Boston College, No. 25 Clemson experiencing role reversal

Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross (8) is consoled by quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei (5) after the Tigers lost 27-21 in two overtimes on Saturday in Raleigh, N.C.

Ncaa Football Clemson At Nc State
Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross (8) is consoled by quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei (5) after the Tigers lost 27-21 in two overtimes on Saturday in Raleigh, N.C. Ncaa Football Clemson At Nc State

In what would appear to be a complete role reversal, a struggling Clemson football team faces an undefeated Boston College team Saturday at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium.

The Tigers (2-2, 1-1 ACC), who have slipped to No. 25, are coming off a 27-21 double-overtime loss at N.C. State on Saturday that marked the first time Clemson has suffered two regular-season defeats since 2014.

The Tigers’ six-year streak of Atlantic Coast Conference titles could be in jeopardy, as well as their bid to qualify for a seventh consecutive College Football Playoff.

“Our seniors haven’t been in a situation like this,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “It’s unusual. It has been a long time. We’ve lost a game, but that’s no adversity. Come on, 2-2 at Clemson, that’s a different experience, and there’s nobody on this team that’s experienced that.”

Boston College (4-0, 0-0), which is unbeaten after four games for the first time since 2007, is coming off a 41-34 overtime victory against Missouri.

The Eagles pushed Clemson to the limit in 2020, when quarterback Trevor Lawrence missed the game with COVID-19, forcing then-freshman D.J. Uiagalelei into a starting role. Uiagalelei came up big, passing for 342 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for a third as the Tigers scored 24 unanswered points to rally for a 34-28 victory.

Boston College coach Jeff Hafley remembers it well.

“If you watch the tape, he’s enormous,” Hafley said. “I would expect him to run the ball against us. He has about as strong of an arm as I’ve ever seen. He looks like he’s throwing 98 mile-an-hour fastballs — even when he throws on the run he can do it.”

Uiagalelei has struggled this season, completing only 56.2 percent of his passes for 586 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Clemson ranks last in the ACC in total offense, yards per play and passing efficiency, and will be without leading rusher Will Shipley, who is out for three to four weeks after suffering a lower leg injury at N.C. State.

“They’re getting a lot of undeserved criticism,” Hafley said. “They’re one of the most talented teams in America, with good coaches.”

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Clemson also has lost two All-America candidates off its defensive front in Bryan Bresee, who tore an ACL against N.C. State, and Tyler Davis, who could miss two months with a torn bicep. That may make it more of a challenge to slow the Eagles’ potent rushing attack, which is anchored by a veteran offensive line and running back Pat Garwo, who has rushed for 412 yards and is averaging 6.3 yards per attempt.

“He had a really good camp, was making great run reads,” Hafley said. “He was hard to thud up and he’s bigger than people think he is. He just keeps his mouth shut and works, so I’m really happy for him.”

Senior Dennis Grosel will be making his third start this season in relief of Phil Jurkovec, who suffered a wrist injury in the Eagles’ second game that may sideline him for the season.

“This kid has played a lot of football — he’s one of the more experienced backups in the country,” Swinney said. “He’s a better runner than you’d like for him to be, he throws the ball well and is competitive.”

Clemson has won 30 consecutive games at Memorial Stadium — the longest active home winning streak in the nation — and the Tigers have won 10 games in a row against Boston College dating back to 2011.

–Field Level Media