Turning to small ball when the home run wasn’t there, undefeated and fifth-ranked Clemson took down the nation’s stingiest defense in a 34-17 homecoming win Saturday over Boston College.
Deshaun Watson passed for 420 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a fourth as Clemson (6-0, 3-0 ACC) recovered from an early deficit for a school-record 14th straight win in Death Valley.
Dusting off a chapter of the playbook it hadn’t revealed in winning its first five games, Clemson patiently drove 75, 66 and 80 yards for a 10-point halftime lead that grew to 24 as the Tigers softened the BC secondary with persistent bites.
Watson completed 27 of 41 passes for 420 yards and rushed for 32 as Clemson totaled 532 yards, 10 more than the combined production by BC’s three previous opponents.
On the flipside, Boston College became the fifth Clemson opponent under total 300 yards, the third under 100 passing. BC was 3 of 15 on third down and completed one pass for more than 17 yards.
The Eagles’ first two scores followed interceptions, but Clemson’s sophomore quarterback kept cranking. Zac Brooks, Artavis Scott and Jordan Leggett caught touchdown passes, and Greg Huegel kicked two field goals as Clemson slapped BC (3-4, 0-4) with its worst loss of the season.
Clemson has won its last nine games and 32 straight over unranked teams. The record 14-game home streak is the fourth longest in the nation. The win was also Clemson’s fifth straight over Boston College, seven of eight under Coach Dabo Swinney.
BC broke on top after safety Justin Simmons picked Watson and returned it to the Clemson 20-yard line. A four-yard pass from quarterback Troy Flutie to fullback Bobby Wolford made it 7-0 at 8:13 in the first quarter.
Clemson scored with its next three possessions. Artavis Scott caught a quick pass and extended the play 50 yards to the BC 10. Watson’s four-yard touchdown on third-and-goal tied the game, 7-7.
Freshman receiver Deon Cain tipped a jump ball down the Clemson sideline and caught it for a 30-yarder setting up Greg Huegel’s 42-yard field goal was good with 69 seconds to play in the quarter.
Chipping away with short passes, Watson marched the team to BC 21 where on fourth down he hit Zac Brooks with a little toss that made it 17-7 with 7:11 remaining in the half. It was Brooks’ first touchdown since the 2013 Georgia game.
Trying to steal a score late in the half, Watson was picked off by middle linebacker Steven Daniels. BC pushed the ball to the Clemson 2, and Mike Knoll kicked a 21-yard field goal with three seconds to play.
A 51-yard touchdown pass to Scott in the third quarter and a 6-yarder to Leggett in the fourth completed the assault.
Leading 17-10 in the third quarter Clemson caught a break when a pass to a prone Hunter Renfrow appeared to be intercepted. The pass was ruled incomplete on review and Greg Huegel kicked a 39-yard field goal for a 20-10 lead.
Star of the game: Sophomore receiver Artavis Scott caught 10 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown.
Stat of the game: Clemson totaled 532 yards against a defense allowing opponents an average 140.
Play of the game: After threatening for nearly three quarters, sophomore receiver Artavis Scott broke free to catch a 51-yard rainbow from Deshaun Watson that gave Clemson a 27-10 lead.
Scope on the rifle: Clemson took more shots downfield than it has in any game this season with Deshaun Watson targeting six different receivers against BC’s man coverage.
Numbers don’t lie: Boston College probably isn’t the best defense in the nation but the Eagles stuffed the run and forced Clemson to be creative with its play selection. Ultimately talent prevailed.
Precarious road: For the second week Clemson committed more turnovers and won, which isn’t a formula for success with road games at Miami, N.C. State and Syracuse ahead.
Who: Clemson at Miami, Fla.
When: TBA, Sept. 12
Where: Sun Life Stadium