Things we learned: BC 16, Clemson 10

October 30, 2010 - 1:31 pm
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CHESTNUT HILL -- The Eagles finally put it all together on Saturday. As a result, they'€™re taking the O'€™Rourke-McFadden Trophy with them. The Eagles denied Clemson'€™s second half drives and held on for a 16-10 victory, snapping their five-game losing streak. The Eagles defense played to their potential against a potent Clemson attack and refused to give up big plays, keeping the Tigers offense from reaching the end zone. The special teams units pitched in, with three field goals from Nate Freese and a fumble recovery on a second quarter kickoff. Entering the game with a five-game losing streak, their longest since 1998, BC played solid football on every side of the ball en route to their best game of the season. After throwing an early interception, Chase Rettig calmed down and leaned on Montel Harris, who continued his elusive running to give BC a 16-10 lead at halftime over Clemson. Early on, the Eagles' offense showed some hangover from last week'€™s game against Maryland, when they lost a heartbreaker, 24-21. With 11:59 in the first quarter, Rettig threw a pass intercepted by Rashard Hall for a 52-yard touchdown return. But despite inconsistent quarterback play, the BC offense has been sparked by the rejuvenated play of Harris in the past three weeks as he passed 3,000 career yards against Maryland. Rettig recovered nicely and on the second BC drive, he threw a 40-yard pass to Ifeanyi Momah to bring the Eagles to the 2-yard line. However, Clemson executed a strong goal line stand and forced BC to settle for a 21-yard Freese field goal to bring the game to 7-3. Clemson responded with a 64-yard drive that ended in a Chandler Catanzaro field goal to bring the Clemson lead to 10-3. In the second quarter, BC mounted a 62-yard drive that encompassed over nine minutes but once again failed to score in the red zone, leading to a 36-yard Freese field goal. The next Ryan Quigley kickoff was fumbled by Clemson and recovered by BC linebacker Steele Divitto at the Clemson 36-yard line. The resulting play led to a 36-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Harris to give the Eagles a 13-10 lead. It was the Eagles'€™ first lead at home since a Sept. 11 win against Kent State. Of particular note, BC did not punt once in the first half, as the offense recorded 220 yards while holding Clemson to only 92 total yards. The first half ended strangely, as coach Frank Spaziani and the Eagles made the call to let the clock run down while inside the Clemson 20-yard line. The BC offense had established a solid rhythm after Catanzaro missed a Clemson field goal from the 26-yard line. Fans booed, hoping for a more aggressive approach to finish the half. But Freese nailed another 36-yard kick to bring the lead to 16-10 as the half expired. Harris had another big game, carrying 36 times for 142 yards and his only reception came on his 36-yard touchdown catch. Harris recorded his fifth game of the season with over 100 yards to continue his assault on the BC record books. The second half was quick and scoreless. Neither team scored in the second half thanks to a tough red zone defense from the Eagles and a time-burning strategy by the BC offense. Clemson also missed two field goals that potentially could have tied the game for the Tigers. Luke Kuechly played a major role in the secondary and running game as he continues to establish himself as an All-American caliber linebacker. The Eagles still have work to do, but players and coaches seem hopeful that they may put their losing days behind them. Offense finally putting things together: Harris recorded his third straight 100-yard rushing performance, his fifth of the season. Harris was named the MVP of the game, earning him the genuine leather helmet given to the MVP of the annual O'€™Rourke-McFadden game between the two schools. Rettig, meanwhile, recovered from his early interception and was able to keep the ball away from Clemson'€™s coverage. Rettig'€™s favorite targets have emerged as Bobby Swigert and Momah who have pulled down some timely catches when called upon in recent games. Rettig and Swigert connected on four passes for 26 yards. Momah only caught one pass, the 40-yard completion that set up a Freese field goal, but he was targeted often by Rettig. One of BC'€™s most significant accomplishments was holding onto the ball for 34 minutes and seven seconds, over eight minutes more than Clemson. The offense also racked up 304 yards of total offense which was the first game of over 300 yards since their Week 2 win over Kent State. The only area of trouble was third down, where the Eagles converted only four of their 14 attempts. Aside from Rettig'€™s early interception, the offense didn'€™t give away the ball, forcing Clemson to drive the length of the field against an inspired BC defense. Defense comes up big when it matters: Clemson did not score a point after the first quarter and the BC defense dominated Clemson in coverage. BC held Clemson to only 86 yards rushing on the game, forcing Parker to carry the Tigers offense. Parker finished 21-of-39 attempts with 176 yards and two interceptions and he failed to lead the Tigers to the end zone. Chris Fox