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CHESTNUT HILL - A chilly autumn morning in Chestnut Hill gave way to yet another beautiful Saturday afternoon, and a perfect day for football at that.
On the eve of Halloween at Alumni Stadium, the Eagles desperately needed one thing if they hoped to reach their 12th consecutive bowl game: a win against ACC rival Clemson.
Fortunately, the Eagles received a treat and not a trick. And it was oh so sweet.
Montel Harris rushed for 142 yards on 36 carries and caught a 36-yard touchdown pass as Boston College defeated Clemson 16-10 in the battle for the third annual O'Rourke-McFadden trophy.
"First of all, I have to congratulate the players," said Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani. "They've been working hard and they haven't stopped. It paid of in a 'W' and I'm very happy for them."
As the game's MVP, Harris was presented with a replica leather helmet.
"The offensive line did a great job all day making holes," Harris said. "They were just fighting the whole game and they were able to make a lot of creases for me, and also Andre Williams (5 carries, 24 yards), to run through."
Sophomore linebacker Luke Kuechly also had a spectacular day for Boston College, amassing a game-high 14 tackles and an important interception late in the fourth quarter.
"We had some turnovers that we forced," Kuechly said. "We did a good job stopping the run the whole game. I think one of the biggest things we were able to do was to get off the field on third down."
Boston College held Clemson star running back Andre Ellington to 48 yards on 13 carries and forced the Tigers to go 3-for-8 on third down.
"When you get off the field on third down, results show," Kuechly said. "We did a good job in the second half and the first half of doing it."
After receiving the kickoff, Clemson (4-4, 2-3 ACC) went three-and-out after gaining just five yards on a third-down quarterback keeper by Kyle Parker (21-of-39, 176 yards, 2 INT).
Luckily for the Tigers, Boston College (3-5, 1-4 ACC) and true freshman quarterback Chase Rettig (9-of-17, 135 yards, 1 INT) were careless with the ball.
After a two-yard run from junior tailback Montel Harris (144 yards, 37 carries; 1 catch, 36 yards, 1 TD) and a five-yard scramble from Rettig, the true freshman threw an interception to Clemson sophomore safety Rashard Hall, who returned it 52-yards for the score that gave the Tigers a 7-0 advantage with 11:59 left in the first quarter.
It was Hall's eighth career interception and his first career touchdown.
Needless to say, it was a rough beginning for Rettig, who had a QB rating of -200.00 after the pick, which was his first pass of the game.
"That was just a mental screw up for me," Rettig said.
Yet instead of folding, Rettig responded by leading the Eagles on a 9-play, 70-yard drive that ended in a field goal.
"I just didn't let it get to me," Rettig said about his interception. "The rest of the team picked me up and let me know the play's over. So I pretty much started the game over in my head and went from there."
On the drive, Rettig connected with senior wideout Ifeanyi Momah on a 40-yard pass that set Boston College up with a first and goal on Clemson's two yard-line.
However, the Eagles were unable to push the ball into the endzone. Harris rushed for one yard on first down and no gain on second down before Rettig was sacked by senior cornerback Marcus Gilchrist on third down.
It wasn't a total loss, though, as Eagles kicker Nate Freese split the uprights on a 21-yard field goal to cut Clemson's lead to 7-3 with 7:55 remaining in the first quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Clemson went 65 yards on nine plays to score three points on a 31-yard field goal from Tigers kicker Chandler Catanzaro, rebuilding the lead to 10-3 with 3:32 left in the quarter.
While the defense did give up three points on the drive, Boston College had a big stop on third and six from the Eagles' 16 yard line. Parker threw a three-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Jaron Brown, but it was short of the first down.
Considering the Eagles' struggles on third down this season, it was an encouraging sight.
"Every week you re-evaluate yourself, you look at what you did, how you can best help your players," Spaziani said. "We know our players, we know ourselves. We're not geniuses. We're technicians, not magicians. So we got them out there. We lined them up and the players executed. We practiced it more. We tweaked some things and it worked out."
The Eagles looked like a much different bunch to start the second quarter, as they worked the ball efficiently down the field (16 play, 62 yards), but suffered a major setback on a holding penalty.
With the ball on the Clemson10, Harris rushed the ball close to the two yard line, but a holding penalty cost the Eagles nine yards. Rettig's pass on third down was incomplete and Boston College settled for a 37-yard Freese field goal, trimming the deficit to 10-6.
