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.