|11.28.09 at 5:06 pm ET|
The Eagles are leading at the half in a road game for one of the first times all season as they take a 16-10 advantage to the locker room in College Park, Maryland.
The 16 points are the most for BC in a half for a road game all season and matches the season-high for a game it had against Notre Dame. A pair of Steve Aponavicius field goals (36 and 23 yards) are the difference so far with the last coming as time expired in the half. Aponavicius is the only kicker in the FBS who is perfect this year (38/38 PAT, 12/12 field goals). Montel Harris is, as usual, leading the offensive charge as he already has 21 carries for 93 yards along with a 30-yard catch.
Quarterback Dave Shinskie has had a decent half, going 8 for 14 for 160 yards.
Maryland tied the score early in the second quarter with a 6-yard rush touchdown but the offense has been shut down by the Eagles defense since. Sophomore quarterback JaMarr Robinson was sacked twice in a row in the second quarter, by Damik Scafe and Brad Newman, respectively.
|11.28.09 at 4:19 pm ET|
The road has not been a good place for the BC offense this year but it looks like today might be different. The first quarter in Maryland saw BC score twice — a 66-yard touchdown pass from David Shinskie to Colin Larmond, Jr. and an 18-yard field goal from Steve Aponavicius.
The Larmond touchdown was a short cross route over the middle that the speedy sophomore broke to the outside and down the sideline all the way to pay dirt. Aponavicius’s field goal was the result of a 10-play, 54-yard drive that stalled on the goal line.
Start of the second quarter. BC 10 Maryland 3.
|11.28.09 at 11:14 am ET|
If you are a Boston College football diehard there is a fair chance that, at the start of the semester, you had a pit in your stomach the size of a grapefruit. Where was this team? A new had coach, a plethora of young quarterbacks, none of whom had ever thrown a pass in major college football, a defense that was missing its best player and a linebacking corps that was starting three players who had never played at their particular positions.
No wonder BC was voted to finish near the bottom of the conference. The preseason polls predicted that the only team the Eagles would be better than was perennial conference doormat Duke (who has also surprised this year, by the way). The foundation of the program looked like it was in shambles.
Time to rebuild.
Or was it?
“It is like the three little pigs, right?” Head coach Frank Spaziani said. “You got the straw house, the sticks and the bricks. We are trying to build the brick house to have something good. We are on the right track for the big picture. Certainly it helps to have some victories, but we are on the right track.”
This afternoon BC travels to College Park, Maryland looking for win No. 8 against the Terrapins. Ask just about anybody outside of Chestnut Hill if the Eagles were going to be an eight win team in 2009 and they would have given you a sideways look, muttered something about being delusional and walked away. Yet, here BC stands, another solid season with a better outlook for next year.
“We have brick plans, that is what we got to do . . . This game is a big game. It is an important game. It is the last game in the body of work and once we are all done we will reflect on it,” Spaziani said. “We’ve always felt that we could win every game, always.”
“When I took over it was what it was . . . In August we had to work through our problems. Who is going to take the snaps? Who is going to play linebacker? How were we to know in August that [Luke] Kuechly would arrive? Take him out of the equation. That was like ‘puff,’ a gift for you,” Spaziani said.
In retrospect, perhaps too much was made about the player losses the Eagles suffered. The previous foundation had been eroded, from Brian Toal to Mark Herzlich to Matt Ryan and Dominique Davis (to name a few on an impressive list of who is no longer on the field). BC could still put out an above average to pretty good offensive line, it had two running backs in Montel Harris and Josh Haden that could pound the ball and a few rising players on defense with something to prove. Outside of Kuechly, the next biggest surprise on the team is probably strong safety Marcellus Bowman, a backup free safety for three years before stepping to the strong side this year and playing well.
There was some foundation from which to build.
“It is not like we are Coastal Carolina here, building from scratch,” Spaziani said. “We didn’t have to build a program. The program was here. We just had some issues to deal with and that is what we are trying to do. We are trying to get to the point where the issues are normal that are inherent to running a football team. We don’t want to have the problems of no linebackers, no quarterbacks, not enough linemen, it could go on and on.”
