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Boston College spent all game trying to keep up with a Clemson offense that doesn’t have a brake pedal.
At one point in the 17th-ranked Tigers’ 45-31 win Saturday at Alumni Stadium, Clemson scored two touchdowns on one drive.
On the first, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins blew by his man, C.J. Jones, looked up for the 35-yard pass from quarterback Tajh Boyd, and grabbed it, tapping his feet and twisting his body around the pylon to come down with the ball in the end zone.
But it was ruled an incompletion.
Hopkins looked at the nearest official, raised two hands in the air, appealing that it was a touchdown.
They went to the replays, which looked less like watching football and more like watching a ballerina.
It was still ruled an incompletion.
So, the Tigers used another five plays to eat up the 35 yards instead, reaching the end zone again when Roderick McDowell, the third running back on the depth chart, ping-ponged through BC’s defense for a 16-yard touchdown.
At that point, the Tigers were up, 31-21, and they continued to light up the scoreboard.
“We knew we had to score some points,” said BC coach Frank Spaziani. “They were tough to stop. Who knows, 45 [points]? Maybe they would have had 50 if they weren’t so nice to us at the end.”
It was almost sarcastic. On their last drive, the Tigers took the ball to the Eagles’ 1-yard line before time ran out, Ellington busting a 46-yard run on an eight-play, 70-yard drive, even though the game was decided.
At every turn, the Eagles (1-3, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) looked like they were trying to keep up with the pace car.
Boyd completed 27 of 38 passes for 367 and three touchdowns. BC quarterback Chase Rettig went throw for throw with him, completing 25 of 43 for 341 yards and three scores.
Hopkins caught 11 balls for 197 yards and a touchdown. Alex Amidon was right with him, with eight catches for 193 yards and two scores.
But Clemson’s big-play potential seemed infinite.
“Those are very good players, and they’ve done it to a lot of people,” Spaziani said.
The play that sealed BC’s fate came in the fourth quarter when Rettig, who spent most of the game looking for Amidon, went that way again and had the ball picked off.
It was one of two interceptions for Rettig, who did his best to the Eagles alive in a shootout.
The difference in the offenses was the running game. The Tigers (4-1, 1-1) could count on theirs (Boyd ran for 42 yards and a touchdown, and Ellington added another 132 yards and a score on 25 carries). The Eagles all but abandoned theirs.
After running the ball 20 times in the first half, BC called just eight running plays in the second.
The Eagles came in wanting to measure their offense — the one with the top-ranked passing attack in the ACC — against Clemson’s and its firepower. The Tigers had the kind of weapons the Eagles couldn’t contain, as they ran up 576 total yards to BC’s 420.
After going down, 7-0, the Tigers rattled off 17 straight points, throwing every possible play at the Eagles from the Wildcat to the option with Boyd, who gave Clemson its first score when he faked a handoff to Ellington, then kept it for a 6-yard touchdown. Boyd then hit Sam Cooper for a 15-yard score to put Clemson up, 17-7.
“That’s definitely something we were prepared for,” said BC linebacker Nick Clancy. “We practiced and we prepared for them to come out in the Wildcat and almost any formation, and they did come out in all those formations. So, we were prepared for it, but you can’t take anything away from Clemson. They’re extremely talented. They have lot of weapons and they’re not afraid to use them, and that’s what they did.”
The game was eerily similar to the Eagles’ season opener against Miami, when they put up 32 points but played catch-up with a Miami team that exploded for big play after big play.
The Eagles have given up at least 400 yards to every opponent except Maine of the Championship Subdivision.
Even without one of its top weapons, receiver Sammy Watkins, Clemson’s offense did whatever it wanted.
“The offense is clearly putting points on the board,” said BC safety Sean Sylvia, who came up with a first-half interception that sparked a brief turnaround for the Eagles. “Now we have to take more ownership and start stopping some people.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.