Boston College football stayed within striking distance for a half against No. 5 Clemson on Saturday night, but, eventually, the Tigers reminded everyone why they’re national championship contenders.
Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei threw three second-half touchdown passes, helping Clemson pull away for a 31-3 win in front of 42,138 fans at Alumni Stadium. BC trailed just 10-3 at halftime, thanks to a stellar showing from its defense, but the Tigers settled into a rhythm from there.
“We had opportunities, we did,” BC coach Jeff Hafley said. “We kept the game really tight in that first half. We could have taken advantage of it more. That’s what I said to the guys. There were too many mistakes.”
The Eagles (2-4, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) were looking for their first win over an Associated Press-ranked team since 2014 and a top-five team since 2002. They were also on the hunt for their first victory over the Tigers (6-0, 4-0 ACC) since 2010 after falling by six points on the road each of the past two years.
Though they didn’t quite give Clemson a legitimate scare, they did make the Tigers earn the win.
“This is what we came to Boston College for, to play in the big games, play against the big teams,” linebacker Kam Arnold said. “We took it personally. We were obviously the underdog, so we just had a chip on our shoulder.”
BC honored 1999 graduate Welles Crowther with its annual Red Bandanna Game. Crowther, who died in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, is credited with saving as many as a dozen lives in the Twin Towers. The Eagles played a tribute video before the game, and both BC and Clemson fans used their phones to light the stadium in unison.
The Eagles — playing without running backs Alex Broome, Cam Barfield, and Alec Sinkfield, starting left guard Finn Dirstine, starting tight end George Takacs, and defensive backs CJ Burton and Jalen Cheek — held their own against the Tigers for longer than many thought in their final game before the bye week.
“We’re really banged up. Like really banged up,” Hafley said. “We were kind of hanging on by a thread at a lot of positions. We need it to get healthy, very badly.”
B.T. Potter drilled a 35-yard field goal on the game’s first drive to put Clemson up early. BC’s Josh DeBerry intercepted Uiagalelei on the next drive, then the Eagles forced three straight three-and-outs.
Connor Lytton missed a 35-yard field goal for BC but nailed a 30-yarder with 14:56 left in the half to tie it. The Eagles had several productive drives but couldn’t find the end zone. Clemson did so with 45 seconds left in the half, on a 1-yard run from Will Shipley.
Boston College outgained Clemson, 168-131, in total yards and held the Tigers to 1 of 6 on third down in the half. The Eagles won the possession battle, limited Uiagalelei to 80 yards passing, and averaged more yards per play, yet still found themselves in a halftime hole.
“You’ve got to play four quarters,” defensive back Jason Maitre said. “Obviously we didn’t do that well enough today, but we played really well in the first half. They scored 10 points.”
Uiagalelei (18 of 32, 220 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT) hit Joseph Ngata for a 38-yard TD early in the third to make it 17-3. K.J. Henry blocked a BC field goal attempt, then Uiagalelei found a wide-open Beaux Collins for a 10-yard TD on the first play of the fourth quarter. Brannon Spector added a 13-yard score.
The Tigers blitzed BC quarterback Phil Jurkovec (19 of 40, 188 yards) early and often, and eventually seized command. Star receiver Zay Flowers paced the Eagles with eight catches for 75 yards, and Jaelen Gill and Pat Garwo added three catches apiece.
The Eagles built the suspense for a half, but ultimately, they lost to a better team. Hafley credited the Tigers for wearing the Eagles down.
“That’s what they do,” Hafley said. “They have a lot of depth, and they have a lot of really good players. They kind of overwhelm you late in the game.”