“We had quarterbacks who didn’t know what they were doing and quarterbacks on defense who didn’t know what they were doing. Hopefully that is behind us. If it isn’t then we have one of those little straw houses,” Spaziani said.
The final step for BC in the regular season is to go south one final time and hammer the nail on the foundation. An eight win season would be a significant punctuation for this Eagles team and a tribute to the seniors who have have helped keep the foundation strong in this transitional year. Next year looks promising as BC can plug Herzlich back into the linebacking corps with Kuechly, get a backup running back healthy to support Harris (Rolandan Finch is primed for that duty but has missed the last month of the season with mono) and a year of growth for oft-erratic quarterback Dave Shinskie.
First things first. Maryland awaits BC with kickoff coming at 3:30 p.m. Stay tuned to The BC Blog all day for updates on how the final test of plays out.
|11.24.09 at 11:37 am ET|
Former Boston College assistant football coach Dana Bible, who followed Tom O’Brien to North Carolina State in 2007, has been diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia and won’t coach in Saturday’s season finale against No. 23 North Carolina, according to the school.
Bible, 56, coached with the Eagles from 1999-2006, serving as offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and wide receivers coach. He hold the same titles with NC State.
Read the full story here.
|11.21.09 at 8:16 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — Every time Boston College has come up against a top-tier defense this season its offense has withered away leading resulting in a painful demise. That was the case today at Alumni Stadium where the Eagles got thumped by North Carolina 31-13 as they committed six turnovers en route to their first home loss of the year.
The BC loss hands the ACC Atlantic division crown to Clemson, who needed either a win at Virginia or and Eagles loss to claim its birth to the ACC Championship game in Tampa on December 5th.
For all intents and purposes, this game was over with 5:14 left in the first quarter. The Tar Heels initial drive of the game resulted in a a 1-yard touchdown run by tailback Ryan Houston to give UNC a 7-0 lead a with 7:33 remaining in the first quarter.
By the time the 5:14 mark came, the Eagles were down 21-0 with freshman quarterback David Shinskie left scratching his head wondering how everything fell apart so fast.
It started three plays into the ensuing BC drive. Shinskie was sacked by senior defensive lineman E.J. Wilson and lost the ball, which was picked up by Cam Thomas for an easy walk into the end zone. Before BC could even breath again Shinskie sailed a pass to the outside that was picked off by cornerback Kendric Burney who coasted to a touchdown.
Five offensive plays, two turnovers, two touchdowns. Game. Set. Match.
“You can’t come out and spot a team like that 21 points,” senior middle linebacker Mike McLaughlin said. “It starts on the defense. We game them an -play drive to come out of the gates and you can’t do that.”
BC head coach Frank Spaziani likes to use the term “Master of the Obvious” when talking to the media. Well, the primary thing we learned this afternoon on The Heights falls into the realm of the obvious — do not turn the ball over and if you turn the ball over do not let them take it into the end zone.
“We have great kids who fought,” Spaziani said. “It was 21-0. It got ugly really fast. They played hard and we scrapped out way into it.”
Shinskie was all over the place with his throws, going 12-28 for 101 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions. He threw high, he threw low, he sailed balls over the middle and missed his screens. He completed as many passes in the second half (two) as he had interceptions.
After the horrendous first 10 minutes though, BC more than held its own until midway through the fourth quarter. That was because North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates was just as erratic with the ball as Shinskie and there was not much happening with the ground game. The Eagles were able to turn those turnovers into points, just not in the efficient manner that North Carolina did. On Tar Heel turnovers BC scored all 13 of its points, two field goals by Steve Aponavicius and a 2-yard touchdown pass from Shinskie to senior c0-captain Rich Gunnell.
“When we went into the half, I was excited to come back and get the ball,” Shinskie said. “I came out flat myself and couldn’t get anything behind the ball. I’m not sure if I injured my thumb or it I was just throwing off my back foot.”
