CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Clemson’s offense did not play its best against No. 17 Boston College Saturday, but it made the necessary plays it had to during its 27-7 victory at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
“It was just a tough hard-fought game, but we knew it would be coming up here,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said afterward.
The second-ranked Tigers got their necessary plays from the usual suspects on Saturday … quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne and wide receivers Hunter Renfrow, Amari Rodgers and Tee Higgins.
Lawrence completed 29-of-40 passes for 295 yards and one touchdown, while Etienne led all runners with 78 yards on just 11 carries. Renfrow had a game-high 8 catches for a game-high 80 yards, while Rodgers caught 5 passes for 73 yards and later had a game-clinching 58-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Higgins hauled in four passes for 63 yards.
“We missed some plays when we could’ve put it away a litter earlier, but I’m just proud of the guys and the way we fought,” Lawrence said.
Clemson, who claimed its fourth straight ACC Atlantic Division crown, had opportunities to put the game away earlier, but it failed to cash in on a couple of red zone chances to close drives.
The Tigers (10-0, 7-0 ACC) could not finish on a nice opening drive which saw Lawrence connect with Rodgers for 41 yards down the near sideline that moved the ball to the BC 18-yard line. The drive eventually bogged down at the 12 and kicker Greg Huegel came in and connected on a 30-yard field goal.
“We had a really good opening drive and they did a good job on us in the red zone,” Swinney said.
Later in the first half, the Tigers again bogged down in the red zone, this time at the BC six-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Huegel again came in and got points with a 23-yard kick for a 13-7 lead with 11:45 to play in the second quarter.
“We had to kick a couple of field goals. I wish we could have converted those for touchdowns,” Swinney said.
When Clemson finally did convert one drive for a touchdown, it took a little trickery to get it done.
After BC’s Michael Walker returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown, which gave the Eagles a 7-3 lead with 6:22 to play in the first quarter, the Tigers answered with a 9-play, 70-yard touchdown drive on the ensuing possession.
On fourth-and-goal from the two, Lawrence lofted a pass over the head of the linebackers and to tight end Milan Richard for the touchdown. However, the play was much more than that.
Clemson set the whole thing up by bringing in its “Fridge Package.” Defensive tackles Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins lined up in the Power I-formation it has used in each of the Tigers’ last two games. Both times went for touchdowns … Wilkins on a 1-yard run at Florida State and Lawrence on a 2-yard run against Louisville last week.
However, this time Lawrence used Wilkins as a decoy, playing off the play action and finding an open Richard behind the linebackers for an easy touchdown.
Clemson’s best drive of the night came on its first possession of the third quarter. It was a statement drive as the Tigers needed just three plays to find the end zone and create some separation from the Eagles.
On the drives’ first play, Etienne busted through the line and some would-be-tacklers for a 25-yard gain. On the next play, Lawrence found Renfrow over the middle for a 33-yard gain to the BC 6.
Lawrence finished the drive from there, faking everyone on a zone-read as he walked into the end zone for an easy 6-yard touchdown.
The Tigers finished the game with a hard-fought 424 yards and in the end made the necessary plays it had to.
“I’m so proud of our guys,” Swinney said, “420 something yards, tough yards, and I’m really proud of Trevor. Really proud of Trevor.
“He’s a true freshman, and to come up here in this environment and really lead us … he is continuing to learn and grow and he gets better every week.”