By Will Vandervort
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — There was a rumor before the start of Saturday’s Boston College game that Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins came down with the same stomach virus that kept All-American wide receiver Sammy Watkins from making the trip to Chestnut Hill, Mass.
It was a good thing for Clemson that it was just a rumor. Hopkins looked more than fine as he caught a school-record 197 yards on 11 catches, including a 35-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter in leading the 17th-ranked Tigers to a 45-31 victory at Alumni Stadium.
“Nuk (sick)? Not at all,” Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd said. “He is one of those players that in any situation, he can go up and make plays. Again, I can depend on him in any situation.”
Ironically, in those situations, Hopkins does more than come to play. He breaks records. The junior caught a Clemson-record 13 passes against Auburn in the season-opener when Watkins sat out due do to a suspension.
“Nuk has been so consistent for us,” offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “He is a guy that is such a weapon for us and he is an unselfish guy. If it is there, he takes it. I’m proud of Nuk and I’m proud of his ability to play and make some critical catches for us this week.”
It was Hopkins 36-yard touchdown from quarterback Tajh Boyd that put the Tigers ahead 45-28 with 14:00 to play. Boyd finished the game with 367 passing yards and three touchdowns. His three touchdowns tied Charlie Whitehurst’s career-mark for scoring passes. Boyd now has 49 for his career.
Running back Andre Ellington rushed for 132 yards and scored a touchdown, while the defense held Boston College to 51 yards rushing on 28 carries.
“It feels really good to get a win and get back on track,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “To be a good team, we have to win on the road and this was a difficult challenge for us… It is good to see the team complimented each other as the game went on.”
Clemson (4-1, 1-1 ACC) built a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter when Boyd hit Cooper on a 15-yard touchdown with 14:56 to play in the first half, but thanks to a turnover, the momentum of the game switched. After the Tigers stopped BC on a fourth-and-one play, Clemson tried a trick play that went wrong on its next offensive play. Boyd, on a wildcat play that was a reverse pass to Hopkins, threw the ball short and Boston College free safety Sean Sylvia came up with an interception at the 8.
Using that momentum, the Eagles (1-3, 0-2) got two touchdown pass from quarterback Chase Rettig to put BC up 24-21 with 4:12 to play. Then Boyd rallied the Tigers on a 13-play, 76-yard drive that he capped with his four-yard pass to tight end Brandon Ford, giving Clemson a 24-21 lead at the break.
“That drive right before the half by the offense was a critical drive in the game,” Swinney said.
Clemson used that momentum to build its lead in the second half. After the defense got another three-and-out, reserve running back Roderick McDowell got the Tigers back on the scoreboard when he took a handoff and raced 16 yards for a touchdown to increase the lead to 31-21 with 11:06 to play in the third quarter.
Rashard Hall intercepted a Rettig pass a few possessions later, which Clemson needed three plays to cash in on from 33 yards out. Boyd hit Jaron Brown with a 30-yard pass down the middle of the field on third down to set up Ellington with his sixth rushing touchdown of the season and a 38-21 lead with 3:07 to go in the third.
Boston College pulled within 10 on the ensuing possession as Rettig hit Alex Amidon with a 42-yard score with 35 seconds to play in the quarter. But Boyd and Hopkins connected again early in the fourth quarter for Clemson’s final score of the night.
The Tigers sealed the victory with 5:45 to play when reserve corner Garry Peters intercepted a Rettig pass after the offense failed to execute on a fourth-and-one play a few moments early to keep a drive alive.
“I can’t say enough about our defense down the stretch,” Swinney said. “They created turnovers and got key stops.”
Clemson returns back to the friendly confines of Death Valley next week as they host Georgia Tech at 3:30 p.m.