So, the name of the game was turnovers. The 10 combined turnovers from both teams were the most in a BC game since December 28th, 2007 against Michigan State in the Champ Sports Bowl. The fact that UNC turned those turnovers into touchdowns and BC settled for field goals reflects the difference in the final score.
“We put ourselves in a lot of holes and we couldn’t come out of them,” Spaziani said. “Their turnovers resulted in touchdowns and our turnovers were field goals. We had an uphill battle against a good football team.”
Here are the four other things we learned today on The Heights . . . .
Left Side Of The Offensive Line Overwhelmed Early
Tar Heel sophomore Robert Quinn is a bit of a beast on the defensive line. For the year he has 11 sacks, five short of the all-time Carolina season high of 16 by Lawrence Taylor. On the second play from scrimmage Quinn busted through the left side of the BC offensive line and sacked Shinskie, causing a forced fumble that the Eagles recovered. Along with Quinn on the left side was Marvin Austin, who also sacked Shinskie and teamed up middle linebacker Kevin Reddick for another tackle for loss. Between Quinn and Austin the two they had the two sacks, six tackles for 22 lost yards.
To dump all the blame on Shinskie would not be doing justice to some of the other holes that the Eagles dug for themselves early. The offensive line was just not ready for the speed on the left side of the Tar Heel defense and it showed early. The unit would eventually calm down and play a decent game in the rush blocking category, but the damage on the scoreboard had already been done.
“I think they were probably the best defensive line we have played all year,” senior center Matt Tennant said. “I think early on we were trying to be really aggressive with them and they kind of slipped by us. We kind of wanted to establish tempo early but after Dave got hit a couple of times we pulled back and let them come to us and that helped us for the rest of the game.”
UNC totaled eight tackles for loss for 48 yards on the day, most of which were hits on Shinskie out of the pocket (he had negative 44 yards rushing on the day). So, when it comes to the passing game, it is hard to move forward when you are constantly moving backward.
Ride The Horse, Or Don’t, At Your Peril
For the second week in a row The Horse, Montel Harris, was quietly efficient. Listed generously at 5″10′, the running back is really opening eyes on Chestnut Hill. He ran the ball 23 times for 132 net yards for an average of 5.7 yards per rush (he also caught two passes for nine yards). When he has the ball in his hands he hits the smallest holes and explodes into tacklers and drags piles down the field.
The offensive line took advantage of the Tar Hell aggressiveness on the line of scrimmage for Harris as it pushed Quinn and Wilson to the sides which let Harris find the seems in the guards for solid gains. Harris also worked out of the shotgun with Shinskie as the line stunted one way while Harris takes draw the other way across the grain.
Yet, for the second week in a row, BC got away from the run game for a significant stretch in the second half as it tried to have Shinskie pass his way out of troubles. Again, for the second week in a row, this led to big trouble. Shinskie’s fourth interception (the third by free safety Deunta Williams) was returned to the 1-yard line. Earlier this week Spaziani said that going away from the run was not a tactic used to save Harris’s bullets, but rather a scheme-oriented plan from offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill to move the ball through the air. Today Harris agreed with that assessment.
“I think it is more of a scheme thing,” Harris said. “If you keep running the ball then the defense is going to load up on the box. I think coach Tranquill was trying to throw them off by pass the ball around. Usually its effective but we couldn’t connect on the passes. Hats off to their defensive line, they were getting some good rushes. It’s tough to throw the ball when someone is in your face all the time.”
It is a sound principle, in theory — let them think you are going to mash it down their throats then hit 20 yard routes down the middle. That is essentially what happened in the Notre Dame game when Shinskie and Gunnell hooked up for big yards. It just has not been working lately because Virginia and North Carolina have some very good secondaries which seem to have spooked Shinskie.
On the day Harris became the 16th running back in BC history to rush for 2,000 yards in a career. His 1,213 yards on the year are the seventh best on the all-time list for single season. The concern comes from the lack of depth behind him. Harris’s 244 carries are the seventh most in a season by an Eagle running back and he will likely move up that list next week against Maryland.
