By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON — Clemson has always had its issues when it comes to playing Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass. It goes back to the first time the No. 17 Tigers played there after Boston College joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2005.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was an assistant coach at Clemson in the fall of 2006 when the Tigers made their first journey to Alumni Stadium, the same place they will play this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN2.
“All the games I have had with them as an assistant and as a head coach have been crazy,” Swinney said following Wednesday night’s practice. “One of the reasons early on was that guy Matt Ryan. He was something special now, and still is.”
In the 2006 game, Clemson led for the better part of the contest and seemed to have locked down the victory midway through the fourth quarter when safety Michael Hamlin went up and pulled in a jump-ball pass from Ryan. But the play was overturned by the replay official and was ruled that both players had the ball though replays showed Hamlin clearly came down with possession of the ball on his stomach before the Eagles wide receiver wrapped his hand around the football.
Boston College went onto to score on that possession and ultimately forced overtime. After Clemson forced the Eagles to kick a field goal on its possession, former Clemson wide receiver Chansi Stuckey hauled in a pass down the middle that set the Tigers up at the two-yard line with a chance to win the game in the first overtime session. But, for some reason, Clemson called a sweep to running back C.J. Spiller, who was tackled for a three-yard loss on the next play. The Tigers settled for a field goal to force a second overtime, and then lost the game when BC blocked an extra-point try following a Clemson touchdown. BC scored on its next possession and made the point after to win the game, 34-33.
“First of all, they are well-coached and they are a good football team, but it is such a tough place to play,” Swinney said. “It’s a little different. It is a long way. It is by far our longest trip, but it will be fun.”
It was fun when Swinney got his first win as a head coach the next time the two hooked up at Alumni Stadium. In that game Spiller amassed 242 all-purpose yards as Clemson scored the game’s final 10 points to rally for a 27-21 victory. The Tigers, however, blew a 17-point first half lead after rolling up 240 yards of offense, but several Clemson miscues allowed the Eagles to score 21-unanswered points to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
But Spiller took the ensuing kickoff 64 yards to set up the go-ahead score, and then the defense forced a turnover and stopped BC on downs on its next two possessions to seal the Tigers’ first victory over Boston College since the Eagles joined the ACC.
“That was such a big win for our guys,” Swinney said. “That was a confidence builder for them as they made some plays.”
The 2010 game at Alumni Stadium was just as strange as the previous two. Clemson used a Rashard Hall interception return on the game’s first series to take a 7-0 lead, but after that the Tigers did very little to help themselves.
Chandler Catanzaro made a first-quarter field goal to extend the lead to 10-3, but Boston College put together a 17-play, 62-yard drive which consumed more than nine minutes of the game clock. The drive was prolonged by a costly Clemson penalty on third-and-26, which set up a 36-yard field goal by Nate Freese.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Tigers fumbled and Boston College recovered the loose ball at the Clemson 36. On the next play, quarterback Chase Rettig threw a swing-pass to Montel Harris out of the backfield and the running back went the distance to give the Eagles a 13-10 lead with 8:32 remaining in the first half.
Boston College kicked another field goal before the half ended to take a 16-10 lead, which ultimately was the final score. Though the Clemson defense forced six punts in the second half and held BC to 84 total yards, the offense could not get it together as they consistently bogged down inside the 20-yard line and Catanzaro missed three field goals.
“We just could not score,” Swinney said. “We turned it over and we missed kicks. We threw an interception in the red zone and then gave up one touchdown and it was on a throwback to the back down the sideline.”
To make matters worse, leading rusher Andre Ellington was injured and played only sparingly for the Tigers the rest of the season.
“It was one of those ugly days. It was their kind of game, and we can’t make it their kind of game,” Swinney said. “We have to keep it in Clemson style, sort of speak.”
Injury news. Swinney said after practice that wide receiver Martavis Bryant would miss Saturday’s game at Boston College and the following game against Georgia Tech due to a groin injury. The sophomore is expected to return for the Virginia Tech game, which will be played Oct. 20 after an open date.
Bryant suffered the injury while working out in the strength training facility before practice on Tuesday.
Bryant has two receptions for 61 yards this year and both have gone for scores, a 22-yard touchdown reception against Ball State and a 39-yard scoring catch against Furman.
Depth chart news. Swinney says the depth chart will look pretty much like it did against Florida State last week when they head out for Boston on Friday.
Swinney says they grade the defensive line as they go through the week and there are two or three guys that are interchangeable at this point. A decision will be made on who starts and who does what once they get through Thursday’s practice. The same thing can be said in the secondary as far as where Xavier Brewer will lineup.
Swinney did hint that someone else could start as well at safety or corner, saying, “We are challenging those guys because we have five guys that are fairly even.”
The Clemson coaches want to do a better job of rotating players on defense, something both Swinney and defensive coordinator Brent Venables said they were guilty of not doing in Tallahassee, Fla., last week.