After a sluggish start, Clemson got 220 yards and three touchdowns from quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, while the defense smothered Boston College for most of the night in what turned out to be an easy 31-3 victory Saturday at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
The win was No. 5 Clemson’s 12th straight over BC. It also extended the nation’s longest win streak to 12 games.
However, the story of the night was the play of Clemson’s defense. On a night when it was obvious the offense was not its sharpest, the defense dominated.
Clemson held BC to the fewest points in a game since 1952.
“I thought our defense was the story of the game,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We played outstanding. In fact, that is the fewest points they have scored on us since 1952.
“So, we are really proud of our D. I thought they played their best game, their most complete game for four quarters. We have seen in pockets and spurts for a quarter or two, but I thought they played a really complete game.”
The Tigers (6-0, 4-0 ACC) held the Eagles to 254 total yards, while sacking quarterback Phil Jurkovec three times. BC was held to 34 rushing yards and averaged just 1.1 yards per carry.
“The defense played an unbelievable game tonight,” Uiagalelei said. “Man! Only gave up three points. Hats off to the defense, man.”
The Clemson defense finished with four sacks overall and two striped fumbles, one of which was recovered by defensive tackle Payton Page. After throwing for 304 yards in a win over Louisville last week, Jurkovec completed just 19 of 40 passes for 188 yards.
The Tigers held wide receiver Zay Flowers to 75 yards on eight catches. Flowers came into the evening averaging 96 yards per game and had five touchdowns. Both of which led the ACC.
“We kept (Flowers) minimized the best you can,” Swinney said. “He is a great, great player.”
Uiagalelei and the offense finally got things going late in the second quarter, as running back Will Shipley ran for a touchdown just before the half and then Uiagalelei threw two touchdown passes after halftime.
The junior quarterback finished his evening 18 for 32 passing, three touchdowns and one interception. He also added 69 yards on the ground, including a 40-yard run in the fourth quarter. It marked the fourth straight game in which Uiagalelei rushed for more than 50 yards.
Like in last week’s game against NC State, Clemson’s halftime adjustments paid off at the start of the third quarter.
The Tigers forced BC (2-4, 1-3 ACC) to go three-and-out to start the third, then Uiagalelei and the offense finally got things rolling. Clemson got an 11-yard run by Shipley to start the drive. Then on third down-and-long, while being under duress, Uiagalelei found Beaux Collins along the sideline, who made a great 21-yard catch to keep the drive going.
On the next play, Uiagalelei hit Joseph Ngata in stride for an easy 38-yard touchdown, which gave the Tigers a 17-3 lead with 11:50 to play in the third quarter.
“I love how we started the second half,” Swinney said.
Clemson extended its lead to 24-3 on the first play of the fourth quarter when Uiagalelei found a wide-open Collins in the end zone for a 10-yard score. The Collins touchdown capped an 8-play, 72-yard drive.
The first half was not pretty at all or the Tigers. Uiagalelei threw his first interception in 110 attempts. Collins dropped a touchdown pass and the wide receivers as a whole dropped four passes in the first half. The offensive line was called for two illegal procedure penalties, and the special teams muffed a punt.
After Uiagalelei’s interception on the Tigers’ second possession, Clemson’s next four possessions ended in punts and totaled just 41 yards. The Tigers were just 1-for-6 on third down in the opening half.
“I am disappointed with the first quarter. We just had a hard time settling in and getting a rhythm,” Swinney said. “We dropped a touchdown pass. A couple of dumb penalties. A bad interception, which was a poor decision.
“Then defensively, we have a sack on third-and-sixteen or something. We think he is throwing the ball and the next thing you know he is completing it. They did not score, but they put us in bad field position early.”
Punter Aidan Swanson aided in Clemson finally getting into the end zone. He nailed a 49-yard punt that backed the Eagles at their own 7-yard line. After the defense forced a three-and-out, Antonio Williams returned a 43-yard punt 20 yards to the BC 28.
The Tigers took advantage of Williams’ punt return and moved the football to the BC one, where on third-and-goal, Shipley ran into the end zone for the game’s first touchdown and a 10-3 lead with 45 seconds left in the first half.
Clemson opened the game with a 9-play, 54-yard drive that resulted in a 35-yard B.T. Potter field goal and a 3-0 lead with 11:28 to go in the first quarter. It should have been a 7-0 lead, but Collins dropped a sure touchdown pass in the end zone.
BC kicker Connor Lytton, who missed one kick and had another blocked, made a 30-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter to tie the game at 3-3.
Clemson will visit Florida State next Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla.
–photo courtesy of Clemson Athletic Communications