Deon Cain cost Clemson a few points at the end of the first half against Boston College on Friday night. But the sophomore wide receiver made up for it in a big way after halftime, helping the Tigers close out the game in convincing fashion and cruise to a 56-10 victory over the Eagles at Alumni Stadium.
With eight seconds left in the second quarter and Clemson up 21-3, Cain caught a pass from quarterback Deshaun Watson in Boston College territory. But instead of falling to the ground and allowing Clemson to call a timeout before time expired in order to attempt a field goal, Cain stayed on his feet, and the clock ran out.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was livid after the play and lectured Cain on the way to the locker room.
When Cain came out of the locker room, though, he responded to his mistake and made amends for it.
Cain caught touchdown receptions of 29 yards and 16 yards, respectively, on Clemson’s first two drives of the second half to help quickly turn an 18-point halftime lead into a 32-point, 35-3 advantage.
“That’s a big coaching moment right there for him, and something all the guys will be able to learn from,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said of Cain’s mental mistake. “But I like the resilience. He came back in the second half and made some big plays. That’s what we talk about. Hey, let’s learn from it and let’s move on to the next play.”
It was the second straight game that Cain has hauled in two touchdowns, giving him a team-high six on the season.
After leading Clemson’s receiving corps with four catches for 98 yards and the two touchdowns against Louisville last week, Cain said it was good to continue the personal momentum.
“Really just trying to stay consistent,” Cain said. “Great players stay consistent, so I’m really just trying to stay consistent throughout every week and just keep on capitalizing and make good decisions for myself and for my team so we can benefit and have the win at the end of the day.”
Swinney was so frustrated with Cain’s error because the situation that occurred is something Clemson often practices. Moreover, Clemson had called a timeout right before the play to discuss exactly what to do.
“We knew exactly what was going to happen,” Swinney said. “We were going to be wide open over the middle, catch the ball, get down, we call timeout, we kick a field goal and we go into the half. So, very disappointed with our execution right there.
“It was frustrating we didn’t execute properly. That’s on me, and we’ve got to clean that up because those are things that could be the difference in a ball game down the road.”
At the end of the day, Cain’s blunder was just a minor blip on the radar, while his two touchdowns made a major mark.
The Tigers have had trouble putting teams away after building big leads, but thanks in part to Cain, that wasn’t a problem against Boston College.
After Cain’s two touchdowns, Clemson went on to score two more — as well as return an interception for a touchdown — in the second half. Altogether, Clemson scored 35 points after halftime.
“There’s nothing more important than how we play in the second half,” Scott said, “and that’s something I was really pleased with, the way the guys came back and played in the third quarter. That’s something we needed to do a better job with.”
Overall, Cain finished the game with three catches for 68 yard and the pair of touchdowns. The native of Tampa, Fla., brought his season totals to 13 receptions, 238 yards and six touchdowns.
Cain credits film study for his performance so far, and said the game is slowing down for him more and more each week.
“I got more mature, just really putting more time in on film study and really trying to learn my opponents,” Cain said. “You see every little tick that they have, and once you realize it, you’ll know what to do once the ball comes, and you’ll know how to react to every type of situation they throw you in.”