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Tigers show grit in first conference win

The trap game, the let-down, the emotional hangover… Going into this past weekend’s game in Chestnut Hill against Boston College, Clemson fans pondered just what kind of reaction they would see out of their team in the aftermath of suffering their first defeat of the season against division rival Florida State the week before.

Over the last 15 years, the Clemson football program has been synonymously associated with the word inconsistent.  Every time it looked as if the Tigers were ready to turn the corner and establish themselves as a perennial power in the ACC, it seemed as if proverbial trip up was always bound to happen.  So although Clemson performed relatively well against Florida State, scoring 37 on the road, there are concerns as to how Clemson would respond against a B.C. program coming off an open date, and playing in their home stadium.

While any Clemson fan will tell you it’s been Georgia Tech that has consistently delivered gut wrenching losses to the Tigers on a far too regular basis over the last decade.  Since joining the ACC in 2005, it’s Boston College that might be next in line when it comes to being a thorn in Clemson’s side.  That’s why Saturday’s 45-31 win over Boston College was so important.

When the 17th ranked team in the country is dubbed the task of taking on a team with a losing record, any team worth that ranking should be able to accomplish the task.  Besides improving Clemson’s overall record to 4-1, as well as providing the team with their first conference win of the season, the win over B.C. also provided more answers as to what might be expected out of the Tigers for the rest of the season.

Nuk Hopkins might be the single most under rated player in the entire country

Preseason ACC Player of the Year Sammy Watkins did not make the trip up to Boston with the rest of the team after suffering from an abdominal virus throughout the week that ruled him unfit to play.  It was the third game of the season that Watkins didn’t feature for Clemson.  However, in his absence Nuk Hopkins only managed to have the single greatest game ever recorded by a Clemson wide receiver.  Hopkins recorded 11 catches for a school record 197 yards and a touchdown.  In the three games that Clemson has had to play this year without Sammy Watkins, Nuk has recorded 30 receptions for 421 yards and five touchdowns.  His season stats of 42 receptions, 604 yards, and six touchdowns lead the Atlantic Coast Conference .  He ranks in the top five nationally in receptions, yards, and touchdowns as well.  Hopefully, the media will stop referring to him as Clemson’s number “two”, and start referring to him in the manner he deserves.  Despite the fact that he plays with Sammy Watkins, a likely first round draft choice, Nuk Hopkins is an elite wide receiver as evidenced by his production on the field.  He’s nobody’s number “two”.

Clemson’s defense showed some signs of life

After getting torched for 49 points and 667 yards against Florida State, it would have been nearly impossible for the Clemson defense to take a step back.  Boston College experienced plenty of success to the tune of 31 points and 420 yards, but the Clemson defense still showed signs of improvement.  Boston College scored on a 30 yard touchdown run on its opening drive but only accumulated 21 more rushing yards on their ensuing 27 rushes throughout the rest of the game.  That’s a pretty good return even if Boston College ranks last in the ACC in rushing yards per game.  Taking away the opening drive, any time this Clemson team holds an opponent to less than a yard per rushing attempt they should have a plenty good chance of winning.

Sophomore defensive tackle DeShawn Williams put in the best performance of any defensive lineman this season while sophomore Josh Watson and freshman DJ Reader were also very active throughout the contest.  Clemson recorded eight plays of negative yardage against BC.  The defense had only generated 20 plays behind the line of scrimmage in the first four games of the season.

Sophomore cornerback Gary Peters replaced Darius Robinson midway through the second half against B.C. and recorded a game sealing interception late in the fourth quarter with BC deep in Clemson territory.  There are still way too many busts in the secondary, as evidence by Boston College wide receiver Alex Amidon’s eight receptions for 195 yards and two touchdowns.  Hopefully inserting Peters into the line-up will offer more play making ability to a Tiger secondary desperately in need of improvement.

The Tigers will now prepare to welcome ACC rival Georgia Tech, who come into Death Valley after suffering a 49-28 loss to Middle Tennessee State.  Despite Georgia Tech’s 2-3 record, Head Coach Paul Johnson’s vaunted spread option attack has experienced plenty of success against Clemson over the last four years.  Johnson is 4-1 against Clemson, including two wins in 2009 when Georgia Tech took the regular season game 30-27 before claiming the ACC Championship with a 39-34 win.  Last season Tech provided Clemson with their first loss of the season when GT beat the 8-0 Tigers in Atlanta 31-17.  Kickoff will be at 3:30 p.m.

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