Then, the tides turned in favor of the Eagles.
On the kickoff, Clemson junior running back Jamie harper fumbled the ball at their own 36 yard line, and Boston College recovered.
Rettig didn't waste any time after that, firing a 36-yard touchdown pass to Harris that gave Boston College a 13-10 lead with 8:25 left before halftime.
"They said those are the hardest catches to make, so I was just concentrating on making the catch," Harris said about his touchdown catch. "Once I caught it, I couldn't believe no one was around me, so I just sprinted to the end zone and tried to get in."
The lead was Boston College's first since leading No. 16 Florida State 19-17 in the fourth quarter down in Tallahassee and its first at home since defeating Kent State 26-13 in week two.
Clemson had a shot to tie the game prior to the half, but Chandler Catanzaro missed a 43-yard field goal wide right, setting Boston College up with a first and 10 from their own 26 yard line and 3:49 left in the first half.
The Eagles took advantage of the mistake, going 55 yards on 10 plays before Freese made a 36-yard field goal to put Boston College up 16-10 entering halftime.
"Every game our goal is to try to run the ball, so I already knew going into the game how much work I would get, whether we're successful or not" said Harris, who rushed for 109 yards on 23 carries in the first half. "I like the work, so it's no problem."
Neither team would score in the third quarter, but Clemson had an opportunity to cut the deficit to three, but Catanzaro missed a 36-yard field goal wide right, his second miss of the day.
As expected, the Tigers gave the Eagles a run for their money in the fourth quarter, but came up short on a nine-play, 48-yard drive that spanned four minutes and 15 seconds. Clemson turned the ball over on downs after starting with the ball at their own 20 yard line.
"We just couldn't manage the game very well," said Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, who lost to Boston College for the first time in his career. "You should stay on schedule and make the plays that are available. We knew it was going to be a tight game. These guys are real good at what they do."
With a chance to run down the clock late in the fourth, Boston College went three-and-out after gaining just three yards.
The Tigers had one final shot to win, but Parker threw and interception to Eagles middle linebacker Luke Kuechly with 1:42 left in the game.
"Yeah, if I could take it back I would," Parker said. "We were going into the wind and I wanted to give our guys a chance to make a play instead of throwing it away and settling. I wanted to give them an opportunity."
The play was reviewed, but the ruling on the field stood, and in the end, Boston College snapped a five-game losing streak.
"The locker room is a way different atmosphere," Harris said about the team's reaction to stopping the losing skid. "Everyone's happy now. We've just got to keep going so we can get to a bowl game."
The win was Rettig's first of his collegiate career, and after four starts, he is feeling much more confident.
"Experience wise it definitely helps," Rettig said. "I go out there and today the game didn't start the way I wanted it to but I felt a lot more comfortable. That just didn't go my way. Every game I feel like I'm growing more and more and understanding what parts of my offense we can utilize more."
It was an impressive overall performance for Boston College, but Spaziani was particularly impressed by his fellow coaches.
"I think the coaches did one of the better coaching jobs that I've been around. "Spaziani said. "(They) maintained their enthusiasm and were able to keep the players going. Never once blinking."
The win also impressed those on the other sideline as well.
"They came out, fought hard, like they have all year, and we certainly congratulate them on finding a way to win," Swinney said. "We certainly did not deserve to win. I thought the first half, they got the touchdown on the wheel route which was a critical play. I really compliment our defense and they way they played in the second half. (They) played lights out in the second half, they only allowed about 70 yards and continued to get the ball back to our offense. Our offense did not capitalize. I give Boston College a lot of credit."
Boston College's defense allowed a total of 262 yards (176 passing, 86 rushing) and forced Clemson to go 1-for-3 in the red zone.
"It's a tribute to the players and the coaches," Spaziani said about his team's improved performance on defense. "There are no excuses, no one wants to hear it, and no one wants to hear it when we lost five in a row. Guys stepped up. Someone has to play. We've got guys on scholarship and they've got to do the job and we have to coach them. Kudos to those guys, they did a great job."
The Eagles amassed 304 total yards (136 passing, 168 rushing) and were a perfect 3-for-3 on scoring opportunities in the red zone.
Boston College will be on the road for the next two weeks, facing off against ACC opponents Wake Forest (11/6, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3) and Duke (11/13, Time TBA) before playing conference opponent Virginia at home and old rival Syracuse on the road in the regular season finale.
