Photo by © Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Clemson Football

What's cooler than being cool? Four consecutive division championships

November 12, 2018
1,464

42 degrees Fahrenheit.

That was the temperature in Clemson, South Carolina at 8:00 PM Saturday night as the Tigers kicked off their final road test of the season at No. 17 Boston College.

The temperature at kickoff all the way up north in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts was eight degrees cooler at 34 degrees. It was the third-coldest game Clemson played in school history.

All week, the focus was on Clemson playing in different weather conditions it isn’t used to. Most notably freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who had never been north of Virginia.

That was supposed to be one of the biggest factors if the Eagles were going to secure the upset.

But then you saw the leader of Clemson’s defense, Christian Wilkins, warming up in shorts and a t-shirt. The Boston native knew what was coming as he returned home and he was wishing for the worst conditions possible.

© Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Christian Wilkins hits Boston College quarterback Anthony Brown during the first quarter Saturday evening.

Because he knew that none of those outside factors mattered once toe met leather. The adrenaline and natural instinct inside the moment would take over. Amidst the icy temperatures, Clemson’s defense played with their hair on fire.

It felt like No. 2 Clemson was on cruise control for most of it 27-7 victory over Boston College. There were some moments that were shaky, but the game never felt like it was in much doubt. Largely in part due to another monstrous performance from Clemson’s defense.

The Tigers only gave up 113 yards of offense, 24 in the first half, and eight total first downs throughout the contest. Safety Tanner Muse led the defense with 10 total tackles.

The Tigers only gave up 113 yards of offense, 24 in the first half, and eight total first downs throughout the contest. Safety Tanner Muse led the defense with 10 total tackles.

The Eagles came into the game averaging 225 yards per game on the ground, led by 245-pound running back AJ Dillon. Clemson held the Eagles to only nine yards rushing.

Dillon, who averaged 128 yards per game going into the matchup, was the biggest on-field threat for an upset to arise. After quarterback Anthony Brown was knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury on the Eagles’ sixth play from scrimmage, all eyes on Brent Venables’ defense were turned to Dillon.

The tailback only rushed for 39 yards on 16 attempts. In two games against Clemson, Dillon has gotten 34 carries for only 96 yards. Clemson suffocated Boston College’s offense as the game wore on. Even with Clemson clinging to a 13-7 lead at the half, there was no evidence that the Eagles would manage to score any offensive points on the night.

But Clemson found itself in a rare position. For the first time since its escape against Syracuse, the Tigers found themselves trailing 7-3 after a 74-yard punt return touchdown from Michael Walker left Alumni Stadium shaking to its core.

In the cold, Lawrence and the Clemson offense kept its cool and immediately responded with a 9-play, 70-yard touchdown drive in just under five minutes. Lawrence found four different receivers and went 7-of-7 passing for 68 yards on the drive.

A 35-yard strike to Tee Higgins, followed by a 14-yard pickup from Amari Rodgers set Clemson up pretty inside the 10-yard line. On fourth-and-goal, Dabo Swinney sent in the “fridge package” as decoys, which set up Milan Richard for a wide open touchdown to silence the crowd.

That’s how great teams respond in those kinds of environments. Clemson never really looked back from there even after Rodgers muffed a punt, which put Boston College in prime position late in the second quarter. But the Eagles only managed to get one yard in the second quarter and even though the game remained close, it felt like it was slipping away.

After the half, Clemson’s defense forced a three-and-out, which was followed up by a three-and-touchdown on the other side of the ball. Travis Etienne burst for a 25-yard gain. Hunter Renfrow then snagged a 33-yard strike with some shifty moves after the catch. Finally, Lawrence walked into the end zone on the next play from six yards out to give Clemson a 20-7 lead.

Lawrence finished the day with career highs of completions (29) and pass attempts (40). He threw for 295 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. We asked before the game what would be cooler: Boston temperatures or Lawrence’s demeanor.

The cold never bothered him anyway.

“Yeah, at the end of the day it’s still football,” Lawrence said when asked if everyone was making too big of a deal about the weather. “The weather is not going to win you the game. Obviously, they were more used to it than us. But at the end of the day, you got to come out and play.”

“Yeah, at the end of the day it’s still football,” Lawrence said when asked if everyone was making too big of a deal about the weather. “The weather is not going to win you the game. Obviously, they were more used to it than us. But at the end of the day, you got to come out and play.”

After the whirlwind of adventures at punt return for Rodgers throughout the game, he was finally able to redeem himself late.

He had been close to breaking a punt return loose all season, and in the fourth quarter, Rodgers iced the game with a 58-yard punt return to the house. He finished the game with 135 total yards.

Clemson cruised from there and let its defense work until the clock struck zero and Swinney was given an orange Gatorade bath. His first win at Clemson was almost ten years ago to the day. The team also wore orange pants that day, but nothing was on the line - except for Swinney’s job.

Ten years later, this Gatorade bath was just as sweet (and cold) as Clemson clinched its fourth consecutive Atlantic division title, something no ACC team has done. Any hot takes about the weather being a determining factor turned out to only fuel the fire.

“I was nervous about the weather. I thought it was going to snow or sleet and I was a little disappointed it was a balmy 38 (degrees) out there,” Swinney joked after the win. “I didn’t know what was going to happen listening to all the reports and stuff that we were going to forget how to play football or something because of the weather.

© Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Trevor Lawrence threw for 295 yards and a touchdown in Clemson's 27-7 win at Boston College.

“Lord have mercy… That was the only thing I was worried about was that we were going to freeze up and forget how to run and tackle and all that stuff. But somehow, some way we were able to push through it.”

Swinney also said many people “didn’t do their homework.” Since 1961, Clemson is now 6-0 in games that start with temperatures under 40 degrees.

Clemson is built for games like the one played on Saturday night. With a championship on the line, we didn’t see the dominant offensive performance we’ve seen in recent weeks. But a stone-cold defensive attack was all it took for Clemson to punch its ticket to Charlotte - again.

The Tigers have now won 19 of their last 20 true road games. This is also the eighth straight 10-win season under Swinney, which is a current school record and the fourth-longest streak in the country.

Clemson’s senior class continues to do things that no other classes have done. It feels like each year the senior class accomplishes something new that the last class didn’t.

Now, this class is 50-4 during their time at Clemson and has a chance to break the record for most wins by a senior class ever in a four-year period. It’s no accident that they will have a chance to break that record on Senior Day under the Death Valley lights.

The best decade in Clemson football history only continues to get better. An ACC championship appearance has become the norm and there aren’t many signs that show this avalanche is slowing down.

So what’s cooler than being cool? Another year, another Clemson appearance on the first Saturday of December with a championship on the line.

Another Atlantic division trophy.

What's cooler than being cool? Four consecutive division championships

There are not any replies to this post yet.
Page 1 of 1
 
×
Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.