Clemson Overcomes First-Half Defensive Struggles to Rally Past Boston College

It was far from pretty but Clemson's defense made just enough stops to hold off Boston College Saturday as the Tigers overcame an 18-point deficit to defeat the Eagles.

For the second straight week, the Tigers found themselves facing adversity in Death Valley against a fellow ACC foe. But for the second time in as many weeks, it was the top-ranked team in the country finding a way to win in the second half.  

The Tigers were without several starters and key players Saturday and the absence of Tyler Davis, James Skalski, and Mike Jones Jr. was immediately felt as the Eagles pushed around Brent Venables' defense for touchdowns on the opening two possessions of the game. 

Despite behind held to just 67 yards rushing on the day, the Eagles managed to keep the Clemson defense on its hills for most of the first half. That combined with several errors and sloppy football from a fundamental standpoint put the Tigers in situations that could have been avoided. 

"In the first half, we couldn't get out of our way at times, that was obvious," Venables said. "(Boston College) executed with precision. We had some opportunities to make some plays on the first couple of drives but couldn't get our head around or we lost leverage," he said. 

The Tigers had several self-inflicted wounds to go with several tough breaks and unlucky bounces. From roughing the passer, targeting, jumping offsides on a crucial fourth and short, the Tigers were their own worst enemy more than a few times Saturday afternoon. 

"Just a calamity of errors," Venables said. "Not really mental errors at all just some fundament things we've gotta do better--and did better in the second half." 

Head coach Dabo Swinney said it would have been easy for Clemson to fold and hang it up after tough break after tough break but the Tigers never flinched. Swinney said he was pleased with how his team rallied around each other despite tough break after tough break to post the largest Clemson comeback victory in Death Valley history. (18 points).

"They could have pouted but they never that. They just kept supporting each other and hung in there together. It was awesome to see," Swinney said. "It was inspiring and this shows you what our team was made of, how much they care, and how much they believe. {..} We had a lot of adversity and it can destroy you, it can refine you or it can develop you and I saw it develop our team today." 

After falling behind 28-10 in the second quarter, Clemson put the clamps on quarterback Phil Jurkovec to silence the Boston College Eagles down the stretch en route to a 34-28 triumph over first-year head coach Jeff Hafley. 

Boston College was held scoreless the rest of the afternoon after CJ Lewis pulled in an 18-yard touchdown pass with 1:02 remaining in the first half to claim a commanding 28-10 advantage.  

Venables said that the difference between the first half (21 points allowed) and the second half (zero points allowed) was getting back to the fundamentals. 

"Just a little more precise and we talked a lot about just finishing plays and you know just try to take it one play at a time, one drive at a time and just play it a little bit cleaner," the Clemson defensive coordinator said. 

With the game still hanging in the balance late in the fourth quarter, it was one of Clemson's talented freshman in Byran Bresee that ultimately sealed the deal with a QB pressure which led to an Eagle safety with 1:18 left in regulation. 

"It was a great call by Coach V. It was perfect," Bresee said. "Thorugh film study, the freshman said he felt like Jurkovec would try to scramble outside to extend the play so he was prepared to close in on the sophomore who had a sensational first half in Death Valley before being smothered down the stretch. 

"I kind of assumed that's what he was going to try to do. I just planted my foot and got out. I wanted to make sure he wasn't getting away from me so I just held on with everything I could," he said.