CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- The ball seemed to hang for a moment, perfectly placed, in front of the Boston College receiver.
All that hung in the balance with it? A fifth win, a second upset of a top-25 team and another huge step forward for a program that went 2-10 two years ago.
But Tyler Rouse couldn't haul the ball in through the raindrops, Tyler Murphy misfired three more times, and the Eagles ultimately let a win slip through their fingers Saturday evening, as they fell to No. 24 Clemson 17-13.
“We certainly had an opportunity to win the game,” BC coach Steve Addazio said. “I’m not a real shoulda, coulda, woulda guy. We didn’t. Did we have our opportunities? Yes, we did.”
The Eagles just left too many plays on the field.
When Josh Bordner was running free over the middle and Murphy hit him in the hands with a pass, the wideout needed to bring it in and run it down the field. But he dropped it.
When Clemson QB Cole Stoudt was facing a third-and-10 from the BC 19 late in the second quarter, the Eagles’ pass-rushers needed to do more than pinch the pocket around him and flush him out the middle. They needed to bring him down.
But they didn’t. He ran for the first down and set up an easy field goal to cap the first half for Clemson.
When the Eagles caught the Tigers flat-footed on a trick play, they needed to take full advantage. Wideout Sherman Alston took the handoff and gave it to Bordner on a reverse, only for the converted QB to set his feet and fire downfield for a streaking Charlie Callinan.
But Bordner underthrew the receiver, and what would’ve been a touchdown was instead only a 35-yard gain.
When Murphy and Bordner hooked up for a 6-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter, with the QB rolling right and then throwing back across his body and the field to hit a leaping Bordner in the left side of the end zone, the Eagles needed to hit the point-after attempt to make it a four-point lead at 14-10.
But Mike Knoll -- a freshman who is BC’s third primary place-kicker this season -- missed it.
“They were all over the field,” Bordner said of the missed opportunities. “I know personally I had two. ... There were definitely plays to be made all over the field.”
That’s what makes Saturday’s loss so frustrating and why Addazio said the Eagles’ locker room was “devastated.”
BC had played solid defense and allowed only 17 points. BC had played solid special teams, besides the missed PAT. The Eagles had the Tigers within reach in the fourth quarter.
“We fought. We got it to the fourth quarter [and] we gave ourselves a chance to win, we just couldn’t make a couple of plays that we needed to make to close the game out,” Addazio said. “I knew it wouldn’t be pretty, and it wasn’t. But against a really outstanding football team, our guys fought, stuck together and gave us a great opportunity to win that game.”
But Stoudt led the Tigers on a six-play, 82-yard drive to retake the lead after Murphy hit Bordner, and though Murphy moved the ball down to the Clemson 26 with just over a minute remaining, the Eagles couldn’t even consider a field goal to tie because of the missed PAT.
It was touchdown or nothing, and the Eagles came away with nothing.
In the end, all the miscues added up to too much to overcome.
“I mean, ranked team or anyone else, when you’re that close to a victory and it gets away from you ... it just hurts,” linebacker Steven Daniels said. “They’re a good team, but we had them.”
The Eagles had them, but then they let them slip away.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.