continued his impressive play with five tackles and he also broke up three passes in the game. The secondary broke up six total passes, limiting Clemson'€™s offensive opportunities. The BC secondary stepped up in a major way, preventing Clemson from finishing drives, limiting the Tigers to 4-of-11 conversions on third down. Against Maryland, BC gave up 10-of-19 third-down conversions and 2-of-3 fourth-down conversions. Even more impressive, BC was able to tighten the secondary without senior captain, safety Wes Davis, who suffered a neck injury against Maryland, and cornerback DeLeon Gause was also sidelined after last week'€™s game. The third-down stops proved crucial. On a 3rd-and-16 from the BC 19-yard line, Parker was forced to heave a pass across his body - a la Brett Favre - into coverage and Donnie Fletcher managed to come down with the ball, taking a scoring chance away from the Tigers. It was Fletcher'€™s eighth career interception for the Eagles. With 5:17 left in the fourth quarter, BC stopped Clemson at the BC 32-yard line on a fourth down attempt. The play was made by none other than Kuechly, who stopped Dwayne Allen just short of the first down. Allen was the leading receiver for the Tigers, hauling in seven catches for 57 yards. With just over two minutes left in the game, Clemson had their last big chance to come even with the Eagles. But when it mattered most, Kuechly intercepted a Parker pass at the BC 45-yard line. The play was reviewed, but replay proved Kuechly was able to drag his feet down before landing out of bounds on the interception. With seconds left, Parker attempted one final Hail Mary pass but Kuechly knocked the pass down at the 10-yard line as time expired. '€œI think one of the biggest things we were able to do in this game was get off the field on the third down,'€ said Kuechly. '€œThat'€™s something we haven'€™t been doing very well this whole year. When you get off the field on third down, results show and we did a good job in the second half, and the first half, of doing that.'€ Kuechly, the Cincinnati St. Xavier product, had another big performance for the Eagles, racking up 14 tackles as well as his late interception. Kuechly now has 111 tackles on the season. Chase Rettig records first win as BC starter Rettig was originally assigned to be redshirted during the year, but Spaziani and the other coaches decided to hand the reins to the freshman against Notre Dame. Rettig'€™s performance this season has been far from stellar, but the BC offense has been clicking in the last few games, indicating that Rettig may be emerging as the starter of the future. So far on the season, Rettig has gone 41-for-86 with 492 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. But most importantly, Rettig has seemed to earn the trust and support of his teammates early in his career and his ability to keep his composure throughout games has been essential to his early success. The next test for the young quarterback awaits against Wake Forest away from the comforts of Alumni Stadium. Special teams solid All season, when the BC offense has faltered, the special teams have answered the call. Nate Freese has been a fantastic replacement for all-time scoring leader Steve Aponavicius. In his freshman season, Freese has made 15-of-17 field goals and has hit all 15 of his PATs this season, giving the Eagles a consistent scoring threat. Freese made field goals of 21, 36 and 36 yards while Clemson'€™s Catanzaro missed kicks of 44 yards and 36 yards. Ryan Quigley has also developed as a solid punter over the season and he was able to stick Clemson inside the 20-yard line three times during the game. The forced fumble on the second-quarter kickoff also proved vital to BC'€™s win. Divitto, a freshman linebacker, was able to scoop up a Tigers fumble to set up Harris'€™ touchdown, which proved to be the winning score. BC'€™s young core of players has shown considerable growth over the season and is only getting better. Milestone tracker With his performance, Kuechly passed 100 tackles on the season and now has 111. Kuechly'€™s 14 tackles also stretches the nation'€™s longest streak of consecutive games with 10 or more tackles to 17 games. Kuechly has become one of the nation'€™s top linebackers and the football career for the true sophomore looks bright. Harris also moved into second place on the all-time carries list with 672 career carries, topping Andre Callender (647) and Troy Stradford (658). His performance also marked the 18th game of his career of more than 100 yards rushing, tied for the most in BC history with Derrick Knight and Mike Cloud. Freese, a true freshman, is on pace for over 24 field goals on the season, which would be the highest season total for a BC kicker. The current record is held by Sandro Sciortino, who had 23 field goals in 2002. Other notes from the game: Right tackle Rich Lapham was taken out of the game with a left knee injury and he did not return. Lapham is a 6-foot-8 sophomore who is a crucial member of the strong BC offensive line. Defensive end Alex Albright did not play for BC after suffering a season-ending injury against Maryland. The senior captain was in the midst of a great season for the Eagles after being plagued by injuries during his seasons with Boston College.