While the Eagles have a big hole to climb out of if they wish to become bowl eligible (they would do so by notching six wins), they are confident in their ability to do so.
"I think the biggest thing about today is we came together as a team," Kuechly said. "The offense played great, the defense played great, and the biggest thing was special teams. We had a fumble recovery on a kickoff, Nate Freese kicked three field goals and Ryan Quigley did a great job punting. We came together not only as a defense but as a team, and that's what we need to do from here on out."
With the Boston College win, the all-time series against Clemson is now tied 9-9-2...It is the Eagles first win with Dabo Swinney as Clemson's head coach...Junior running back Montel Harris moved into second place in all-time carries with 672, topping Andrew Callender (647) and Troy Stradford (658)...This marks Harris' 18th game with at least 100 yards rushing, tied for most in Boston College history with Derrick Knight and Mike Cloud...Sophomore linebacker Luke Kuechly finished the day with 14 tackles and extended the nation's longest streak of consecutive games with 10 or more tackles to 17 games. He also had an interception in the fourth quarter with 1:42 left on the clock. His last interception was almost a year ago Saturday on October 31, 2009 against Central Michigan... Redshirt freshman kicker Nate Freese improved to fifth on the BC single season list for field goals with 15 after kicking three today...37,137 people attended Saturday's game at Alumni Stadium.
CHESTNUT HILL – After scoring a combined 26 points in the first half, Boston College and Clemson were scoreless in the third quarter.
Both teams had three drives in the quarter. Boston College totaled only 26 yards on 12 plays in the period, and each of its three drives ended in a punt.
As for Clemson, it amassed 84 yards on 22 total plays in the third quarter. The Tigers had a punt, a missed field goal in the third quarter.
CHESTNUT HILL - It was certainly a second quarter to remember for Boston College.
After trailing 10-3 entering the quarter, the Eagles scored twice on Nate Freese's 37-yard field goal with 9:11 left before halftime and on true freshman Chase Rettig's 36-yard touchdown pass to junior running back Montel Harris, giving Boston College a 13-10 lead.
The lead is the Eagles' first since they led No. 16 Florida State 19-17 in the fourth quarter and is their first at home since defeating Kent State 26-13 back in week two.
Clemson had a chance to tie the game with 3:29 remaining before halftime, but Tigers kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed a 47-yard field goal wide right.
Boston College took advantage of Clemson's missed opportunity, moving the ball down the field (10 plays, 55 yards) before kicker Nate Freese split the uprights on a 36-yard field goal to give the Eagles a 16-10 lead heading into the break.
CHESTNUT HILL – Boston College true freshman quarterback Chase Rettig threw an interception on his first pass attempt that was returned 51 yards by Clemson sophomore safety Rashard Hall to give the Tigers an early 7-0 lead with 11:59 left in the quarter.
The Eagles responded with a nine-play, 70-yard drive the ended in a Nate Freese 21-yard field goal, cutting Clemson’s lead to 7-3 with 7:55 left in the quarter.
The Tigers weren’t finished, though. Quarterback Kyle Parker led his troops down the field on a nine-play, 64-yard drive that placed them in the red zone.
Thankfully, Boston College’s defenders stepped up to the task and kept the Tigers from gaining the first down.
Still, the Tigers got three points out of the ordeal, as kicker Chandler Catanzaro hit a 31-yard field goal to build Clemson’s lead to 10-3 with 3:32 left in the quarter.
Montel Harris just keeps on running for Boston College.
Harris became the first junior in school history to surpass the 3,000-yard mark after rushing for 116 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries during last Saturday's 24-21 loss against Maryland.
For his career, Harris now has 3,051 rushing yards and ranks fourth among Boston College's all-time rushing leaders behind Derrick Knight (3,725 yards), Mike Cloud (3,597 yards) and Troy Stradford (3,504 yards).
"I saw him play in high school a lot," said Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. "He and Jamie (Harper) were high school teammates. He was committed to Duke for a long time and backed off right before signing day. That was a great pick up for Boston College; he's a heck of a player. He is so consistent and comes to play every game. Every film you watch you are impressed with him.'
Harris will look to take another step toward becoming Boston College's all-time rushing leader when the Eagles host ACC rival Clemson at Alumni Stadium on Saturday.
While Harris won't be able to catch Troy Stradford for third on the Eagles' career rushing list on Saturday, barring a miraculous performance, he will most likely make strides towards catching the former BC great.
