CLEMSON, SC - Another thriller! Four of the Tigers' first five games have been of the one-score variety, but the defense was able to save the day once again and extend the nation's longest active home win streak to 31 games with a 19-13 win over Boston College. The Tigers are 2-2 in one-score games this season, including last week's double-overtime loss at NC State, but they are 29-7 since 2011, which is by far the best percentage in the nation over the last 10 years. I can't even count the number of times that the defense has been put in that position, where it must prevent a touchdown or a two-point conversion to win the game. It seems like Venables and his guys almost always prevail against the odds. Last week was one of those rare occasions when they didn't, and I attribute that to the fact that they were on the field for 40 of the 60 minutes in regulation and had lost Skalski and Bresee. But over the years, from the Tech game a couple weeks ago to the BC game last year, the Ohio State Fiesta Bowl, the two-point conversion at UNC, the two-point conversions at A&M in 2018 and against Notre Dame in 2015, the 2016 Auburn, Louisville and NC State games and on and on, the defense has come up with the big game-winning stop it had to have.
This time, it was 3 turnovers, culminating with KJ Henry's fumble recovery, that did the trick against Boston College. Nolan Turner came up with his first interception of the season, and sophomore RJ Mickens recorded his second. It looked like the defense had possibly iced the game with a stop on 4th and 9 with 2 minutes left, but the offense went three-and-out to give the Eagles one more chance for the win. The Eagles moved the ball all the way to the Tigers' 10-yard line with a minute left when a pass deflected by Skalski sailed in and out of the hands of Tyler Venables in the end zone. the entire 80,000 in Death Valley thought the game had ended and then groaned as they realized the talented safety and younger son of Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables had dropped the game-winning interception. That meant BC would still have 3 more chances to go 10 yards for the game-winning score, but facing The Hill and the loudest end of Death Valley, a bad snap on the very next play sent QB Dennis Grosel scrambling backwards, fumbling the ball right into the waiting arms of defensive end KJ Henry and sending Death Valley into a frenzy! I've heard some loud roars in Memorial Stadium, going all the way back to the sack by Charles Bennett against Miami in 2005, and this was right up there with the loudest.
Xavier Thomas, who I reported back in August had transformed into the best version of himself, was the best player on the field according to Dabo after the game. XT was all over the field all night long. On the interior, Ruke Orhorhoro and Tre Williams stepped up in a big way with starting defensive tackles Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis both out. Reuben Etinosa ("ET," as Dabo calls him) and freshman Payton Page also answered the call. They went against a rugged and experienced offensive line and held BC to just 1.4 yards per rush!
The offense, once again, left plenty to be desired, although the performances by sophomore Kobe Pace and freshman Phil Mafah were admirable with starter Will Shipley out. For the fourth straight Power Five game, it was a litany of mistakes, penalties and gaffs by the offense across the board. Many fans want to put it all on DJ and replace him, but he cannot catch his own perfectly thrown pass to Ngata on the goal line. If Ngata catches that, the Tigers lead by two scores, and BC doesn't even have a chance at the end. DJ has been far from great, but he has made as many good plays as bad, and simply replacing him is not the answer. The offense as a whole has to stop making mistakes and execute.
My score prediction this week was 27-13, so I nailed the score for BC, but had I known that the Tigers would be without Will Putnam the whole game as well as Justyn Ross, Davis Allen, Braden Galloway and Will Taylor in the second half, I would have been even closer on the other side. It's insane how many injuries to starters and key players the Tigers have already sustained in the first five weeks of the season. By my count, 11 starters have missed either entire games or substantial portions of games this season. They've been without starting safety Lannden Zanders all season, starting DT Tyler Davis has only played two games and will miss the next 4 or 5, the other starting DT, Bryan Bresee, is out for the season and Will Shipley will be out another couple games. As if the offense didn't have enough problems with youth, inexperience and mistakes, now they are starting to lose players left and right. Dabo told me after the game that Ross, who scored two touchdowns last week and left the game at the end of the second quarter, had a head injury, so at least it's nothing long-term. Will Taylor, however, injured his knee, and it didn't look good. We'll have to await the result of his MRI and find out from Dabo on our Monday evening Zoom call what the diagnosis is. Braden Galloway also suffered a head injury, and the other starting tight end, Davis Allen, was ejected on a targeting call on special teams. It occurred in the first quarter, so he will be able to start at Syracuse in two weeks. The open date next week comes at a perfect time with all of these injuries, and thank goodness the Tigers are going into it on a positive note with a win rather than back-to-back heartbreaking losses! With tough road games at Syracuse and Pitt coming up, let's hope the offense will use the time off to work on the fundamentals and get out of the funk it's been in.
