CLEMSON – One of the occupational hazards of playing games that come down to the final minutes is…
For the first time, Clemson's offense failed to convert a single third down on offense. The Tigers had 11 chances, and each time the Clemson failed to move the chains. However, none of the botched attempts were more critical than the one that came in overtime.
Facing a third-and-two at the Boston College 6, tailback Reggie Merriweather lost two yards on his run to the right side. Thus the Tigers settled for a field goal. Conversely, the Eagles converted their third-and-six and three plays later, Brian Toal scored on a one-yard run to give Boston College the 16-13 overtime victory Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
"If you can't convert, you can't win," Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst said. "We're not good enough to not convert and win games."
The Tigers fall to 2-2 overall and 1-2 in the ACC Atlantic Division and are essentially two full games behind Florida State and Boston College (3-1, 1-1 ACC Atlantic) in the standings since the Eagles now own the tiebreaker against the Tigers.
On the opposite side of the field, the Eagles were successful on 10 of their 20 third downs chances. The fact that Clemson even took the game to overtime is somewhat shocking. A discrepancy that big between the two usually equates to a blowout.
"We'll have to improve on that," Tigers coach Tommy Bowden said. "We won't win many games like that. … If we're going to have any success, we're going to have to convert third downs."
Just how bad was it? Consider Clemson's average third down length was 5.45 yards. The average result was a loss of 0.636 yards. All told, the Tigers finished with minus-7 yards on 11 third down plays.
Moreover, Clemson was sacked three times on third down and came one yard short of getting the conversion four times.
"I don't think I've ever had a football team hold an opponent without a third down conversion," Boston College coach Tom O'Brien said. "In overtime, we wanted to play defense first. Our defense stepped up."
The only time the offense of the Tigers even moved the ball with any success came in the second quarter, when Clemson scored all of its points in regulation.
Trailing 10-0, the Tigers crossed midfield for the first time and eventually ended with a Jad Dean 36-yard field goal to make it 10-3 with 6:51 left in the half.
Following a three-and-out by the Eagles, Clemson put together a nine-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a Whitehurst one-yard run for the touchdown to tie it with 1:38 remaining until halftime.
Those were the only highlights of the day for the Tigers. The rest of the afternoon was spent with their defense doing everything in its power to stop Boston College offense. And for the most part, it was successful.
Even though the Eagles ran an incredible amount of plays (90), each time they looked as though they were going to score and put the game out of reach, the Clemson defense did something to thwart the drive.
Boston College finished with 221 yards passing and another 164 yards rushing, with Andre Callender gaining 116 on 22 carries. But the drives always stalled once the Eagles crossed the 50.
The first time came in the first quarter when Jamaal Fudge intercepted a Matt Ryan pass in the end zone. At the very least, it prevented a field goal.
Clemson got another big defensive stop at the end of the game when Tye Hill got an interception to prevent the Eagles from getting into field goal range at the end of regulation.
For the second straight week, the defense was there but the offense was nowhere to be found.
"You play the schedule that we've got and every game is going to go down to the wire," Bandit Gaines Adams said. "We knew what we were getting into at the beginning of the season."
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