This season, Harris has averaged 99.1 yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry. In total, Harris has rushed for 721 yards (694 net yards) on 149 carries and has scored three touchdowns. His longest run of the season went for 72 yards against Florida State.
Based on his numbers this season, Harris is on pace to surpass Stradford in the Eagles' season finale against Syracuse.
Should he continue to rush for nearly 100 yards per game, he will be the Eagles' all-time leading rusher by the third game of the 2011 season.
Others are certainly taking notice.
"Montel Harris is a very good back and is leading the league in rushing," Swinney noted. "He's a tough runner and capable of making big plays."
Barring a major injury or slump, Harris may wind up the Eagles' greatest running back of all time. But for the immediate future, he'll have to settle for trying to tear up Clemson's defense.
EAGLES STUCK IN REBUILDING RUT
Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani has been stuck in the rebuilding process ever since he took the job as the Eagles' head coach prior to last season.
After an encouraging 8-4 finish in his first full season, a year which many picked the Eagles to finish last, Boston College has regressed.
After two solid victories over FCS Weber State and Kent State, the Eagles have lost their composure and have been spiraling out of control.
"Those are very logical and good questions, but I've been out front of these problems from day one," Spaziani said when asked how he plans to maintain his goal of rebuilding the team in the right direction. "Although the frustration is with one, wins and losses, I know I have my mind in the right frame. We have to move forward. These aren't issues...certainly they compound themselves at certain times, but as I've said all along we have to work our way through it and that's the way it is."
When a team goes through a major rebuilding period, these types of seasons are bound to happen.
It's not like Spaziani was handed a strong program upon the departure of former Eagles head coach Jeff Jagodzinski, as ESPN's Heather Dinich pointed out in her story on ESPN Boston this past Tuesday.
Boston College fans have been quick to criticize coach Frank Spaziani after the program's 2-5 start.
Boston College coach Frank Spaziani appears to have the program headed in the right direction.
Boston College is heading towards its first losing season since 1998, but it didn't happen overnight -- and it didn't happen under Spaziani's watch. It's important to remember how the Eagles got here -- a combination of poor recruiting, deflections, coaching changes and injuries.
INJURY UPDATES: ALEX ALBRIGHT DONE FOR SEASON; WES DAVIS OUT VS. CLEMSON
Eagles senior defensive end Alex Albright is done for the season after suffering a broken right fibula in Boston College's loss against Maryland.
Albright will not need surgery, and doctors are waiting for swelling to decrease before placing him in a cast, ESPN Boston's Jack McCluskey reported in his BC Notes.
"Alex has a fractured fibula, so he is out" Spaziani said following Saturday's loss. " Yeah, it's tough."
McCluskey also reported that, should Boston College become bowl eligible, Albright may be able to return for one final game with the Eagles.
In the meantime, the loss of Albright is devastating for Boston College.
"There are only so many seniors that have played and taking two of those guys (Alex Albright and senior safety Wes Davis) that we were counting on out of the playing mix leaves opportunities for other guys to step in," said Spaziani. "As for our leadership, it's a loss."
As for Davis, who suffered a neck injury on a tackle during the loss to Maryland, he will not play against Clemson.
Davis was on the ground for nearly 10 minutes after suffering the hit and was eventually taken away in an ambulance to St. Elizabeth's hospital for further evaluation.
He was released on Sunday morning and will receive an update from doctors later in the week, McCluskey also report.
RELIVING THE (PAINFUL) PAST
It's been a little over a year since Boston College suffered one of its worse losses in program history: a 25-7 shellacking at the hands of the very same Clemson Tigers the Eagles welcome to Alumni Stadium this weekend.
It wasn't so much the score that was gruesome, but Boston College's overall offensive production.
The Eagles collected a meager 54 total yards in front of 77,000 fans at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina.
In the game, Eagles quarterback Justin Tuggle completed 4-of-20 passes for 23 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Despite the blowout, Swinney still knows that Boston College will put up a fight.
"Boston College is always tough," he said. "You can take the names off the jerseys every year and it really doesn't matter. They're big and strong and always a very difficult team to play. We've only won in their stadium one time. It's not a place Clemson has had a lot of success."
Hopefully for the Eagles' sake, their home crowd can cheer them on to victory. If not, a losing season would seem all but inevitable.
Clemson has won its last two outings to improve to 4-3 overall, including 2-2 in league action. Last weekend, the Tigers bested Georgia Tech by a 27-13 final in front of the home crowd. The goal this weekend will be to earn their first road win, as they are 0-2 outside of Clemson thus far.
