While second-ranked Clemson’s offense sputtered for most of Saturday’s game against Boston College in Death Valley, the Tigers’ defense was as dominant as it has been all season so far and carried the team to a 34-7 victory.
Kelly Bryant and Clemson’s attack mustered just seven points and 269 yards through three quarters before breaking out for 27 points in the final period. Clemson’s defense gave the offense plenty of time to figure things out, keeping Boston College off the scoreboard for the first 41 and a half minutes of the game.
“We can’t control what the offense does, all we can do is try to stop the other team from scoring,” Clemson defensive end Austin Bryant said after the win. “So when they were struggling, we were just ready to play. Everybody’s having fun playing, everybody wants to play, so we’re out there, let’s go play.”
Despite being disadvantaged by field position — Boston College had an average field position of its own 36-yard line and started three drives in Tiger territory — Clemson’s defense barely budged as it allowed only 238 yards of offense, including just 97 yards rushing. The unit yielded a mere 12 first downs and held the Eagles to a 4-of-16 clip on third down while forcing a couple of turnovers.
It was another stifling effort for the Tigers, who rank third nationally in scoring defense (9.3 points per game) and total defense (227 yards per game) through the first four games of the season.
However, in spite of its early season dominance, Clemson’s defense isn’t satisfied.
“I think we’re in a good place, but there’s still so much room to improve,” said Bryant, who recorded a sack, two tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries. “We played great today, but we made a lot of mistakes that people don’t really notice. But the coaches see it, we know it. So, just looking forward to getting back to work this week, looking at the film, seeing the good spots and seeing the bad spots and correcting those before a big matchup this weekend at Virginia Tech.”
Boston College didn’t dent the scoreboard until A.J. Dillon ran for a 1-yard touchdown with 3:30 remaining in the third quarter that tied the game at 7 apiece. Even then, Clemson’s defense wasn’t really at fault — the Eagles’ lone scoring drive in 15 possessions started at the Tigers’ 37-yard line following a 27-yard punt return.
Still, Clemson wasn’t happy that Boston College found the end zone.
“We want that shutout always,” linebacker Kendall Joseph said. “We had our eyes on it, but we didn’t get it, so we’ll strive for it next week.”
After Clemson’s 47-21 win at Louisville last Saturday, head coach Dabo Swinney and members of the Tigers’ defense called their performance the worst of the season defensively even though they limited Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson to just 180 total yards and one touchdown through three quarters before he padded his stats with the game out of hand.
Much like last weekend, Clemson’s defense isn’t getting complacent, and defensive coordinator Brent Venables will do his best to make sure it stays that way.
The unit knows it wasn’t perfect and can continue to get better heading into a primtime tilt against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg next Saturday.
“We’ll definitely see the tape,” Joseph said. “There’ll be plenty of minuses, plenty of mental errors that coach V always finds. He coaches us hard.”