Great Team Defensive Performance Wasted
The Eagles defense was put in a hole by the offense that was just not fair to them. After the initial North Carolina touchdown drive, the unit buckled down and traded big hits and turnovers with the vaunted Tar Heels defense all afternoon. It caused four turnovers (three interceptions and a fumble recovery), stymied Yates and Houston and gang tackled very well.
“It’s very frustrating, that’s pretty obvious,” senior strong safety Marcellus Bowman said. “We all definitely believed we could win it. We were playing like it for the most part. We were playing to win, not just stay in the and be competitive. That wasn’t the outcome and I’m proud of our effort, but it wasn’t enough.”
Bowman, who recorded a career-high 10 tackles, has been an emerging leader all year and led BC in the big hits department, as he usually does. He also did his part in the turnover war by picking off Yates. Yet, it was all for naught.
“We did a really good job, actually, a great job, preparing for Yates,” Bowman said. “But, once again, it wasn’t enough.”
One of the game highlights was a sequence of plays in the third quarter that seemed like it could change momentum back to the Eagles side. North Carolina was driving in BC territory and had just completed a pass to the sideline when cornerback Roderick Rollins came through with a late-hit personal foul that that let the Tar Heels into the red zone. Then, two plays later, Rollins atoned for his sin by intercepting Yates in the end zone for a touchback that gave the BC offense a clean series to drive the field for a game-tying touchdown (with a 2-point conversion) if it could just get the ball moving.
There were two firsts for BC players. Cornerback DeLeon Gause recovered the first fumble of his career and defensive lineman Austin Giles intercepted his first pass. Normally, given their positions, that would be reversed, but being the odd game that it was that is just what happened. The Giles interception was a good looking play where he followed Yates out of the pocket, stayed with him until the sideline and reached up and grabbed the ball when Yates tried to throw.
“Kuech The Freak”
The weekly BC press packet has a section entitled “Kuech The Freak.” That, of course, refers to true freshman linebacker Luke Kuechly. The Clark Kent doppelganger seemed to be just about everywhere today. Everywhere to the tune of 19 tackles.
That count contains eight solo tackles and 11 assisted tackles including 2.5 for loss. Has anyone ever heard of a 19 tackle game? It is like old Celtics point guard Sherman Douglas dishing out 22 assists or former Patriots middle linebacker Ted Johnson racking up tackles by the fistful — you are surprised at the eye-popping number though not all that surprised by the source.
Kuechly numbers have become comic to the point that you have to wonder if the stat guys at Alumni Stadium are just crediting the freshman with tackles on plays that he was even remotely close to. At the same time, Kuechly is rife with talent and instincts. Give him another year in defensive coordinator Bill McGovern’s system and perhaps a little bit more weight on his frame (he was knocked flat on his back by Tar Heel tight end Zack Pianalto at one point but still made the tackle) and he has a chance to be one of the greatest linebackers in the program’s history.
|11.21.09 at 5:02 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL – This might have been Dave Shinskie’s worst nightmare – and his worst game at Boston College.
Facing an aggressive, talented North Carolina defense without his ‘A’ game, Shinskie threw four of BC’s five interceptions on the day, three alone to free safety to Deunta Williams, as North Carolina ended any ACC title game hopes with a 31-13 smackdown at Alumni Stadium.
Despite getting reasonable good protection all day, Shinskie looked shaky throwing over the middle. He completed just 12-of-28 passes for 101 yards, a TD and three sacks.
“I was getting good protection,” Shinskie said. “Maybe I was just wary of those guys because they were coming in hard all day and I just didn’t get enough zip on the ball. I was kind of floating the ball over the middle. You can’t do that. You can’t throw the ball over the middle late. That’s what happens, you get interceptions.”
And you get interceptions when you force the ball trying to convert a third down. The Eagles were an almost unbelievable 0-for-13 on third down Saturday.