Boston College opened the season with back-to-back wins over weak opponents, but the squad has suffered five consecutive losses since that point. The Eagles dropped to 0-4 in ACC action with a 24-21 loss to Maryland last week, their second straight narrow defeat. BC hasn't scored more than 21 points in any of its five defeats.
Clemson owns a narrow 9-8-2 series advantage over Boston College, thanks to back-to-back victories over the Eagles.
Andre Ellington was unstoppable for Clemson in the victory over Georgia Tech last weekend, as the tailback rushed for a career-high 166 yards and two long touchdowns on 20 carries. Ellington made his presence felt in the passing game as well, hauling in a touchdown reception. Quarterback Kyle Parker averaged fewer than 10 yards on his 17 pass completions, but he avoided throwing an interception, key to the win for Clemson. The offense finished with 403 total yards and 21 first downs, and the Tigers can certainly take pride in the fact that they made good on 9-of-15 third down conversion attempts.
Georgia Tech is one of the few remaining college football teams with an option-based offense, so it came as no surprise that the Yellow Jackets ran the ball on more than two-thirds of their downs against Clemson. The Tigers did surrender 242 rushing yards at a clip of 4.9 yards per attempt, but they didn't allow a single rushing touchdown in the tilt. Georgia Tech did manage one passing score, although Clemson allowed only 6-of-19 passes to be completed. The overall effort of the defense was quite strong.
Overall this season, Clemson is generating 30.3 ppg while gaining 353.6 total ypg. Ellington has been one of the more productive players in the ACC, rushing for 642 yards and 10 touchdowns to date. As for the passing game, Parker has tossed eight scores against only four interceptions, but he has completed a mere 52.8 percent of his passes and thrown for only 1,139 yards through seven outings. Clearly, the Tigers lack a standout receiver.
Opponents are scoring 18.4 ppg against Clemson, which is yielding 353.0 total ypg. Of the 16 touchdowns that the Tigers have permitted to opposing offenses, just four have come on the ground. They have forced 13 turnovers and registered 18 sacks, a solid number of impact plays. The player to watch for Clemson is Da'Quan Bowers, as he has already registered 17.5 TFLs, including 10 sacks.
The Eagles are generating 19.1 ppg and 294.1 total ypg, poor numbers for an offense that clearly lacks punch. Dave Shinskie, Chase Rettig and Mike Marscovetra have all seen significant time under center for Boston College this season, and none of the three quarterbacks have played particularly well. A concussion may prevent Shinskie from playing this weekend, but it doesn't seem to matter at this point which signal caller is on the field. Bobby Swigert is the club's leading receiver with 21 catches, 347 yards and three touchdowns, while Montel Harris paces the ground attack with 694 yards and three scores.
Against Maryland last weekend, Boston College managed only 285 total yards and turned the ball over three times. Rettig took all the snaps and was intercepted twice. Harris was the lone bright spot for the offense, as he rushed for 116 yards and two scores.
Through seven outings, opponents are generating 25.0 ppg and 314.1 total ypg against Boston College, which has yielded 17 touchdowns to opposing offenses. The Eagles have actually been tough against the run, permitting 83.6 ypg at a clip of 2.6 yards per carry. The pass defense has been victimized for 12 touchdowns, but 11 interceptions have been recorded and only 9.1 yards per completion is being surrendered. Despite the overall record of 2-5, BC can be proud of its defensive play. Luke Kuechly has already recorded 97 tackles, 54 more than his closest teammate.
Despite spending over 33 minutes on the field against Maryland, the Boston College defense allowed only 222 total yards. The run defense was tremendous, limiting the Terps to 43 yards on 33 attempts. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they did allow three passing scores despite permitting a lowly 6.9 yards per pass completion.
Although Boston College has the advantage of playing at home, Clemson is the better of these two teams and will win the game. Keep an eye on Bowers, as he is one of the nation's premier defenders.
FACTS & STATS: Site: Alumni Stadium (44,500) -- Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Television: ACC Network. Home Record: Clemson 4-1, BC 2-3. Away Record: Clemson 0-2, BC 0-2. Neutral Record: Clemson 0-0, BC 0-0. Conference Record: Clemson 2-2, BC 0-4. Series Record: Clemson leads, 9-8-2.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Clemson 27, Boston College 17
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