Updated at: 10/12/2013 7:35 PM
By PETE IACOBELLI
(AP) CLEMSON, S.C. - This loss is going to stay with Steve Addazio for a while.
Boston College’s first-year coach watched his team stand toe-to-toe with No. 3 Clemson for three quarters before finally wearing down in a 24-14 defeat Saturday.
The Eagles (3-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) carried a 14-10 lead into the fourth quarter before the Tigers rallied on Tajh Boyd’s 6-yard touchdown run and defensive end Vic Beasley’s 13-yard fumble recovery when Eagles quarterback Chase Rettig was sacked deep in his own territory.
"I’m mad right now, I don’t even know what to tell you," Addazio said. "What could we have done to make that outcome shift right there, right there."
The good news, Addazio says, is the Eagles are just as upset and can’t wait to atone for the blown opportunity.
"They got an air of confidence about them, but they’re mad, like I am," he said.
The Eagles had plenty of reasons to be upset.
Boston College forced two fumbles _ the Tigers entered with just two on the season _ and kept Clemson’s high-flying attack off balance. Sure-handed playmaker Sammy Watkins dropped two easy looking passes and overthrew a wide-open teammate on a halfback pass trick play in the first half.
But the Eagles’ offense, which struggled save for two long TD plays, could not keep up when Clemson moved in front.
"I’m really proud of how the whole team fought and that just makes this more tough," said receiver Alex Amidon, who had a 69-yard touchdown grab that gave the Eagles a 14-10 lead in the third quarter.
That’s when the Tigers (6-0, 4-0) fought back, going in front for good on Boyd’s TD run with 13:44 left.
Beasley closed out the Eagles when he scooped up Rettig’s fumble and took it 13 yards for a clinching score. Rettig coughed up the ball after a big hit by linebacker Tony Steward.
Clemson improved to 6-0 for the second time in three years.
"If you want to be a good team, you have to win games like this," Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. "We kept fighting and overcame mistakes."
The Tigers likely cannot afford to make the same mistakes next Saturday night against No. 6 Florida State, which was off this week and dismantled Maryland 63-0 in its last game.
Boyd also had a touchdown pass and finished with 334 yards passing to become the school’s career leader in passing yards, surpassing Charlie Whitehurst. Boyd chose to focus on Clemson handling adversity and succeeding instead of a near defeat.
"I’ve been in that situation plenty of times," he said. "You’ve got to go back, reflect on it and you’ve got to lead."
Boyd said he’ll remind the Tigers of what’s at stake this week, the attention that will be on Death Valley and how the players must prepare to succeed as they did against Georgia in a 38-35 victory back on Aug. 31.
"We’ve got some great capabilities," he said. "We’ve got to keep making adjustments so we can continue to improve."
Watkins had seven receptions for 101 yards, his fourth game over the century mark this season and 11th in his career. He scored on a 48-yard touchdown grab that gave the Tigers their first lead of the game at 10-7.
But it was Clemson’s oft-maligned defense _ remember when the Tigers gave up 70 points in the Orange Bowl two years ago? _ that turned things around in this one. Eagles tailback Andre Williams, who came in the nation’s top rusher, was held to fewer than 3 yards a carry with 70 total. He had gained a career-best 263 a week ago in Boston College’s win over Army.
Boston College finished with 286 yards on offense, 162 of those coming on its two TD drives. It’s the fifth straight game that Clemson has held an opponent to 14 points or less.
"We hear a lot about our offense, but we just want to be the strength of the team," Beasley said.
The Tigers got on the board when Chandler Catanzaro made a 35-yard field goal on the last play of the first half, making it 7-3 at the break.
The crowd of 77,506 relaxed some when Watkins scored to put Clemson on top. But BC answered one play later on Rettig’s toss to Amidon.
The nervousness didn’t leave for good until after Beasley bounded in with the loose ball for a double-digit lead.
"We did some really good things and some really bad things," Addazio said. "If we can keep working and keep believing, then good things will happen."
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)