shame the defense didn't get the shutout," Swinney said.

Yet for as many positives as the Tigers can cite for their emotional rebound after losing at Georgia Tech, they carry as many concerns into this week's practices based on Saturday's sputtering offense.

Jackson's six field goals - tying a single-game Clemson high - celebrate his renaissance, but they also highlight red-zone struggles that continue to fester.

The Tigers ventured inside Boston College's 20 four times but were unable to generate a push up front to punch any trips into the end zone.

Through three games, they have 11 field goals to five touchdowns. None of the scores has come via rushing.

"They produced some negative plays like they always do, caught us with some fire zones and put us in bad down and distance, but that's part of the deal of how we're calling the game and how coach Swinney's managing the game," Napier said.

"The fun's in the winning. But if we score two or three touchdowns from those six field-goal drives, it's a completely different game. That's where we're going to spend our time as coaches this week."

Napier admitted going into safety mode as a play-caller after two "hasty" decisions by redshirt freshman quarterback Kyle Parker on Clemson's opening two drives turned into interceptions.

Parker went 13-for-27 for 103 yards in what was largely chalked up as a growing pains experience.

Furthermore, Spiller's health remains a fragile subject. He was pulled out as a precaution with Clemson up 19-0 late in the third quarter because of recurring pain in his bruised right big toe.

So Napier said it became evident early the best mode of operation could be relying on a conservative - if not predictable - running game, and adjust later. "Ultimately you come out here thinking you're going to throw it around and rack up points, but it didn't happen for us," Parker said. "Better decisions would help that, but for the most part, we did enough to get a win, and that's all you can really ask for."

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