The Boston College Eagles suffered their first loss against the Clemson Tigers on Saturday night. In a 19-13 loss, marred by penalties, turnovers, and general mistakes by all involved, BC had many opportunities to win this game. But they ultimately could not come away with the win. Nevertheless, win or lose, we will dive into the Eagles’ top three performers from this game.
Black Hole: Dabo Swinney, Head Coach, Clemson
For the second time, the opposing team’s head coach earns the Black Hole designation. One could argue that Dennis Grosel, the Eagles’ pass rush, or even some aspects of the offensive line, could earn this infamous award. However, all of those entities also contributed positively to the outcome of the game.
Conversely, Clemson’s head coach, Dabo Swinney, made no such contribution to the game. Swinney began the game with his traditional full-out sprint ahead of his team down the hill from Howard’s Rock. Nothing more humble from a so-called man of god. Swinney spent most of the first quarter screaming into the face of his running back, Kobe Pace, for committing a false start. Of course, Pace would go on to score a 59-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive. Swinney promptly got in Pace’s face again, ostensibly to exhort his now recovered player.
With his work on Pace now completed, Swinney moved on to his next target: the officials. As his offense struggled to consistently move the ball, with his quarterback misfiring and his receivers committing multiple drops, Swinney kept his focus on what really mattered. At any given time, he could be seen next to an official, whining and screaming about some missed call or perceived slight. To conclude the first half, Swinney made his feelings on the officials known.
For the majority of the rest of the game, Swinney stomped up and down the sidelines, repeatedly ripping his hat off and putting it back on as he screamed at the officials. His receivers certainly took the queue from him as they tossed their hands towards the sky every time they dropped a pass. Ultimately, Dabo’s complaints finally broke, though, with the officials missing one of the most blatant offsides calls of all time on Clemson’s star CB Andrew Booth.
At the end of the game, with the ACC network sideline reporter, Swinney actually discussed his team. He said he learned nothing about his team, as he knew they could play like this. I’m not sure I would be so quick to celebrate my team’s performance after a 19-13 win, in which neither team played exceptionally well. Sure, his team showed adversity in the face of injuries and a tough opponent. But it was far from a perfect game; something Dabo might have been able to see if he relocated his focus away from the referees.
If my feelings on Dabo Swinney weren’t clear, I think he is a charlatan and a snake-oil salesman. He leaves most of the play-calling responsibilities to his coordinators, so he has more time to chew out his players and the officials. Swinney is clearly an excellent recruiter, but he is vastly overrated as a coach, as he does not develop his highly-touted recruits that much.
The vast majority of Swinney’s success can be attributed to two of the greatest quarterbacks in college football history. This game was extremely close and was unquestionably enjoyable for fans without a rooting interest. But Swinney’s childish actions and tantrums, combined with his fraudulent “aw-shucks” persona, put a terrible stench on this game.
Third Star: Grant Carlson, P - 6 punts, 295 yards, 49.2 average, 4 punts inside the 20, 1 touchback, 3 50+ yards, 72 yard long.
In a tightly contested game, special teams frequently make the difference. All aspects of the Eagles’ special teams units played very well on Saturday night. Connor Lytton was perfect on his kicks once again, and true freshman Neto Okpala blocked a punt. But the true star among the specialists was Grant Carlson. After three mediocre to average seasons as BC’s punter, Carlson has elevated his game to another level this season.
Carlson put together another stellar performance on Saturday night. He averaged just under 50 yards per punt on six attempts. Of his six punts, four ended up inside the 20, three were 50 yards or more, and only one ended up in the end zone for a touchback. Carlson’s highlight of the evening was his 72-yard bomb that got a nice roll and was downed inside the 5.
Obviously, when your punter is one of the stars of the game, lots of things probably didn’t go right. But Carlson’s consistent punting kept Clemson pinned in their own territory, forcing them to go on extended drives or punt it back to BC, giving the Eagles better field position. Carlson
Second Star: Kam Arnold, OLB - 70 snaps, 7 tackles (5 solo, 2 assists), 1 tackle for loss.
Through the first three games, Kam Arnold did not make much of an impact on the BC defense. Jeff Hafley and Tem Lukabu went with veterans Isaiah Graham-Mobley and Vinny DePalma over the athletic sophomore. But as BC faced more explosive offenses, Arnold earned more playing time.
Against Clemson, the converted safety displayed how his speed and athleticism unlocks this defense. Arnold flew all around the field, making big stop after big stop. His best play came when he perfectly read a speed option on 3rd down and blew up the running back for a TFL.
While he has played excellently, Arnold has struggled a bit as a coverage defender. Every time he has been targeted this season, the receiver has made the catch. Against Clemson, he gave up four catches for 52 yards. He’s a young player who is still learning the nuances of the position, so he should continue improving. But Arnold looks like he will be a key piece of this defense moving forward into ACC play.
First Star: Trae Barry, TE - 8 targets, 7 receptions, 81 yards (11.6 yards/catch), 0 drops, 3 first downs.
On a night where not much went right for the offense, Trae Barry shone through. Barry came to Boston College to show that he could compete with the best players in college football. Against the Clemson tigers, he did just that. Barry reeled in all but one of his targets and converted almost half of his catches for first downs.
Going beyond the stat sheet, Barry repeatedly showed up in clutch moments for Boston College. On BC’s first drive of the second half, he took another deep over route for 33 yards to get BC across the 50-yard line.
Later in the game, Barry got the BC offense out of a jam with a clutch catch on 3rd and 11, picking up the first down and allowing the drive to continue. He also made a big catch on BC’s ultimately futile final drive and got out of bounds to stop the block.
While Barry has not been a dominant blocker for the Eagles’ offense, he has shown that he can get open against Power Five defenses and pick up big gains after the catch. Grosel seems to have great chemistry with Barry, so expect him to be a big part of the offense moving forward.