CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Freshman DJ Uiagalelei threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns in relief of Trevor Lawrence, home with COVID-19, and No. 1 Clemson rallied from 18-points down in the first half to defeat Boston College 34-28 on Saturday.
Travis Etienne became the ACC’s all-time rushing leader and his second TD put the Tigers (7-0, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) ahead for good. A jarring week for Clemson ended with its 28th straight win over league competition, 10th straight over the Eagles and 27th in a row at home.
Clemson was missing several key players. Lawrence was out after testing positive for the virus and starting linebackers James Skalski and Mike Jones Jr. were missing because of injuries.
The Eagles (4-3, 3-3) took advantage, putting Clemson in a 28-10 hole in the second quarter with the virus-reduced crowd stunned to near silence.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told his team at halftime, “Don’t flinch.”
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been down like this,” he said. “We’re fixing to find out what this team’s made of.”
It’s made of highly talented players ready for the moment like Uiagalelei, who showed why he was a five-star prospect coveted by every college power and the heir apparent once Lawrence leaves for the NFL.
Uiagalelei ran for a 30-yard TD on Clemson’s opening third-quarter drive to begin the comeback, then threw an 8-yard scoring strike to Amari Rodgers that drew the Tigers within 28-26.
Etienne, Clemson’s other Heisman contender, put the Tigers in front for good with a 17-yard touchdown run with 11:34 to go.
The Eagles got the ball back with 1:24 to. But Phil Jurkovec was called for intentional grounding in the end zone for a Tigers’ safety, a fitting end to a second-half shutout by the Clemson defense.
Etienne ran for 84 yards, pushing him to 4,644 in his four seasons and past North Carolina State’s Ted Brown (4,602) as the ACC’s all-time leader.
Etienne also had seven catches for 140 yards. Cornell Powell had a game-high 11 receptions for 105 yards.
And all with Lawrence watching from in isolation. Now the question becomes: Will the star quarterback be able to play next Saturday at No. 4 Notre Dame.
Swinney told ESPN before the game Lawrence was doing “great” and spoke to the team Friday night via Zoom. As far as the quarterback’s availability for the Notre Dame showdown, “I don’t know anything right now,” Swinney said.
Boston College took advantage of the Clemson chaos early on with TDs on its first two series.
Phil Jurkovec found Zay Flowers for an 18-yard TD pass to put the Tigers behind for the first time all season. A short time later, it was David Bailey’s 2-yard scoring run that put the Eagles ahead for good, 14-7.
It appeared Clemson would tie things again, driving to the BC 1. But the normally sure-handed Etienne fumbled the handoff from Uiagalelei, cornerback Brandon Sebastian picked it up and set off 97 yards for the return TD.
When Jurkovec hit C.J. Lewis for an 18-yard touchdown on the next series, Clemson trailed by 18 points.
Despite the loss, first-year Eagles coach Jeff Hafley was proud of his players belief and confidence they could compete with anyone. “We took it to the No. 1 team in the country,” Hafley said.
Jurkovec, the Notre Dame transfer, completed 12 of 24 passes for 204 yards.
Boston College: The Eagles looked set to pull the upset of the college football season. Instead, they fell to 1-5 all-time against No. 1 teams and 2-32 in their history against teams ranking in the top five.
Clemson: The Tigers have escaped close calls the past two weeks. They were up just 27-21 on Syracuse here a week ago late in the third quarter before pulling away for a 47-21 win. Things appeared even more dire with the Tigers trailing 28-13 at halftime and minus so many critical players. Again, though, Clemson showed its resilience to remain undefeated.
Boston College heads to Syracuse next Saturday.
Clemson makes its first trip to Notre Dame in 41 years.