By Will Vandervort.
By Heath Bradley
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass .— When No. 17 Clemson takes on Boston College Saturday afternoon in Chestnut Hill, Mass., special teams could be the key to victory for the Tigers. In Clemson’s past three victories over the Eagles, the special teams units have won the battle.
The 2008 matchup was Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney’s first victory as a head coach. In a game in which the Tigers blew a 17-0 lead, with less than 10 minutes remaining, a special teams play turned the tide once again in the favor of the Tigers. After the Eagles scored to take a 21-17 lead, CJ Spiller took the ensuing kickoff 64 yards to give Clemson the ball on the Boston College 15 yard line.
The Tigers were able to turn that field position into points, with Cullen Harper hitting Aaron Kelly with a 4-yard touchdown pass to give the Tigers the 24-21 lead. The Clemson defense was able to force a three-and-out on the next Boston College possession and Clemson placekicker Mark Bucholz was able to hit his second field goal (43-yards) of the day to give the Tigers a 27-21 lead. The Tigers would go on to win the game by the same score, and CJ Spiller was named the inaugural winner of the McFadden-O’Rourke Trophy.
In 2009, CJ Spiller opened the scoring for the Tigers with a 77-yard punt return touchdown, as the Tigers were on their way to averaging 31.8 yards per punt return on four attempts versus the Eagles. The only other scoring for the Tigers that day came from placekicker Richard Jackson.
Jackson was 6-for-6 on field goal attempts (23, 33, 32, 52, 42 and 35) on his way to being named the MVP of the game and the winner of the McFadden-O’Rourke Trophy. The Tigers beat the Eagles 25-7 in Death Valley, with all 25 points being scored by the Clemson special teams units.
Special teams played a critical role in the 2011 matchup between the Tigers and Eagles as well. The Tigers were able to walk away with a 36-14 victory, thanks in part to a big day from placekicker Chandler Catanzaro. The sophomore was 5-for-5 on the day on field goals, as well as 3-for-3 on extra points, scoring 18 of the Tigers 36 points en route to being named winner of the McFadden-O’Rourke Trophy. Catanzaro hit field goals of 38, 42, 18, 20, and 47 yards answering each of Boston College’s scores with three points for the Tigers.
In the Tigers three victories over the Eagles since Boston College joined the ACC in 2005, the Tigers have scored a total of 88 points. The 88 points averages to just over 29 points per game. Of those 88 points, Clemson placekicker’s accounted for 46 points, accounting for just over 15 points per game for the Tigers. That 15 plus-points per game average by Clemson placekickers are more than half of the Tigers points per game in three victories.
As the Tigers head to Boston College for a 3:30 p.m. contest, Clemson placekicker Chandler Catanzaro is potentially the nation’s hottest kicker. Catanzaro has connected on 15-straight field goal attempts dating back to the 2011 season.
His 15th consecutive made field goal came Saturday night on a 50-yard attempt in the third quarter. That field goal gave Catanzaro the Clemson record for most consecutive field goals made, breaking the previous record of 14 held by Obed Ariri. Look for Catanzaro to have the opportunity to continue his streak and help lead the Tigers to victory over BC as Clemson placekickers have done so much in recent history.