Nothing is worse than recapping a game after a deflating loss like we experienced Saturday evening. Below are some of my observations; of course, when you lose a winnable game the negative memories certainly cloud the positives. Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Tyler Murphy: When there is a game that ends as terribly as this one, it's hard to stay positive. But watching Tyler Murphy not only play, but continue to improve is still a major positive to take away from this loss. His passing seems much crisper, he is not over throwing targets badly, and two of his passes were incredible reads he made while scrambling, something we haven't seen much of from him this season. He of course was solid on his feet against a Clemson rushing defense that clearly overpowered BC. It certainly is going to be fun watching Murphy for these last five games.
Bend But Don't Break Defense: Frustrating as hell to watch, the defense did what it had to do. Now I'm not sure that it was the defense that really executed here, or if was Clemson being inept, but when you hold Clemson to 17 points you have to be pretty happy.
The Big Plays: As bad as this game ended there were still some pretty special plays for the Eagles. Charlie Callinan catching the wide open tight end pass from Bordner. The 48 yard rumble by Dan Crimmins. And didn't the touchdown to Josh Bordner felt like a moment out of the USC game all over again? It certainly felt that way at Alumni Stadium.
The Attendance: It was the season's largest crowd by a little less than a thousand, and of course Clemson traveled very well, but it was great to see very few open seats at Alumni last night. Both end zones and most of the upper deck was filled. And props to the fans that didn't head for the hills when the rain started. How you can leave in the middle of a neck-and-neck battle is beyond me.
WE GET TO PLAY WAKE FOREST NEXT WEEKEND: BOOM
Dumb Mental Errors: I'm sure there are more than two big errors here, but the two that stuck out to me were the two "too many men in the huddle" penalties. Those types of mistakes are the ones that drive coaches crazy, but also need to fall on the coaching staff for not avoiding them in the first place. Clearly against Clemson you couldn't give up free yards, and when they kept extending the field because of penalties it could have been drive killers.
Jon Hilliman. This isn't so much a knock on Hilliman as just a note that he had a tough game. Clemson was waiting on him the entire game, and clogged the middle effectively. At the half he had five carries for 15 yards, and finished the game with 12 carries for 17 yards. He just couldn't get anything going.
Third Down Defense: As I have mentioned before, failure to put away teams on third downs has been a hallmark of Don Brown's defense. It has been a criticism that has haunted him where ever he went, whether it was UMass, UConn or Maryland. In my keys to the game during BCI radio I mentioned that BC would need to get Clemson's offense off the field if they wanted any chance of wearing down the Tigers defense. They failed to do that. Clemson had 10 third down conversions yesterday, and a success rate of roughly 50%. That left Clemson's defense fresh and ready to roll every time BC took the field. That (along with the drops) was the key to the game.
Defending Mike Williams: Sometimes when you watch an opponent you realize that you are watching someone special, and a potential NFL star. It seems like Mike Williams is one of those guys. BC defenders couldn't do anything to stop him when Cole Stoudt was able to get him the ball, and he seemed to be like six inches taller than any BC defensive back. He made a huge catch on what turned out to be the game winning drive, and ended the game with 8 receptions for 128 yards. The biggest question I had was why Cole Stoudt didn't dial him up more often.
Run Blocking Struggles: Completely outmatched by a superior Clemson front seven, the Eagles only averaged 3.3 yards a carry. The Tigers dared BC to throw the ball, which they did, and we saw the results of that. Clemson's defense was living in the backfield on almost every run, they were lightning quick and didn't miss many tackles. For a team like BC who relies on the run, this was a death knell.
Tyler Murphy's Hesitation: As great as he was last night, my friends who were watching the game from the upper deck had a great observation during the final drive. On one of the plays that ended with an incomplete pass, Murphy had a lane he could have driven a truck through that would have given him a huge gain if he ran. But he hesitated, tucked it and threw it down field out of bounds. I don't know if he was hearing Clemson footsteps, but he just missed what could have been a huge gain.
Punt coverage: Watching the game live it was difficult to tell if Sherm Alston had the space to return punts or if BC couldn't keep the punt team off of him. It seemed a combination of both, Clemson punted the ball 9 times, BC was only able to return it ONCE and that was for no gain. Clemson's defense was so good that field position was important, and the Clemson punt team pinned BC's offense deep consistently.
Place kicking: Yes I predicted that BC would miss an extra point. But I am no Nostradamus, this has just become life for the Eagles. At this point the failure to convert kicks has to have become a mental thing for the Eagles. I have never seen anything like it! There were plenty of things that cost BC the game, but missing a rinky dink extra point that would have set up a field goal to tie it (that they still probably would have missed) has to be one of the biggest.
Drops, drops, drops. What can be said here that hasn't already been said? We had wide receivers dropping the ball up and down the field, we had wide receivers falling down to catch passes when no one was near them, we had half backs dropping game winning passes, we had corner backs dropping easy interceptions. You can't make all of those errors and expect to beat Clemson, I don't care what team you are. I don't know what the answer for this is as this point, but it certainly cost BC the game yesterday.