CHESTNUT HILL, MASS. — Back when the ACC hatched grand plans to add three teams and become a 12-team "superconference," the audacious move was viewed by Clemson folks as a good thing.
Two of the new entrants, Virginia Tech and Miami, would be placed in the division opposite the Tigers. And Boston College's inclusion as a division foe didn't exactly make Clemson fans shake in their orange boots — er, overalls.
But after three years of heartache against the Eagles, Clemson (3-4, 1-3 ACC) now knows better. Boston College (5-2, 2-2) has become a numbing nemesis, dealing the Tigers three consecutive close-game gut-punches that played a large role in keeping them out of the ACC title game.
"I feel like it's a rival, because I haven't been able to beat those guys," said senior tailback James Davis. "It's just an attitude about toughness that they bring to the game. Those guys, just coming into the game, they feel like they're tougher than us."
The losses, which have been decided by a total of seven points, have indeed been marked by Clemson's inability to control the line of scrimmage. The Tigers have rushed for 2.42 yards per carry in the defeats, and short-yardage failures cost them on all three occasions.
--Last year's game is most remembered for Matt Ryan's 43-yard touchdown heave to Rich Gunnell with 1:46 left, and Aaron Kelly's drop of a deep ball near the goal line moments later. The Tigers lost 20-17, giving up 17 fourth-quarter points when a victory would've assured a trip to the ACC title game.
--In 2006, the game went into overtime in Chestnut Hill and Clemson's defense held the Eagles to a field goal on the first possession. The Tigers zipped to the 3-yard-line and had first-and-goal, needing a touchdown to win it. They ended up settling for a field goal after shifting into reverse, and Boston College won 34-33 in double overtime after blocking an extra point.
--In 2005, the teams' first ACC meeting went into overtime in Clemson. The Tigers reached the 6-yard line on the first possession of extra play but settled for a field goal. Boston College punched it in for a 16-13 win.
"I thought we were going to win all three of them, all the way to the last play of the game," said interim coach Dabo Swinney, who oversaw receivers all three years. "It hasn't gone our way. ... That's the hump we've got to get over."
Slaying their Boston College demons could allow the Tigers to change the script on what has thus far been a horror movie of a season. Clemson has lost three straight, all in conference, and hasn't suffered four straight ACC defeats since 1998.
The Tigers also must win four of their final five to finish with seven wins and assure bowl eligibility. Next week, this team is at No. 16 Florida State.
"I don't think anyone on this team is giving up," said junior tight end Michael Palmer, whose team had an open date last week following a 21-17 home loss to Georgia Tech on Oct. 18. "This obviously isn't where we expected or want to be. But it is. So we're just trying to have some fun with it and work hard."
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