Where: Clemson Memorial Stadium, Clemson
CLEMSON — Travis Etienne didn’t get the start, but he sure knew how to finish.
Etienne, a freshman running back, rushed for 113 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns as No. 2 Clemson rallied from a 7-7 tie for a 34-7 victory Saturday afternoon against Boston College.
Clemson (4-0, 2-0 in ACC) scored 27 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to defeat the Eagles for a seventh consecutive time.
“What a game, what a fourth quarter,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “That’s what you can do when you’ve got depth and can wear people down. There’s no question our depth was a factor today.”
That depth included Etienne, who had 98 yards, including an 81-yard touchdown run, in Clemson’s victory at Louisville last week.
The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Etienne didn’t enter the game until the Tigers’ second possession of the final quarter, but he quickly flashed his talent, breaking several tackles on a 50-yard touchdown run the first time he touched the ball.
Etienne, who is averaging 12.1 yards per carry, added a 10-yard touchdown run with 52 seconds left and totaled his 113 yards on only nine carries. He was presented with the O’Rourke-McFadden Leather Helmet Award as the game’s most valuable player.
“He might be the first freshman to win that,” Swinney said. “What a couple of explosive runs he had. He’s just gaining confidence by the minute.”
The Eagles (1-3, 0-2) tied the game on a 1-yard run by freshman running back AJ Dillon with 3:30 left in the third quarter, and it appeared the defending national champions were in for a down-to-the-wire battle.
But, sparked by Etienne and junior quarterback Kelly Bryant, Clemson won for the 35th time in 37 games, dating to the 2014 season.
“We took this team, that’s the No. 2 team in the country, late into the fourth quarter,” Boston College coach Steve Addazio said. “Our kids played their tails off. That’s the storyline of the game. I’m proud of the way our kids fought and battled against this team.”
Both Etienne and Bryant posted the first 100-yard rushing games of their careers. Bryant had 106 yards on 22 carries and scored his sixth and seventh touchdowns of the season.
Clemson sophomore Tavien Feaster, making the first start of his career, had 73 yards on 20 carries, to contribute to the Tigers’ 342-yard rushing day.
Dillon had a career-high 18 carries for 57 yards, but the Eagles’ offense struggled against Clemson’s eighth-ranked defense. Boston College managed only 238 yards; freshman quarterback Anthony Brown completed 14 of 30 passes for 130 yards.
Boston College punter Mike Knoll enjoyed a solid day, averaging 42.3 yards per punt and downing six of his kicks inside Clemson’s 20.
“They dug in and their punter was awesome,” Swinney said. “We had terrible field position all day.”
Addazio said he was proud of his team’s effort.
“We wanted to drag this team into the fourth quarter, and we drug them into the fourth quarter,” Addazio said. “We played with great heart and you can see the potential in this football team right now.”
Despite outgaining the Eagles 222-125 in the first half, Clemson led only 7-0 at the break. The Tigers’ lone score came on a 13-play, 94-yard drive midway through the second quarter that culminated with Bryant’s 11-yard touchdown run, his sixth of the season.
Running back Adam Choice added a 6-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and Bryant scored on a 4-yard run. Bryant was 17 of 26 passing for 140 yards and two interceptions.
“Kelly hung in there and battled through a little bit of adversity,” Swinney said. “But this is something we can grow from.
“To hold them to less than 100 yards rushing, hat’s off to our defense. When we’ve needed them to go out there and get a stop, that’s what they’ve done. Eventually we just wore them down.”
NOTES: Clemson WR Ray-Ray McCloud was held to two receptions for minus-2 yards, one week after a seven-catch, career-high 115 yard game at Louisville. … WR Hunter Renfrow has nine third-down receptions this season, with seven of them resulting in first downs. … LB Kendall Joseph led Clemson with 12 tackles, including one tackle for loss. … Boston College FS Lukas Denis had 13 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble. … WR Jeff Smith led the Eagles’ receivers with four catches for 58 yards. … RB Jon Hilliman, among the ACC leaders with 203 yards entering the game, managed 33 yards on nine carries.