CLEMSON, S.C. -- Tajh Boyd saved his best for last, and may have saved Clemson's Atlantic Coast Conference title hopes in the process.
Boyd threw for a touchdown and ran for another as No. 3 Clemson rallied from a 7-3 halftime deficit to hold off upset-minded Boston College 24-14 Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
Clemson's high-scoring offense struggled for much of the day, but Boyd came up big late and got a huge assist from his defense as the Tigers remained unbeaten, improving to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in league play heading into next week's Atlantic Coast Conference showdown against unbeaten and No. 6 Florida State at Clemson.
"It's good to know that we can win a street fight," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "We showed resolve and character and won the second half 21-7. If you want to be a good team, you have to win games like this."
Swinney's team entered Saturday's game outscoring its opponents by an average margin of 44-16 and ranked second nationally in turnover margin. But nothing came easy for the Tigers on Saturday.
Clemson managed just three first-half points, lost two fumbles to match its total over the first five games of the season, and struggled to find its footing against an inspired Boston College team.
The Eagles (3-3, 1-2) pulled ahead 7-0 on a 38-yard run by Myles Willis on the third play of the second quarter. Clemson kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who missed a 25-yard field attempt and was victimized by a bad snap and hold on another, finally connected on the final play of the first half -- from 35 yards out -- to cut the Eagles' lead to 7-3.
Clemson gained its first lead of the game with 6:59 remaining in the third quarter when Boyd connected with Sammy Watkins for a 48-yard touchdown, but the Tigers' advantage was short-lived.
Alex Amidon, who finished with six catches for 121 yards, hauled in a Chase Rettig pass and dashed 69 yards on the next play from scrimmage, pushing the Eagles back in front 14-10 and stunning a crowd of 77,506 at Memorial Stadium.
But Boyd, the Tigers' senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy hopeful, remained unfazed.
"The fortunate thing for us is we've been in those situations -- we've been down 18 points and had to come back, we've been up and lost the lead, we've been in every situation you can imagine, so it was nothing out of the routine," Boyd said. "We self-destructed, turned the ball over and put ourselves in some bad situations. But again we still came out with almost 500 yards of offense. We've got an opportunity to be special."
For the rest of the game, the Tigers were. Boyd capped an eight-play 48-yard drive with a 6-yard run for a 17-14 Clemson lead with 13:44 left in the third quarter and less than a minute later defensive end Vic Beasley scooped up a fumble by BC's Rettig and dashed 13 yards for another touchdown.
Beasley, a junior defensive end who leads the nation with nine sacks this season, was voted the game's most valuable player. He had five tackles, including two tackles for loss, one sack, one quarterback pressure, one pass broken up and the first fumble return for a touchdown of his career.
"I've been waiting on that moment my whole career. It was my turn, I guess," Beasley said.
Boyd notched his 14th career 300-yard game, passing for 334 yards while completing 30-of-44 attempts. He also became Clemson career passing yardage leader with 9,836 yards.
Clemson running back Roderick McDowell upstaged BC's Andre Williams, the nation's leading rusher, by outgaining the Eagles' senior. McDowell totaled 91 yards on 18 carries while Williams, who entered the game averaging 153.6 yards per game, was limited to 70 yards on 24 carries.
"We fought hard and the guys left it all on the field," said BC coach Steve Addazio, whose team slipped to 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the ACC. "We took the No. 3 team in the country toe to toe, but we just did not finish. Clemson has a very good football team and they showed it today."
Rettig was under duress all day and completed 13-of-21 passes for 192 yards. He was sacked five times by a Clemson defense that accumulated 11 tackles for loss on the day.
"I loved his leadership and I loved his demeanor today," Addazio said of Rettig. "It's hard back there, backed into the end zone when it's loud. He battled his tail off and kept his composure. He is laying it all on the line."
NOTES: When Clemson's Catanzaro missed a 25-yard field goal on the Tigers' first drive of the game, it ended a streak of 10 consecutive successful field goals for the senior, who entered the game having made 28 in a row from 48 yards or less. ... Clemson coach Dabo Swinney improved to 18-2 in home games (.90) in his five seasons, the highest winning percentage in league history. ... The 38-yard touchdown run by Myles Willis in the second quarter was Boston College's longest run from scrimmage this season. ... Amidon's 69-yard touchdown reception from Rettig was the longest of both of their careers, eclipsing the 68-yard connection they had the previous week against Army.