How about BT Potter? He had just 2 field goal attempts in the first 4 games with none last week, and he just calmly went 4-4 against BC when the Tigers needed every one of them! Dabo said after the game that he considered letting him attempt a 55-yarder in the second half but thought better of it with the way the defense was playing and decided to punt and try to pin BC deep. The special teams were outstanding with the exception of the blocked punt, and that was due to Davis Allen's targeting ejection in the first quarter. Ordinarily, he would be blocking that player, but his backup missed it and allowed the punt to be blocked. Fortunately, the defense came through as usual in the sudden-change situation and didn't even allow BC a field goal on the exchange.
The Tigers' 31-game home win streak is not only the longest active streak in the nation but the longest in program history. It is tied with Yale and Texas A&M for the 14th-longest ever. The record is 58 by Miami, followed by 57 for Alabama under Bear Bryant. It was a fantastic Homecoming night in the Valley, and the 1981 National Champions celebrated their 40-year anniversary with Danny Ford (see below).
I'll have more analysis in a bit. In the meantime, Dabo's press conference, coach/player interviews, notes and highlights are below!
WITH THE WIN....
Clemson won its 31st consecutive home game to extend its school record for both the longest home winning streak and longest home unbeaten streak in school history (as well as extend the nation’s longest active home winning streak). Of the 135 players on Clemson’s 2021 roster, 130 have never experienced a home loss in their Clemson careers. Five sixth-year “super seniors” on Clemson’s 2021 roster were on the 2016 team that recovered from a home loss to Pitt by winning the national championship that season.
Clemson tied 1890-93 Yale, 1990-95 Texas A&M and 2001-05 Boise State (31 each) for the 18th-longest home winning streak in FBS history.
With the win over previously undefeated Boston College, Clemson improved to 10-5 in Death Valley against teams with a 4-0 or better record, including wins in each of the last five instances.
Clemson improved to 20-9-2 all-time against Boston College, dating to the teams’ first meeting in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day in 1940.
Clemson won its 11th consecutive game against Boston College, dating back to 2011. Clemson’s 11-game winning streak against Boston College is its second-longest active streak against an ACC opponent, trailing Clemson’s 12-game active winning streak against Wake Forest.
Clemson’s 11-game winning streak against Boston College is its seventh-longest against a single opponent all-time.
Clemson improved to 13-4 against Boston College since the Eagles joined the ACC in 2005.
Clemson improved to 13-1 against Boston College under Head Coach Dabo Swinney. The victory also improved Swinney to 8-0 at home against Boston College.
Clemson improved to 28-7 in games following a loss under Dabo Swinney, including season openers following a loss in the previous season finale. Clemson has not lost back-to-back games in the same season since November 2011.
Clemson, which was No. 25 in the AP Poll this week after being No. 9 in the AP Poll last week, also improved to 27-6 under Dabo Swinney in games in which it enters ranked lower in the AP Poll than it did in its previous contest. That record includes season openers in which Clemson opened a season lower than its ranking from the final game of the previous campaign.
Head Coach Dabo Swinney earned his 143rd career win to pass Steve Spurrier for sole possession of the sixth-most wins through the first 15 years of a coaching career in FBS history. Of note, Swinney is only in his 14th season (including an interim season in 2008).
