NEWTON, Mass. -- They just couldn’t get off the field.
Most of the time against Northwestern, the Boston College defense knew what was coming, but for whatever reason the Eagles just couldn’t stop the Wildcats when it counted.
“It didn’t seem like they were gaining 560 yards on us,” fifth-year senior Nick Clancy said before practice on Wednesday. “It was just, God, we couldn’t get off the field on third down.
“We’d stop them on first and second down, and then it seems like we’d make a mistake or we wouldn’t execute our defense, and it just so happened that the plays we didn’t execute were on third down and we couldn’t get off the field,” he said.
The Wildcats converted 12 of 19 third downs in their eventual 22-13 win. The hosts ran a whopping 100 plays on offense, taking it to the visiting defense.
“I mean, 100 plays definitely takes a toll,” defensive co-captain Jim Noel said, “because that’s playing like a game and a half or two games. I think the defense can do a better job of getting off the field.”
So during the bye week, the Eagles are focusing on fundamentals. They’ll need to clean up the mistakes and force a few more punts (Northwestern had only two) against their next opponent, No. 10 Clemson.
“We’re a bend-but-not-break defense, so we’d rather give up a field goal than a touchdown to give our offense a chance,” Noel said.
Indeed, the D did keep the Wildcats out of the end zone for most of the day. But as the game wore on, the BC defense wore out and the Wildcats won out.
Next man up piles ‘em up
When Luke Kuechly decided to forgo his final year of eligibility and declare for the NFL draft after last season, the common wisdom was he would leave a gaping hole in the BC defense.
Turns out, the guy who replaced him can do a passable impression.
Nick Clancy stepped into the mike linebacker spot this season, after deciding to come back for a fifth year with no guarantees on playing time or role, and has acquitted himself well. On Saturday against Northwestern, the Plainfield, Ill., native piled up 24 tackles (14 solo, 10 assisted) in the loss.
“I was a little fired up, being from Chicago playing Northwestern at home,” Clancy said. “I guess I just kinda got into a zone. But I guess when it’s all said and done, I think I’d rather have no tackles and a win than 24 tackles and a loss.”
For his effort, Clancy was named ACC Linebacker of the Week. Through three weeks, he’s leading the conference in tackles (43) and tackles per game (14.3).
Coming into the season, Clancy’s career high for tackles in a game was seven.
“I’ve never had that many tackles,” he said with a little laugh.
Though it’s only Week 4, the Eagles are grateful for the extra rest they’ll get this week. The hope is it allows injured players to get back to work once preparations begin in earnest for Clemson, and that even healthy players can take a deep breath and make sure their legs are under them.
Kaleb Ramsey is one player the Eagles are hoping to get back. Without him in the game on Saturday, the defense gave up 293 yards on 60 rushing attempts.
“One on one, I think Kaleb Ramsey is unblockable,” Clancy said. “He’s just a man out there playing against boys. We really missed him versus Northwestern and we’re looking forward to having him back against Clemson.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.