The Eagles flew home disappointed.
Disappointed that they lost, sure, but also disappointed that they could have beaten No. 3 Clemson if they had just made fewer mistakes.
After the messes that were the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Boston College fans will gladly take this kind of disappointment. It means the team is battling and, with a needed infusion of talent through recruiting and continued progress in the new, aggressive system the coaching staff has installed, may just win a few of these games down the road.
“We fought hard and the guys left it all on the field,” Steve Addazio told reporters in South Carolina, according to a transcript on the Eagles’ website. “We took the No. 3 team in the country toe to toe, but we just did not finish.”
Entering the final quarter, Boston College (3-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) led Clemson (6-0, 4-0 ACC), 14-10. Chase Rettig and Alex Amidon had answered Tajh Boyd’s big strike to Sammy Watkins -- a seeming knockout blow -- with a big strike of their own, regaining the lead and quieting the boisterous crowd in Death Valley.
But the fourth quarter was all Clemson, with Boyd scoring on a 6-yard keeper to start the quarter and the Tigers all but putting the game away on BC’s first possession when linebacker Tony Steward sacked Rettig and knocked the ball free for Vic Beasley to pick up and run back for a 13-yard touchdown.
"It's good to know that we can win a street fight,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said of the 24-14 win. “You have to give Boston College credit. They were a tough team, but we battled, we played very physically and we were just a little bit deeper than they were. It's good to pull out a win.”
To pull off the upset, the Eagles needed to win the turnover battle decisively. They didn’t do that Saturday.
The Eagles recovered two fumbles, but the offense couldn’t convert the Clemson miscues into points. Rettig also had two turnovers, one on an ill-conceived pitch that was deflected and intercepted, and the other on the clinching strip sack. That evened the turnover totals at two apiece, with the difference being that the Tigers scored seven points off the second BC giveaway.
To pull off the upset, the Eagles needed another big day from the nation’s leading rusher entering the game, Andre Williams.
But No. 44 had a tough day, with 24 carries for just 70 yards against the Tigers’ defense. That’s fewer than 3 yards a carry; Williams’ season average is 5.34 yards per carry.
And with the running game not exactly humming, more of the burden fell to the quarterback. Rettig was just 13-for-21 for 192 yards passing and one touchdown and was sacked five times.
BC was just 3-for-15 on third down and was outgained by more than 200 yards (286 yards of total offense for BC compared to 496 for Clemson).
There were a couple of bright spots on offense, however. Freshman running back Myles Willis, playing just a few hours from his home in Conyers, Ga., took a counter 38 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. And wideout Alex Amidon had his third game with 100-plus yards receiving, finishing with six catches for 121 yards and a touchdown on a 69-yard hookup with Rettig. The senior now holds the BC record for 100-yard games for a receiver with 10.
There are no moral victories for this BC team -- the Eagles lost the game to fall back to .500 for the season at the halfway mark.
But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing good to take from the effort.
“Clemson has a very good football team and they showed it today,” Addazio said after the game. “I will never be happy with a loss, and I will not be happy today. I like our team a lot. We did some really good things and some really bad things.
“If we can keep working and keep believing, then good things will happen.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.