Sports, Football, Fall

Notebook: Second-Half Collapse, Kicking Troubles Prove Costly for Eagles

It’s been 12 years since Boston College football last defeated Clemson.  

It’s also been eight years since Boston College football last defeated an AP-ranked team. 

Both of those streaks continued Saturday night as the Eagles took on No. 5 Clemson in front of a 42,138-person crowd at Alumni Stadium for BC’s annual Red Bandanna Game.

BC couldn’t finish when it mattered most despite a strong defensive showing and glimmers of hope throughout. 

Here are three observations from the 31–3 loss. 

Tale of Two Halves 

The difference between the halftime and final scores tells a tale of two utterly oppositional narratives, and fans who might have left Alumni Stadium at halftime may have been shocked to find out how much the Eagles lost by. In the second half, BC suffered a beatdown that looked wildly different from the first. 

The Eagles led in total yards (168–131), passing yards (135–80), and average yards per play (4.5–4) in the first half. The game was tied 3–3 until Clemson scored on a one-yard rush with 45 seconds left in the half. 

BC’s offense had struggled to capitalize on its opportunities. 

Receiver Jaden Williams couldn’t haul in a throw that would have put the Eagles in the red zone. No points came out of Josh DeBerry’s interception that started BC’s drive inside the Tigers’ 25-yard line. 

Quarterback Phil Jurkovec looked comfortable, completing throws off his backfoot with strong vision and intensity. But it never seemed to get the job done.  

The Eagles’ offensive faults didn’t matter as much in the first half as their defense was putting on a spectacle, forcing three three-and-outs and securing an interception to hold Clemson’s offense to just 10 points through two quarters. 

But BC’s defense couldn’t play superman for much longer throughout the second half when the offense began to implode. Two fumbles by Jurkovec—one of which Clemson recovered—and a missed field goal helped put the Tigers in good field position. 

BC couldn’t move the ball down the field, completing only seven passes before Emmett Morehead came in to replace Jurkovec when the game was already out of hand. Jurkovec commanded only two first downs in the second half on throws to Jaelen Gill and Zay Flowers. 

The Eagles’ quick offensive possessions kept BC’s defense out on the field for a substantial amount of time, giving Clemson chances to run away with the game. The Tigers rattled off three second-half touchdowns and put the game out of reach, totaling 233 offensive yards in the second half to BC’s 86. 

Lytton Needs Range Work

Field goals have been an issue for the Eagles all season, and that challenge was on full display Saturday. Connor Lytton went 1-of-3 on field goals, making him 5-of-10 on the season. It’s a significant decline from his 11-of-12 success rate last season.

Lytton sailed a 35-yarder wide right in the first quarter that proved costly. It was a missed opportunity for BC to tie the game at 3–3. Instead, the score remained 3–0 in Clemson’s favor until Lytton nailed a 30-yard field goal at the start of the second quarter. 

BC head coach Jeff Hafley said he didn’t feel comfortable sending out Lytton for a 45-yard attempt on 4th-and-2 on Clemson’s 28-yard line. With the game tied at three, BC went for it on fourth only for Jurkovec’s pass to be batted down on its way to Spencer Witter, resulting in a turnover on downs and another scoreless drive for the Eagles. 

With Clemson up 17–3 in the third quarter, Lytton had his chance at redemption. Instead, Clemson’s Etinosa Reuben got a hand on the ball, blocking Lytton’s 40-yard attempt and leaving the Eagles scoreless for the remainder of the game. 

Defense Carrying The Load

Although BC’s defense kept the Eagles in the game, it hung on by a thread all night long. True freshman Amari Jackson replaced Jaylen Blackwell, who was suspended for the first half due to a targeting call from last week’s matchup against Louisville. Jackson helped limit Clemson to a field goal on the first defensive drive. Clemson punted four times in the first half.

Kam Arnold led all BC defenders with eight tackles—six solo—while the Eagles totaled 43 tackles as a team. BC kept Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei in check, limiting him to 220 passing yards—fewer than his 243.6-yard average per game—while also sacking him twice and picking him off once.  

The Tigers had a few deep passes that were too much for BC to handle, though. Clemson’s three second-half touchdowns came on passes of 10 yards or more. DeBerry couldn’t match Clemson’s Joseph Ngata on a 38-yard dart from Uiagalelei that put the Tigers up 17–3. The silencer came when BC’s defense thought Uiagalelei was going left, only for the signal caller to find a wide-open Beaux Collins behind BC’s defensive backs with a 10-foot cushion of space on either side.  

October 10, 2022