They came off the field last year at Death Valley feeling completely spent from their all-out effort in a 24-14 loss. Sure, Boston College went toe-to-toe with Clemson, its gifted ACC Atlantic Division opponent; the Eagles even controlled a 14-10 lead with 6:40 to go in the third quarter.
But they were left with little to show for their valiant effort in a losing cause against the nation’s third-ranked team except a pat on the back.
“We battled that team last year,’’ said coach Steve Addazio. “We were able to make some runs. But to say that we consistently ran the ball against them last year is not accurate. They played great defense.’’
And it showed in the fourth quarter when defensive end Vic Beasley scored on a 13-yard fumble return to seal the verdict with 12:42 to go.
“No one is knocking around that defensive front,’’ said Addazio, whose Eagles (4-2 overall, 1-1 ACC) will be supremely challenged by Clemson’s sixth-ranked defense Saturday when BC hosts the 24th-ranked Tigers at Alumni Stadium.
“You have to hang in there. You have to play great defense,’’ said Addazio, whose own defense is ranked eighth overall in the nation (289.8 yards per game) and ninth against the rush (99.8 yards per game). “You’re going to have a bunch of three-and-outs, when you get a couple of shots, you have to capitalize on that with field position and get a couple of points on the board.
“You’re not going to consistently drive that defense, though. That’s not going to happen.’’
Clemson’s defense even stymied Andre Williams, the 2013 Doak Walker Award winner and the ACC’s only 2,000-yard rusher, by limiting him to 70 yards on 24 carries.
Addazio is hoping dual-threat quarterback Tyler Murphy will be able to keep the Tigers on their heels. Murphy, BC’s leading rusher with 711 yards and eight TDs on 86 carries, led the Eagles to a 30-14 victory at North Carolina State last week, scoring on runs of 47 and 26 yards, the latter with five minutes to go.
“When you play great teams like this, you have to make your physicality go,’’ said Addazio, who boasts the nation’s No. 4 rushing offense (315.7 yards per game) while Clemson is ranked 11th in rushing defense (100.5 yards per game).
“You have to have diversity in your attack. You can’t be a one-dimensional team. You have to be patient in your power game. It’s going to be a couple of bad-looking deals, then hit a little something. You have to make them play inside-out. If you just try to turn it into some finesse perimeter game, there’s a big, physical team on the other side that can flat-out run.
“Just take Beasley alone. He runs as well as any running back. At some point you have to make him defeat a block and make a tackle coming right at you.’’
Murphy undoubtedly will be keeping an eye out for him.
“He’s a real good defender and he’s real explosive off the ball,’’ Murphy said. “He’s one of those guys you can get caught up looking out of the corner of your eye, just to see where he is.’’
Murphy spoke with his former Florida teammate, North Carolina State quarterback Jacoby Brissett, about Clemson’s defense, which shut out the Wolfpack, 41-0.
“He played them the week before we played N.C. State, and he said the big thing is focusing on keeping your eyes downfield,’’ Murphy said. “Because you can easily get distracted watching for the pass rushers. It’ll affect your reads and you might miss somebody.
“So one of the big things for me is to keep my eyes downfield and to trust my pocket awareness, trust my offensive line, and just get the ball out fast.
“If you get the ball out fast, it’ll slow them down.’’
Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt, the son of former NFL QB Cliff Stoudt, will no doubt take the same approach against BC’s marauding defense, which rang up four sacks against Brissett last week. Stoudt will take over for talented freshman Deshaun Watson, who fractured the little finger of his right throwing hand in last week’s 23-17 victory over Louisville.
If the Eagles intend to hold serve in their only home appearance of the month, it will be imperative to play complementary football, as they did over the final three quarters at North Carolina State.
“They’re a little beat up on offense right now, but they’re going to look to make some plays on special teams as well as trying to get some turnovers and put some points up on defense,’’ Murphy said. “But we have to hold up our end of the bargain on offense and make sure we take care of the ball and not do anything that will put our defense in a bad situation.
“And the defense has to do a good job of getting off the field and setting us up as an offense to be successful. If we want to win on Saturday, it has to be a team effort and we have to work off one another to have a good day in all three phases.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.