“You just try to find where the pressure is coming from and try to avoid it,” Shinskie adde. “But these guys were really good. It seemed like every time I would try to go around or step up, another guy was there. They just had a great defense. It was a tough one today. We have to put it behind us and come back next week.”
|11.21.09 at 2:38 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — “Like sands from the hour glass, these are the days of our lives.” The third quarter has been much like a soap opera. In most day time dramas, as this game has become, the day changes but plot does not really move forward. In that respect, the third quarter was much like the first two — plenty of turnovers but in the end the score remains the same.
David Shinskie was picked off again on a tipped pass intended for Rich Gunnell that ended up in Deunta Williams hands (his second of the game) and returned it to the BC 40-yard line. T.J Yates also threw another pick as Roderick Rollins, who had made a bad personal foul a couple plays before, picked off the ball in the end zone for an Eagles touchback.
Montel Harris is up to 23 carries for 132 yards.
|11.21.09 at 1:37 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — This game is becoming a bit of a defensive slugfest. The problem for the Eagles is that North Carolina’s defense packs more of a wallop.
BC has created three turnovers against the Tar Heels, intercepting T.J Yates twice and recovering a fumble. The problem is that the offense has not been able to convert into touchdowns, settling for two Steve Aponavicius field goals and a 2-yard Rich Gunnell touchdown pass. On the other end, North Carolina’s defense has turned two of its three turnovers straight into touchdowns.
Breaking it down though, BC had a terrible first 10 minutes of the game, allowing all 21 Tar Heel points in quick succession, but have played quite well since. Sophomore Montel Harris is playing out his role as The Horse with 19 touches (16 carries for 85 yards and 2 catches for 9 yards) and David Shinskie can make the claim that he is outplaying T.J. Yates. Neither quarterback is playing particularly well, but at least Shinskie has a touchdown pass to his credit.
There are two representatives from bowl games present in the press box. The Chick-fil-A bowl, which has first choice of the ACC runner-up is present as is the Champ Sports Bowl, which has the third choice of bowl games. The speculation recently is that the Eagles will slide all the way to the Emerald City bowl in San Francisco at the seventh overall slot if they split their last two games.
|11.21.09 at 12:43 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — The first two looks that Boston College got at the North Carolina defense have not gone well for the home town team. Freshman quarterback Dave Shinskie has been sacked twice, fumbled both times and lost one that was returned by defensive lineman Cam Thomas for a touchdown.
The next series Shinskie was looking for a short out route which star Tar Heel cornerback Kendric Burney jumped in front of and returned for an easy touchdown.
These are the type of things that Frank Spaziani has had no choice but to live with this year from his not-so-young quarterback. It seems that whenever Shinskie faces a good defense (of which North Carolina is spectacular) he gets the yips and starts turning the ball over. Against North Carolina those have become instant points.
The BC defense allowed the first touchdown of the game as North Carolina quarterback T.J Yates orchestrated a 11-play, 70 yard drive in 5:14 on the initial Tar Heel drive of the game. Junior running Ryan Houston capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run at the 7:33 mark in the quarter.
BC cracked the scoreboard thanks to its defense as well. Cornerback DeLeon Gause recovered a fumble on the Tar Heel 29-yard line and the Eagle offense went 19 yards in 6 plays for a Steve Aponavicius field goal.
End of first quarter. North Carolina up 21-3.
|11.21.09 at 10:48 am ET|
“If this is it, please let me know. If this ain’t love you’d better let me know. . .”
There are not many players on the young BC squad who are old enough to remember Huey Lewis and The News (except for maybe the 25-year old David Shinskie) but this may be it for the Eagles. The “it” in this case would be Eagles chase for a third consecutive ACC Championship game, something the seniors on this team have stated as their only goal since the beginning of August.
The thing is, they won’t know.