Clemson improved to 27-1 in October games in the College Football Playoff era (since 2014).
Clemson defeated an ACC Atlantic Division opponent for the 38th time in its last 40 opportunities, including games against traditional Atlantic opponents in a divisionless season in 2020.
Clemson improved to 54-4 against ACC opponents (including postseason play) since the start of the 2015 season.
Clemson moved to 70-5 in regular season play since the start of the 2015 season.
Clemson is now 61-3 when scoring first since 2015.
Clemson has now won 90 of its last 92 games, including each of its last 53, when leading at halftime.
Clemson improved to 111-2 since 2011 when leading after three quarters.
Clemson is now 53-2 when having a 100-yard rusher since 2011.
Clemson improved to 65-4 when winning the turnover margin since 2011.
Clemson is now 70-1 when rushing for 200+ yards under Dabo Swinney.
Clemson has now won 92 of its last 93 games when holding teams under 23 points (dates to 2010), including 89 straight prior to a season-opening 10-3 loss to Georgia in 2021.
With the six-point victory, Clemson has now won 29 of its last 36 one-possession games since 2011, the highest winning percentage in the country in one-score games in that span.
Clemson improved to 74-20-3 all-time in Homecoming games, including a 44-4-2 record in Homecoming games since the 1971 season.
Clemson finished plus-three in the turnover margin, Clemson’s first time finishing plus-three or better since finishing plus-four in the turnover margin against Pitt last November.
Clemson did not have any giveaways, its first turnover-free game since the third game of the 2020 season against Virginia.
Clemson held Boston College to 4.8 yards per play and still has not allowed an opponent to average 5.0 or more yards per play in a game this season.
Clemson limited Boston College to 46 rushing yards. Prior to Saturday, Boston College had rushed for at least 178 rushing yards in each of its first four games of the season and entered the game ranked second in the ACC at 220.5 rushing yards per game.
Clemson recorded 438 yards, its second-most this season behind its 504 yards against South Carolina State.
Clemson exceeded both 200 passing yards (207) and 200 rushing yards (231) for the second time this season. Clemson is now 55-0 when both passing and rushing for 200+ yards under Dabo Swinney.
Running back Kobe Pace recorded a career-high 125 yards on 19 carries with one touchdown.
Pace also added 41 receiving yards on two receptions and 44 return yards on two kickoff returns. His 210 all-purpose yards represented Clemson’s first 200-yard all-purpose performance since Travis Etienne against Boston College a year ago.
Pace recorded Clemson’s first 100-yard rushing performance of the season and its first since Travis Etienne’s 124 yards against Notre Dame in last year’s ACC Championship Game.
Clemson opened the scoring on its second possession on a 59-yard touchdown run by Pace.
The run was the longest of Pace’s career and Clemson’s longest play from scrimmage of the season.
Pace’s 59-yard run was Clemson’s longest since Travis Etienne’s 72-yard touchdown run against Miami (Fla.) last season.
Pace’s previous career high in rushing yards was 68 against South Carolina State earlier this season. He recorded 76 rushing yards in the first quarter alone on Saturday.
Pace added a career-long 33-yard reception in the third quarter.
Running back Phil Mafah made his collegiate debut, rushing seven times for 58 yards.
Wide receiver Joseph Ngata recorded a career-high 111 yards on four receptions, surpassing his 110-yard performance against Georgia in the season opener.
With Pace and Ngata, respectively, Clemson produced a 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver in a single game for the first time since the 2020 ACC Championship Game (Travis Etienne and Amari Rodgers).
Ngata recorded a 54-yard reception in the fourth quarter, Clemson’s longest pass completion of the season.
On Clemson’s first offensive play, wide receiver Justyn Ross extended his streak of consecutive games with a reception to 32.
Tight end Sage Ennis recorded his first career reception on an eight-yard pass from quarterback DJUiagalelei in the second quarter.
Uiagalelei rushed for 50 yards, giving him at least 50 rushing yards in back-to-back contests for the first time in his career.
