CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — It’s hard to say a play that occurred with No. 3 Clemson already comfortably in front by 18 points of Boston College was the play of the game, but the circumstances that followed clearly made it just that in the Tigers’ 56-10 victory on Friday night.
With the Eagles (3-3, 0-3 ACC) driving and deep in Clemson territory, quarterback Patrick Towles took a first down snap at the Clemson 29-yard line and rolled right where there was nothing there. However, he didn’t see Tigers’ Ben Boulware sitting there ready to make a play.
Towles tried to juke the linebacker and was about to cut inside, when Boulware reached out and punched his shoulder, slamming the 6-foot-5, 250-pound quarterback backwards, while dislodging the football at the same time.
“I just pushed him, but I don’t think he thought I was going to get a piece of him,” Boulware said. “I think that is why he kind of flew back.”
The official was surprised, too. In fact, the play looked as if Boulware took Towles’ head off, which is why the line judge, who was right on top of the play, threw his yellow handkerchief. Referee Jeff Maconaghy called Boulware for targeting on the play and threw the linebacker out of the game.
“I was really pretty pissed, honestly,” Boulware said admitting he thought his day was done. “I knew I did not target him. I really just kind of benched pressed him to be honest. So when they threw the flag I was thinking, ‘They just threw me out for targeting.’ They have made college football so soft. That was a clean hit.
“It was not even a hit. I punched him. That is what it was honestly. If they had thrown me out for that I would have been pretty upset.”
Fortunately for Boulware and Clemson, the replay official overturned the call on the field. Boulware was able to remain in the game, plus defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, who flushed Towles out of the pocket, recovered the loose ball at the Clemson 24-yard line.
“Man! That was a huge play in the game,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “I was so thankful.”
Venables admitted he wasn’t thinking about what was going on the field at the time, but instead how he might have just lost Boulware for the start of the NC State game, too.
“I’m thinking a game ahead as much as that game, and then we are getting the ball and all of it,” the Clemson coach said.
Boulware said he was thankful that the replay official could not only review the play, but had the ability to get the entire call correct. Two years ago, Boulware would have been allowed to stay in the game, put the 15-yard penalty would have stayed in place and BC would have had the ball at the Clemson nine-yard line with 21 seconds to play in the first half.
“That definitely helped me out, Boulware said. “I would not have done anything, but I would have been pissed.”
Venables was glad he still had the quarterback of his defense as the Tigers held Boston College to 251 total yards, including 91 through the air. Boulware finished the game with nine tackles.
“That was arguably as big as any play in the game. They were kind of moving it on us on our side of the field,” Venables said. “What a turn of events it was for us because we did not know how they would call it. We are glad. Again, that’s our quarterback on defense so that was good.”