It all hinges on the University of Virginia Cavaliers traveling to Death Valley and stunning the Clemson Tigers (7-3, 5-2), the team BC is chasing in the ACC Atlantic division race. Clemson, by virtue of its Week 3 win over BC, holds the tie-breaker in the matchup which means that it would have to lose its final ACC game this weekend and the Eagles would have to hold off North Carolina tomorrow at Alumni Stadium and get the job done against Maryland next Saturday. BC will not know if its dreams have gone three-yards-and-a-cloud of C.J. Spiller’s dust during its game because the Tigers do not start until 3:30 p.m. while kickoff on The Heights comes shortly after 12:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Perhaps scoreboard watching tomorrow evening is putting the cart before the horse.
There is the little matter of Tar Heels.
Outside of Clemson and Virginia Tech, North Carolina is the best team the Eagles will face this year (with respect to Notre Dame). The difference between those first two games is that BC gets the Tar Heels at home where it is 6-0 and has made all the plays and performed astronomically better than it has on the road. Though, just as it seemed that the Eagles were lined up well last week for their first road win at Virginia, it could be the opposite this week. The Tar Heels bring one of the top defenses in the nation to Chestnut Hill with NFL prospects dotting every squad of the unit. They are big, they are fast and they are physical.
“Besides being fast, they are big. Besides being fast and big, they are tough,” coach Frank Spaziani said “They’re good. They are a real good defense and we are going to have our hands full.”
Shinskie and company, say hello to Robert Quinn, Quan Sturdivant and Kendric Burney.
North Carolina has the No. 8 ranked defense in the country. It is in the top 15 in the nation in all the major defensive categories: eighth in total defense, ninth rushing defense, 11th in pass efficiency, 13th in scoring defense and 15th in passing defense.
“Raw talent. At every level of their defense they have NFL players from the d-line, linebackers, secondary,” junior free safety Wes Davis said. “All of them are big, fast strong. It seems like they play pretty disciplined football. Probably the best defense in the ACC right now from watching them play. It will be a challenge for our offense. They will hold their own and puts some points on the board. I think it will be a fun game to watch.”
A lot of attention will be paid to current National Defensive Player of the Week Burney. The Tar Heel cornerback laid it down against Miami last weekend to the tune of three interceptions totaling 170 yards of return including a touchdown. The obvious matchup for Burney will be against senior co-captain Rich Gunell but it is not outside the realm of possibility to see him on sophomore Colin Larmond, Jr., the resident deep threat for the Eagles offense. Last week Shinskie had trouble with talented Virginia corners Ras-I Dowling and Chris Cook (both had an interception and Cook returned one for a touchdown) but Burney represents and upgrade over both of them.
“He’s a great corner, one of the better corners in the league. It is going to be a great challenge for us. It is going to be really hard trying to find a weakness in that defense,” Gunnell said.
The name of the game for the Eagles offense is precision, a word that was thrown around by a couple different players this week. Play tight, play smart. Run good routes and have the offensive line hit its keys.
“They have what I think are some of the most complete athletes in the ACC next to Virginia Tech. We have to really be precise and play as hard as we can to beat them,” strong safety Marcellus Bowman said.
“Just being precise, just executing our plays. Be precise, pay attention to detail, don’t make any mental mistakes,” Gunnell said.
The stalwart of the defensive line is Quinn. The sophomore (who has an amazing story after coming back from emergency brain surgery for a tumor in his senior year of high school) has 16.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks on the season. He is tall and fast at 6’5″ 270 pounds and as dangerous a pass rusher as there is in the nation. Behind him is Will linebacker Sturdivant, a Butkus Award semifinalist for the best linebacker in the nation who leads the team with 64 tackles including 11.5 for loss.
As good as the Tar Heel defense is, the offense is on the flip side of the spectrum. It is 11th in the conference in total offense, scoring offense and pass offense and a little bit better in rush offense at eighth. The BC defense does give up yard with its soft style scheme (eighth in the conference) but it has been efficient in keeping teams out of the end zone, ranking first in the conference in red zone defense.
“It is a huge challenge this week. We have to go out there and execute on all cylinders and really play a complete game on offense I think it if we are going to be successful,” Tennant said.
The dichotomy creates an interesting match. If this is it for BC, we’ll let you know with complete coverage at The BC Blog all day.