Placekicker B.T.Potter recorded a season-high and career-high-tying four field goals on four attempts, his first multi-field-goal game of the season. His career high in field goals entering the game was 4-for-4 at Notre Dame last November.
During the game, Potter (37) passed Bob Pauling (34 from 1979-83) and tied Mark Buchholz (37 from 2007-08) for ninth in school history in career field goals made.
Potter’s 18-yard second-quarter field goal was the culmination of a 94-yard scoring drive, Clemson’s longest since a 95-yard touchdown drive against LSU in the College Football Playoff National Championship to end the 2019 season.
Safety Nolan Turner recorded his first interception of the season in the second quarter.
The interception was the seventh of Turner’s career and his first since last year’s game against Syracuse.
Turner earned the Leather Helmet Award as the game’s Most Valuable Player, as presented by the Boston College Gridiron Club. He became the second defensive player to earn the award since its institution in 2008, joining Vic Beasley (2013).
Turner recorded seven tackles, one shy of the team high of eight (Andrew Booth Jr.).
With Turner’s interception, Clemson’s first takeaway of the game, Clemson recorded a takeaway in a sixth consecutive game, dating to last season, for the first time since a nine-game streak in 2019.
Safety R.J. Mickens recorded his second interception of the season and of his career in the third quarter.
The game was Clemson’s first multi-interception game of the season and its first since intercepting Pitt four times last November.
Clemson’s second tackle for loss of the game pushed Clemson to 1,100 tackles for loss since Brent Venables’ arrival as defensive coordinator in 2012. No other program has reached 900 tackles for loss in that span.
Clemson surrendered its first rushing touchdown of the season in the third quarter. Clemson went 18 quarters (and two overtimes) before surrendering a rushing touchdown. It was Clemson’s longest such defensive streak to open a season since 1981, when the eventual national champions held opponents from rushing for a touchdown in any of the first six games of that season.
Defensive end Myles Murphy and defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro split the game’s first sack in the second quarter. The half-sack was Orhorhoro’s first since 2019 vs. Wake Forest.
Murphy added another sack in the fourth quarter, giving him his first multi-sack game since posting 2.0 sacks in his collegiate debut at Wake Forest last season.
Defensive end Xavier Thomas recorded a sack on the final play of the third quarter.
Thomas has now recorded a full sack in back-to-back games for the first time since the Syracuse and Boston College games last year.
In the fourth quarter, Tré Williams added his first career half-sack, splitting a sack with linebacker Baylon Spector.
Collectively, Clemson recorded four sacks and has now recorded at least three sacks against three consecutive opponents for the first time since a seven-game streak across the final two games of 2019 and first five games of 2020.
Defensive end K.J. Henry sealed the victory with the third fumble recovery of his career with 49 seconds remaining. It was his first since recovering a fumble at Georgia Tech last October.
Punter Will Spiers started his 61st game to add to his school record for career starts. Wide receiver/holder Will Swinney's career total as Clemson's primary holder parallels Spiers' run as starting punter.
Spiers, Swinney and linebacker James Skalski each played their 61st career games to extend their school record for most career games played.
Clemson and Boston College met in Death Valley in three consecutive years for the first time in series history. The Eagles joined Duke (1986-88), Virginia (1972-74) and Wake Forest (1957-59 and 1983-85) as the only ACC programs ever to face Clemson in Death Valley in three consecutive seasons.
In hosting 4-0 Boston College, Clemson hosted an opponent with a perfect record through four or more games at Death Valley for the 15th time in stadium history. Clemson is now 10-5 at Memorial Stadium against teams with a 4-0 or better record, including wins in each of the last five instances.
Head Coach Dabo Swinney coached his 178th career game to tie Virginia and Wake Forest’s Al Groh (178) for fourth-most career games coached as a member of the ACC.
Captains for the contest were offensive lineman Matt Bockhorst, wide receiver Frank Ladson Jr., long snapper Jack Maddox and defensive end Regan Upshaw.