CLEMSON — All week, Boston College defensive coordinator Don Brown heard naysayers say the Eagles wouldn’t be able to get players on the field fast enough to make substitutions against No. 3 Clemson’s fast-paced offense.
“What do they think I am? A moron?” Brown asked Saturday after Boston College held the Tigers to two touchdowns on offense.
Clemson, held out of the end zone for the first half, finally figured out how to win. But a 24-14 victory over 24-point underdog Boston College is a shaky way to go into next week’s projected epic Atlantic Coast Conference battle with No. 6 Florida State at Death Valley.
On too many plays, Clemson players looked like they weren’t looking at the football. Five fumbles (two lost). Dropped passes. A missed chip-shot field goal try from reliable Chandler Catanzaro.
ESPN’s “GameDay” bus on its way from Seattle for the Oregon-Washington game probably pulled over in Idaho to make sure the travel orders hadn’t been altered.
“OK, there WAS concern @CollegeGameDay travel dept when #Clemson trailed BC,” Chris Fowler tweeted from the Great Northwest. “Up 10 now in 4th.”
The nation’s “GameDay II” refrain to Clemson Nation: Prove it.
Expect a point spread pretty close to even in the first top five matchup played in South Carolina. Expect money to tilt toward Tallahassee.
The Tigers (6-0) amassed 496 yards of offense but struggled early and late.
They couldn’t put the Eagles away. Back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter yielded 18 yards.
“We just have to be more consistent in the run game,” Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “We have to be able to hang on to the football, eliminate turnovers and protect the ball. That’s the biggest thing.”
Boston College knows the Florida State-Clemson matchup better than any team. The Seminoles won, 48-34, in Chestnut Hill on Sept. 28. Boston College had a 17-3 lead before redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston threw four touchdown passes.
“They both have really good defenses, they’re both explosive on offense, they both have quarterbacks that are something,” Boston College head coach Steve Addazio said. “They’re really good football teams. I’ve been in the arena with a lot of good football teams in my career and these are two really good football teams. That will be a heck of a battle.”
Brown called the Boyd-Winston quarterback clash “unbelievable.”
“Tajh is a little bit more of a guy that when he scrambles, he’s looking to run,” the Boston College defensive coordinator said. “Winston when he scrambles, he tries to keep it alive and throw it down the field more. Both are equally tough to defend.”
Wide receiver Alex Amidon caught seven passes for 42 yards against Florida State, six passes for 121 yards and a touchdown at Clemson.
“The defenses are a lot different,” Amidon said. “Florida State’s the type of team that has a really good defensive backfield and then Clemson’s pass rush is really good. The defenses work differently, with Florida State playing coverage a lot and Clemson relying on the pass rush.”
Yes, Clemson won Saturday by double digits for the 14th consecutive time against an unranked foe.
But this Boston College team, 3-3, doesn’t have Matt Ryan at quarterback. Just two weeks ago, Army scored 27 points against these guys (in a 48-27 Eagles win).
Of course, a wakeup call to the wise can translate into positives.
No doubt, that Clemson has improved on defense in Brent Venables’ second season as defensive coordinator is encouraging; the Tigers have given up 35 points over the last three games. The offense has the respect of almost everyone in college football.
But with the burden of proof on Death Valley, Clemson is better off starting fast next week.
“We knew we had to come and show them we’re here,” Amidon said in explaining the Boston College charge. “That quiets the crowd down a lot.”
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff