November 17, 2007…..
The Tigers were sitting at 8-2 overall, 5-2 in the ACC, and ranked 15th in the country. Matt Ryan and #17 Boston College came to town with an identical record in a game for all the marbles in the ACC Atlantic, as the winner would punch its ticket to the 2007 ACC Championship Game.
It had been 16 years since the Tigers last ACC title, and there was a feeling of anxiousness as you walked into the stadium that night. The crowd was electric, setting a stadium a decibel record at one point. This was Death Valley, and under the lights. This was a Clemson offense that featured the talented duo of James Davis and CJ Spiller at running back, and a BC team that had the best run defense in the ACC. It was strength against strength.
Clemson struck first, with James Davis scoring from one yard out to cap a 13 play 68 yard drive on the Tigers opening possession. That is how the score would remain until BC got a 40 yard FG just before halftime to cut it 7-3. On the opening drive of the second half, the Tigers went on another 12 play 52 yard drive, but this time could only get 3, as they had to settle for a 22 yard FG from Mark Buchholz and extend the lead to 10-3.
Just over a minute into the 4th quarter, BC tied it up at 10 on a 2 yard TD run from James McCluskey. On the very next play, Clemson QB Cullen Harper was picked off, setting up BC at the Tigers 44. Eleven plays later, the Eagles took their first lead, 13-10 on another FG, this time from 30 yards out. The Tigers would answer right back on the ensuing possession, with Cullen Harper scoring on a 4 yard TD run after a 10 play 58 yard drive.
Boston College started their final drive with a little over 5 minutes left in the game. They had driven to the Clemson 43 and faced a 3rd and 8 with just 1:46 left. That is when the Matt Ryan we all know as “Matty Ice” made an appearance.
For those who were in attendance, the ball stayed in the air for what felt like an eternity. WR Rich Gunnell had gotten behind the Clemson secondary and Ryan delivered a perfectly placed ball that put a dagger into the hearts of the Tiger faithful. Unfortunately, it was not the final dagger.
Clemson would get the ball back with plenty of time left. Harper hit 3 straight passes for 9, 6, and then 12 yards, setting up a 1st and 10 at the BC 45. That would be when Clemson fans would experience the second dagger to the heart.
Right through the breadbasket. Aaron Kelley, usually a sure handed receiver just could not come up with what in all likelihood would’ve been the game winner.
After two more incompletions, the Tigers faced a 4th and 10, and this time Kelly came through, reeling in a 12 yard pass to keep the drive alive. A 3 yard pass to Tyler Grisham put the ball on the BC 30. Two plays later, disaster struck again, as Harper took a sack for a loss of seven yards. Instead of a FG attempt of 47 yards, it was now an attempt of 54 yards, and the kick by Mark Buchholz fell well short. The Clemson faithful were now hit with dagger number three. Fans were in shock, and the stadium was eerily quiet as BC celebrated on the field of Memorial Stadium.
Despite coming out on the wrong end of things it was a fantastic football game, played in an electric atmosphere. Matt Ryan and Cullen Harper both had great games. The BC defense held Thunder and Lightning to just 62 yards combined, on 23 carries.
Boston College would go on to lose the ACCCG to Virginia Tech 30-16, before bouncing back to defeat Michigan State 24-21 in the Champs Sports Bowl. The Tigers would go on to beat UofSC 23-21, before falling to Auburn 23-20 in the Chic Fil A Bowl, in what was another heartbreaking defeat, this one in overtime.