Tigers Trip to Boston Not So Special

by - Correspondent -

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. --- Special teams definitely weren’t special Saturday for the No. 18 Clemson Tigers.

Two hundred and thirteen kickoff return yards from Boston College freshman Jeff Smith and a blocked extra point in the second overtime cost the Tigers a 34-33 loss to Boston College.

“Special teams are going to get better,” Clemson defensive back Duane Coleman said. “It has too because it can’t get any worse.”

The biggest special teams blunder came after running back James Davis gave the Tigers (1-1) a 33-27 lead with a 1-yard run in the second overtime. On the ensuing extra point, BC linebacker Jolonn Dunbar blocked Jad Dean’s point after attempt, opening the door for L.V. Whitworth’s 6-yard touchdown and Ryan Ohliger’s game-winning extra point on the Eagles’ next possession.

“I didn’t even look at (the missed extra point),” Clemson running back James Davis said. “The guys were still patting me on the shoulder after the touchdown and when he missed it I was real shocked by that.”

So was Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, who said despite his defense’s in ability to stop Boston College’s offense, the breakdowns on special teams were the ultimate reasons why his team is flying back to Clemson with a loss in its ACC opener.

“If you look at the statistics we out rushed them, we out threw them, we had time of possession and the turnovers were equal,” he said. “It shows the significance of the kicking game. We did everything good. We scored 33 points, 500 total yards, and we lost the game so obviously that magnifies the importance of special teams, which we did a poor job of.”

Dean said through a Clemson spokesman, he put the loss on his shoulders.

“I hit the ball solid, but my get-off time was a little slow,” Dean said.

But Dean can’t put the whole loss on his shoulders. Clemson defense failed to slow down a BC offense which converted 8 of 16 third downs and Smith’s 96-yard kickoff return to open the second half didn’t help matters either.

“Obviously they (BC) got it done and we didn’t,” Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams said.

It appeared Clemson might pull out a win in the second overtime. Facing a second down-and-26 from the Boston College 41, Will Proctor found Stuckey going across the middle for a 20-yard gain to the 21 and then again on third down-and-6 with a 20-yard gain to the one. Two plays later, Davis plowed over from the one to give Clemson a 33-27 lead.

“We had our backs up against the wall there with the ball at 40-yard line on second down and converting the first down and then getting the touchdown says a lot about our offense,” Proctor said.

Proctor and the offense did their part alright. The Tigers totaled 490 yards, with Proctor accounting for 343 of those yards. He had touchdown passes of 22 and 82 yards, while completing 25 of his 40 passes without an interception.

Stuckey finished the game with 11 catches for 124 yards, while Davis rushed for 97 yards and two scores.

The Tigers appeared as if they might run away with the game after dominating the first quarter. Clemson took a 10-0 lead on a Dean 26-yard field goal and a 22-yard Proctor to Grisham pass with 1:30 left in the quarter.

Clemson had 143 total yards in the first quarter in 23 plays, while BC had 9 yards on 9 plays.

“We started off the game very slow and very tentative. We looked like we didn’t have a chance,” Boston College coach Tom O’Brien said. “I give this football team a lot of credit. They hung in there and gutted it out. They toughed it out.”

Boston College (2-0) finally got itself going when Smith took his second kickoff of the game 45 yards, setting the Eagles up at their own 47. Seven plays later, quarterback Matt Ryan completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Challenger to make the score 10-7.

BC appeared to be on the verge of taking the lead until Andre Callender fumbled the football at the Clemson one while stretching the ball out near the goal line. Adams picked up the loose football and returned it 17 yards to the 18.

Two plays after the fumble, Clemson freshman C.J. Spiller proved why he was a hot commodity out of high school when he took a screen pass in the flat, juked a would-be-tackler, then a second before cutting across the middle of the field and out running the BC defense for an 82-yard touchdown.

“I was Will’s checked down guy, and I got a couple of blocks from my receivers. The only thing I was thinking was touchdown in my mind,” Spiller said.

After an Ohliger field goal and Smith’s 96-yard touchdown return, Clemson looked like it took control of the game again when Davis capped an 80-yard scoring drive with a 1-yard run with 8:20 to play.

When safety Michael Hamlin fought off Challenger for an apparent interception at his own 12 with 6:18 to go, the game appeared to be in the bag. But the interception was overturned by replay officials who said that there was indisputable evidence that Challenger had possession of the ball when the two players came down.

Four plays later, Ryan took it in from the one to tie the game at 24-24, eventually sending it into overtime.

In the first overtime, Clemson held the Eagles to a field goal and then moved the ball to the BC three when Proctor found Stuckey for a 22-yard gain on the first offensive play. But Spiller was hit for a four-yard loss on the next play, and Proctor was sacked for a nine-yard loss on second down. After a screen pass to Spiller netted 3 yards, Dean kicked a 30-yard field goal to even things up.

Courtesy of Journal / Messenger

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