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September 30, 2012The "bend don't break" defense was bent too far yesterday for Boston College, as all of Clemson's weapons proved to be too much for the Eagles to handle. Although the offense missed out on a few key opportunities and the ground game continues to stall the entire offense, the defense is now allowing almost 510 yards per game to BCS opponents. Chase Rettig and the offense could've put up more than 31 points, but asking them to go in to the 40 point range would be unreasonable. The defense needed to keep Clemson under 40 for BC to have a realistic shot at the upset, and here is a positional breakdown of how that didn't happen.
BC was up 21-17 after Rettig connected with Alex Amidon for a 31 yard touchdown pass and it looked like the Eagles were going to head into halftime with the four point lead, but then the secondary really started to break. Quarterback Tahj Boyd and running back Andre Ellington led the Tigers 76 yards down the field in 13 plays and capped off the drive with a four yard touchdown pass from Boyd to tight end Brandon Ford. Sophomore corner C.J. Jones allowed Ford to breakaway on an out in the end zone with too much ease and Ford skirted his feet across the grass to put Clemson ahead the Tigers wouldn't relinquish the lead again.
Jones' coverage killed the BC momentum again early in the fourth quarter. After Amidon brought in another touchdown pass from Rettig to cut Clemson lead to 10, DeAndre Hopkins faked a deep route to the middle of the field that Jones bit on and then Hopkins cut back to the outside finding the ball perfectly with an easy walk to the end zone.
For the most part, cornerback Manny Asprilla and safeties Jim Noel and Sean Sylvia actually played well. Asprilla did a much better job in the second half of containing the WR screens that drove Clemson up the field in the first half and Sylvia grabbed an impressive interception. Jones shouldn't have been on the field yet, it should've been Al Louis-Jean there yesterday, but that's why depth is so crucial in college football.
Considering the best player on the defense sat out almost the entire second half, the linebacking corps also had a decent game. Ellington averaged 5.3 yards per rush for the Tigers, but on a few important plays the linebackers broke up running plays and forced a third and long which is a good sign. Sean Duggan came in and did a serviceable job replacing the injured Kevin Pierre-Louis.
Overall, the linebackers didn't lose this game. They didn't come up with the big plays that they have said they need to make, but they also weren't the reason that the defense broke.
Yes, there were plays where Boyd had all day to throw and inevitably found some of his freakishly talented receivers for big gains, but the pass rush was better. One of the worst pass rushes in the country last year actually looked okay against the Tigers. Brian Mihalik came up with a sack on a critical third down and the rest of the defensive line forced Boyd out of the pocket on multiple occasions. The problem was that Boyd is so skilled he is just as good on the move as he is with his feet set. BC found its points mainly through Rettig and Amidon yesterday, while Clemson could've looked anywhere on their offense for a scoring threat.
The defensive line still didn't prevent the run as well as they should've, allowing almost over 200 yards on the ground between Boyd and Ellington alone. But the zone reads and options run by the Clemson defense were far better than the type that Northwestern ran against this team.
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