Clemson vs. Boston College score: No. 2 Tigers clinch ACC Atlantic by holding off feisty Eagles
Clemson needed a strong performance from freshman QB Trevor Lawrence for the win on Chestnut Hill
No. 2 Clemson flexed its defensive muscles and did not allow a single touchdown drive in a 27-7 win on the road at No. 17 Boston College on Saturday night.
The win came in a very different style than what we had come to expect from Clemson in recent weeks, as they put the strength and depth of the entire ACC in question during a four-game winning streak because of an average margin of victory of 51 points. Boston College has one of the best defenses that Clemson will face all season, and that group had some success in slowing down Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers throughout the night.
Unfortunately, any thoughts of an upset began to fade when Boston College lost starting quarterback Anthony Brown in the first half to an injury. Brown has been the key to this recent offensive explosion in Chestnut Hill, giving Steve Addazio a capable passing attack to pair with A.J. Dillon and the ground game. When Brown left, so did the threat of giving up a deep pass and Clemson's aggressive defensive front was able to slowly wear down Boston College over the course of four quarters.
Clemson wasn't able to run away with the game late on offense, but iced the win in the fourth quarter with an Amari Rodgers punt return touchdown.
Winning the game clinches Clemson's fourth straight ACC Atlantic Division title, making the Tigers the first team to accomplish that feat since the conference expanded to two division in 2005.
Here are three more things to know about the game.
No light work for Trevor Lawrence: Last week, Lawrence only threw the ball 12 times for 59 yards, but Boston College's run defense is light years ahead of Louisville. Much, much more was put on Lawrence's plate this week, as the Tigers ground game -- which entered the night ranked No. 1 in the country in yards per carry -- was held to just 4.3 yards per attempt. Lawrence completed 29-of-40 passes for 295 yards with one touchdown and one interception, and the Eagles' focus on stopping Travis Etienne the running backs had the freshman pulling the ball to run on a lot of the zone-read plays.
Lawrence has settled into a place where he looks comfortable running the ball within the scheme, and that's important because it opens up more of the run-pass option attack. Defenses already have to worry about Lawrence's ability to stretch the field with his deep throws, but to focus on the mesh point, a roll out and a potential deep pass is enough to drive a defensive coordinator crazy.
Zach Allen made himself some money: Boston College defensive end Zach Allen is set to be one of the next in line to take that well-traveled path from Chestnut Hill to the NFL. He's an elite pass rusher that's developed into being a top-notch run stuffer as well, and his closing speed has caused problems for quarterbacks all year. Allen totaled a couple of quarterback hurries against Lawrence and batted at least one ball down at the line of scrimmage, but made his presence known all night. The combined talent level in this game -- BC's defensive backfield also worth the price of admission -- will draw a lot of NFL eyes and that should mean boosted stock for Allen.
Dabo gets a win where it all started: Beating Boston College marked the 10-year anniversary of Swinney's first win, when he took over for Tommy Bowden in the middle of the season as an interim coach. Members of that 2008 team, including star running back C.J. Spiller, were on hand to witness Swinney and the Tigers clinch the ACC Atlantic Division for the fourth straight year in the same stadium where his first career win was logged a decade ago.
"It's incredible. Ten years ago, we got our first win here and the good Lord has blessed us over the last 10 years," Swinney told ESPN's Maria Taylor after the game. "That group in 2008, they couldn't win the division, all they could do is win that game and leave Clemson in a better place."
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