Sports, Football, Top Story, Column

The Casualties Of Clemson

Arms flailing chaotically in powerful bursts of north-south motion, Tyler Murphy tore through the gap at warp speed. With a half stutter step and shimmy, he hit the numbers and straightened into sprinter’s form—but just inches from open field, Clemson caught him. Two defenders dragged Boston College’s quarterback down the turf, yet the 19-yard run provided BC a desperate lifeline to ascend out of an unending sea of Alex Howell punts. Two snaps later, all five explosive feet, and six ankle-spraining inches of Sherman Alston wheeled out of the backfield and caught Murphy’s looping pass for a game tying, 26-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter.

But no one will remember that.

A chilling darkness blankets Alumni as the fourth quarter wanes. The rain slows to a mist but the wind picks up. They’re fixed just yards apart, but the USC flag perched atop Alumni is whipping to the right as the NC State banner pulls violently to the left. Murphy just did it again—dancing from BC’s 19 to the Clemson 38, he scattered, stuttered, and sprinted left, right, down, up, sideways, backwards, forwards, and every other direction you can think of for 43 yards.

BC can win the game right here, blow No. 24 Clemson out of the polls, jump into prime conference position, and send the Mods into a shower of lukewarm Natty’s. The Eagles control their own destiny.

Four plays later, BC is on Clemson’s 26—field goal range, but a missed extra point earlier in the game means kicking is utterly useless with less than two minutes on the clock. BC coach Steve Addazio has no choice—touchdown or bust.

First down: Incomplete pass.

Second down: Incomplete pass.

Third down: Incomplete pass, and a five-yard penalty.

Fourth down: Incomplete pass. Clemson will run out the clock.

The game is over.

No matter the sport, it’s temptingly easy to pin losses on one moment or one drive, to scapegoat one blown play, and to call out one person’s mistake and say, ‘Damn, that’s where we lost it, he blew it.’ If you wanted to, you could fill a small book with those types of moments from Saturday’s game and sell it as a depressing ode to BC football: Josh Bordner’s dropped pass in the open field and underthrow to Charlie Callinan; Mike Knoll’s personal contribution to BC’s saga of disgusting kicking with another missed extra point; Murphy’s terrible end zone overthrow; Tyler Rouse’s touchdown-blowing drop; the offensive line getting blown out again, and again, and again.

As with nearly all other failures, the cruel legacy spawned by BC’s loss to the Tigers is simple—the screwups will be remembered, harped on, and critiqued for weeks, but the handful of brilliant plays BC made on Saturday will fade into the abyss.

A forlorn Addazio, looking left and right, and then staring into nothing with his hands on his head, will stick in our minds—but we’ll forget about Alston cutting left and spilling two elite Clemson backs onto the turf like two slapstick stooges hitting an oil slick.

sherman alston breaking ankles

We’ll remember that interception Justin Simmons nearly came down with—and probably should have come down with—but not Myles Willis’ gut-busting 50-yard kick return to spark BC’s offense, or Alex Howell’s transformation into the terminator of punters, bailing the Eagles out of what could have been miserable field position with both booming and precise punts throughout the entire game.

The frenzied genius of Murphy on the run, speeding across the turf, flat-out flying for his life—beating five defenders to the corner before turning and throwing across his body to hit Charlie Callinan for a beautiful first down—will drift away. We’ll only be able to think about what could have happened if he had found Shakim Phillips cutting into the end zone.

Murphy to Callinan

And we’ll forget about the spine-tingling image of Josh Bordner bombing down into the end zone with the ball secured in his grasp before thrusting it into the air, a piece of personal redemption realized before our eyes.

Emily Fahey / Heights Editor
Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

BC hung with one of the best teams in the ACC for four quarters on Saturday afternoon—no one can deny that.

But Clemson got away, and no one will remember that.

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

October 18, 2014

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