Boston College quarterback Anthony Brown spent the past year recovering from a season-ending knee injury he incurred last November.
The rehab was worth it for games like yesterday: a sold-out matchup against No. 2 Clemson, broadcast on Saturday Night Football and with College GameDay on the Heights.
But Brown would attempt just three passes before being injured on BC’s first drive of the game. Scrambling to make a play on third down, he was mauled by Clemson’s 315-pound tackle, Christian Wilkins, and landed awkwardly on his side, never to return to play.
BC Head Coach Steve Addazio said Brown suffered an “internal injury” and was hospitalized.
“This is a tough game to break into. You certainly don’t want to play the likes of Clemson and lose your quarterback at the start of the game.”
Without Brown, the Eagles’ offense charted a meek 113 yards compared to Clemson’s 424. The Tigers would go on to win 27-7 and clinch their fourth-consecutive division title.
Despite the tough draw, the No. 17 Eagles (7-3, 4-2 ACC) managed to hold an offense that averages 47.8 points per game to just two touchdowns for a majority of the night.
“We showed tremendous toughness and battle as a team with grit, and I think anybody watching that game could see it,” said Addazio.
Clemson (10-0, 7-0) got on the board early in the first, recording a 30-yard field goal less than three minutes into the contest. BC continued to force three-and-outs on Clemson’s offense, and with 6:22 left in the first BC’s Michael Walker returned a punt 74 yards for a score to give the Eagles the lead, 7-3.
The Tigers responded on the next series, shaving five minutes off the clock in a 70-yard drive that resulted in a two-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Lawrence to Milan Richard with just over a minute to go in the first quarter.
Initially hesitant to throw with backup quarterback EJ Perry at the helm, BC resigned to the run game. Three-straight (unsuccessful) AJ Dillon attempts forced the Eagles to punt on the next possession, giving Clemson the ball to start the second. The Tigers went on to score one more field goal in the quarter, but the Eagles stopped Clemson on the final drive of the half to keep the score at 13-7 heading into the locker room.
Having only gained 23 yards on offense in the first half, BC—who held Clemson to 5-of-15 on third-down conversions—kept the Eagles within one score going into the third quarter.
“We felt at that point like, ‘OK, we’re in pretty good shape here,’” said Addazio. “We tried to get in at halftime and just re-establish what we could do confidently in the second half.”
BC got the ball to start the second but was forced to punt, and the Tigers would make a quick score early in the second half to widen the gap, 20-7, with 11:56 remaining in the third.
From here, unfortunately, the Eagles could never find a rhythm.
Perry, a sophomore, was playing for the first time since Sept. 22 and threw for less than 100 yards compared to Lawrence’s 295. He was sacked twice in one quarter and at one point had to run down a snap that flew over his head for a loss of 32 yards. Between penalties and multiple errant snaps, the Eagles went 3-of-16 on third-down conversions.
Clemson held Dillon to a season-low 39 yards on 16 carries. Dillon, who has been fighting an ankle injury all season, appeared to tweak it again late in the fourth quarter.
“I’m not going to say it out there, but he’s nowhere near 100%. He’s just not, and that’s obvious,” said Addazio. “But he’s tough, and he’s battling, and he keeps fighting back each week.”
“I’m more concerned now about getting ready for Florida State and getting ourselves back in the groove, if you will,” Addazio said.
The Eagles went into the matchup with their highest ranking since 2007 while facing the highest-ranked team to ever come to Chestnut Hill.
Campus could feel the impact.
For only the third time in school history, College GameDay came to the Heights on Saturday. Students started lining Gasson quad as early as 4:30 a.m., and they stayed put through the rain and wind for the morning show.
“There was enough energy and passion on that field to have a chance to win that football game, and I’m proud of that.”
With or without Anthony Brown, BC has the chance to reach eight wins for the first time in nearly a decade when it heads to Tallahassee next week.