By Terrance Turner
The Clemson Tigers overcame an 18-point deficit and the loss of their star quarterback Trevor Lawrence to win today. Clemson stormed back from a three-possession trail to beat Boston College, 34-28. The Tigers are now 7-0, with a 27th win in a row at home.
Trevor Lawrence tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday, according to ESPN. He is experiencing mild symptoms but is in isolation at home. “He’s doing great,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said of Lawrence. “[He] Zoomed the team last night, [and I] talked to him this morning — feels like he can play today. He’s doing well, but obviously there’s protocol.” Lawrence must isolate for a period of 10 days and must then pass some cardiac exams, per Coach Swinney. “You have 10 days, and then you have the cardiac part, so he won’t be able to get through that in time to play next week.”
In Lawrence’s place was D.J. Uiagalelei, a 6’5″, 250-lb freshman quarterback. The question was whether the Tigers could survive without their star quarterback and win the game. For a while, the answer was unclear. But today, it was a definite yes.
Boston College struck first with a touchdown: quarterback Phil Jurkovec found Zay Flowers for an 18-yard TD pass to put the Tigers behind for the first time all season. But Clemson responded when running back Travis Etienne scored a 35-yard touchdown. A short time later, it was David Bailey’s 2-yard scoring run that put the Eagles ahead for good, 14-7. That was the end of the first quarter.
According to ABC News, “It appeared Clemson would tie things again, driving to the BC 1. But the normally sure-handed Etienne fumbled the handoff from Uiagalelei. Cornerback Brandon Sebastian picked it up and set off 97 yards for the return TD.” Later, Jurkovec hit Boston’s C.J. Lewis for an 18-yard touchdown on the next series. That put them ahead 28-10. Clemson trailed by 18 points. They were still down 28-13 at the half. That was the largest deficit by an AP #1 team at home since 1950.
“Don’t flinch,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told his team at halftime. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been down like this,” he said. “We’re fixing to find out what this team’s made of.”
Indeed. As the third quarter began, Clemson began a comeback. On 4th and 1, Uiagalelei ran 30 yards for the touchdown, making it 28-20. Then he hurled an 8-yard TD to wide receiver Amari Rodgers. A two-point attempt was unsuccessful. But Clemson was knocking on the door of yet another score.
The score would remain 28-26 for nearly all of the third quarter. But as the quarter came to a close, Travis Etienne launched a rush to become the ACC’s all-time rushing leader. He has 4,612 total rushing yards and 64 career touchdowns. Then, in the fourth quarter, Etienne dazzled once again with a 17-yard touchdown run. That gave Clemson the lead with 11:34 to go. It was Etienne and Uiagalelei’s late-game heroics that helped seal the win — and earned them the Leather Helmet award after the game.
With the score 32-28, the Tigers went for an extra-point attempt. But the ball bounced off the upright. The kick was no good! Yet Clemson maintained its narrow lead throughout the fourth quarter. They remained ahead by four, despite a crucial three-and out that could’ve sealed their doom.
As time began to run out, Boston College attempted a last-gasp offensive drive in hopes of winning the game. But Jurkovic was tackled in the end zone. He threw the ball in the air as he was going down. Chaos erupted at the end of the play, with flags flying everywhere. “There are two penalties on the play, both by the offense,” the referee announced. The flag for illegal touching was declined, but Jurkovic got flagged for intentional grounding. Because the quarterback was tackled in the end zone, the result of the play was a safety. That gave two points to Clemson, who won 34-28.
Clemson, the No. 1 team in the country, remains undefeated. The Tigers celebrated in the locker room, and so did coach Dabo Swinney:
“So happy for this team. Great win,” Lawrence tweeted after the game. He added that he was “proud” of Uiagalelei. Lawrence will miss next week’s game versus Notre Dame, but Swinney hopes he will be well enough to travel with the team.