CHESTNUT HILL, Ma.--All of the pre-game festivities suggested that this was the site of a big-time college football event.
It began with ESPN's Game Day crew in the morning, replete with more Boston College students showing up on a chilly November morning--not to see their team play, but to gain facetime on national television.
Even four hours later--but still four hours before the 8:15 p.m kickoff time in Saturday night's Atlantic Coast College Conference showdown between No. 2 Clemson and No. 17 Boston College, the atmosphere at The Heights was well, like a college campus where big time college football is a way of life on Saturday afternoon in November. You could feel the..anticipation.
And, just maybe, a sense of optimism that maybe this would be the time when Boston College would reverse the curse previous Eagle football teams had against teams ranked in the Top 5--0 for The Heights and 2-29 overall.
Maybe this was time for Boston College to shock the world of college football with an upset which would not only shake the ACC but the elite world of College Football Playoff, a world totally unfamiliar to BC.
Ah, the best laid plans of ....Eagles.
The problem for BC on Saturday night at a sold out Alumni Stadium (44,500) was that they actually had to play the game and--for anyone not named Alabama--that was a problem for Coach Steve Addazio's Eagles.
The final score was Clemson 27 Boston College 7. B fans will contend that it was closer than that, in fact it was Clemson's toughest game since the Tigers had to put together a 4th quarter drive to beat Syracuse on Sept 27th.
And in some ways it was. Nine minutes into the first quarter, BC had a 7-3 lead, but that turned out to be a false positive for the Eagles, since the TD came on a spectacular 74-yard punt return scoring TD by Michael Walker, who, as it turned out, was the most effective (only) offensive weapon BC had. The Tigers' responded to that speed bump in their game plan by marching 70 yards in 9 plays, ending the drive with a Trevor Lawrence 2-yard TD pass on fourth down to give Clemson a 10-7 lead it never relinquished.
What worked against the Eagles, who are 7-3, with a pair of winnable? games remaining at Florida State next week and home against Syracuse on November 24th
It started a few minutes before Walker's punt return when BC starting QB Anthony Brown was literally pancaked to the ground by Clemson defensive lineman Christian Wilkins.
Not good. Brown was gone for the night.
With Brown gone and inexperienced back-up Perry thrust into a post graduate against a veteran Clemson defense, the remainder of the evening unfolded painfully for the Eagles and satisfactorily for Clemson and its fans, who filled almost half of Alumni Stadium.
Clemson led 13-7 at the end of the first half, 20-7 by the end of the third quarter, which sounded reasonable, but was hardly that because BC was in a defensive mode for the rest of the game, facing some hard to believe situations, such as one offensive series in which the Eagles had a 1st and 20, 2nd and 42, 3rd and 47 and 4th and 49 situations.
An equally spectacular punt return of 58 yards by Clemson's Amari Rodgers extended Clemson's lead to 27-7 with 11:39 remaining, which sealed the Tigers' 10th victory of the season as well as clinching the Atlantic Division title for the Tigers. It should also be noted that the score allowed the Tigers' to cover their 19-point spread, which may have caused some noise (cheers and boos?) in some BC hang outs.
""We hung in there,'' conceded Addazio. ""We struggled on offense, we were trying to adjust on the run against the most dominant defense in the country. ""We showed tremendous toughness, battle, grit,,you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that. I'm ecstatic about the way our defense played. I'm proud of our guys. My focus is to get us back in the groove.''
Clemson, as it should be, was simply satisfied to get out of a tough environment with a victory and no major injuries. The Tigers didn't need style points in this game. By Thanksgiving, this will merely be another "W'' on Clemson's resume.
"Just a tough, hard fought game, I knew it would be coming in here,'' said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. ""BC has a heck of a football team. I really hate that their quarterback got hurt. I hope he is ok. Man, they're a huge challenge.'''
While BC's defense did a superb job in slowing down the Clemson offense, it(especially without Brown) had an even more difficult time moving against the Tiger defense.
Some of the numbers were sobering. The Eagles managed only 113 yards in total offense, while Dillon was held to just 39 yards on 16 carries. Compared to the 423 yards compiled by Clemson, the portrait of Saturday night was more one-sided than even the final score, especially when you see a total of 23 yards of total offense in the first half in what appeared to be a competitive 13-7 game.
It was and it wasn't, which is the difference between where Clemson has been and where it is going and where BC has been and where it is headed.
And so ended another flirtation with fame and higher rankings for BC, who can recharge their season with a few more victories, but will almost certainly do it without their starting QB and perhaps without their best player running back AJ Dillon, who limped off the field midway through the fourth quarter with what may be the re-occurrence of an ankle sprain which he has had to deal with for the past six weeks.
For Clemson, it was another milepost passed in what looks more and more like another challenge with No. 1 Alabama, most likely in the CFB national championship in Santa Clara, Calif in January.