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Instant Replay: No. 2 Clemson 34, Boston College 7

Second-ranked Clemson defeated Boston College, 34-7, on Saturday in Death Valley. The Tigers improved to 4-0 (2-0 ACC), while the Eagles fell to 1-3 (0-2).

Here is a look back at how Clemson earned the victory:

What happened?

The defenses dominated the day for the most part. Clemson — which averaged 520 yards of offense entering the game, a mark that ranked 14th nationally — was held to just 269 yards through three quarters before breaking out in the fourth. Boston College, meanwhile, mustered only 238 yards of offense.

Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant cracked the scoreboard first at the 7:16 mark of the second quarter with an 11-yard touchdown run that capped a 13-play, 94-yard drive. A block by running back Tavien Feaster on the edge allowed Bryant to get outside and scamper into the end zone.

In the third quarter, Boston College took advantage of favorable field position to tie the game up. After sacking Bryant deep in Clemson territory on third down, the Eagles took over at the Tigers’ 37-yard line and needed just eight plays to find pay dirt. A.J. Dillon’s 1-yard rumble made the score 7-7 with 3:30 left in the third quarter.

However, Clemson’s offense began to click when it mattered most and recorded 213 yards in the final period. Adam Choice concluded a 10-play, 67-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter that gave the Tigers the lead for good. On Clemson’s ensuing possession, freshman running back Travis Etienne gave his team some breathing room with an electric 50-yard touchdown sprint. Kelly Bryant iced the game with 2:50 remaining when he plunged into the end zone on a run from four yards out, before Etienne tacked on with a 10-yard touchdown run that provided the final margin.

What went right?  

Clemson played lockdown defense, as it has all season thus far, and the unit’s stifling effort kept the team in the game until the offense figured things out late.

Boston College had only 12 first downs, went 4-of-16 on third-down attempts and averaged 3.6 yards per play. Clemson forced two turnovers courtesy of interceptions by cornerbacks Trayvon Mullen and A.J. Terrell. The Tigers were disruptive all game long with six tackles for loss, five pass breakups and 10 quarterback hurries.

The biggest positive for Clemson offensively was that it ran for 342 yards on 58 carries, an average of 5.9 yards per attempt.

What went wrong?

The Tigers committed two turnovers and were lucky that it was only two. Bryant threw two interceptions, though Boston College defensive end Harold Landry forced one of the picks by hitting Bryant’s arm and causing the ball to pop into the air. Both Bryant and C.J. Fuller fumbled, as well, but the Tigers recovered both. Offensive guard Taylor Hearn recovered Bryant’s fumble and ran for a first down on Clemson’s first scoring drive of the game.

Another negative was that Clemson lost the field position battle. The Tigers started five drives inside their own 10-yard line and had an average field position of their own 24-yard line.

Game-changing moment?

Early in the fourth quarter, a big catch by sophomore wide receiver Diondre Overton on third down led to Clemson’s go-ahead score. With the game knotted at 7-7, Overton hauled in a 23-yard pass from Kelly Bryant that put the Tigers at Boston College’s 6-yard line. A play later, Choice ran into the end zone and gave Clemson a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Had Overton not made the catch, it would have been fourth-and-9 from Boston College’s 29-yard line, and things could have turned out differently.

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