|Meter & Chach preview BC vs. Notre Dame||10.22.09 at 11:15 am ET|
|Chat About BC-Notre Dame with Chach, Meter and Rowinski||10.21.09 at 5:32 pm ET|
Boston College prepares to invade South Bend for this year’s showdown with Notre Dame. The Holy War is currently at a standstill, as both teams have gone 9-9 in the rivalry. WEEI.com’s team of BC Football experts invites you to join them in the Virtual Press Box for a chat during the lead-in to this weekend’s game. Join them on Friday, Oct. 23, at noon to break down the game, get some behind-the-scenes perspective on the BC season and to add your own voice to the discussion about what will happen when the Eagles descend on the Fighting Irish on Saturday.
|Five Things We Learned: Montel Harris Breaks Wolfpack||10.17.09 at 11:19 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — Everybody thought this would be a breakout game for freshman quarterback Dave Shinskie.
Well, they were wrong.
Heading into this game the North Carolina State defense was atrocious against the pass. Duke’s Thaddeus Lewis had just lit them up for 459 yards on 80 percent completions and Wake Forest’s Riley Skinner had 361 yards. The run defense was supposed to be a strength for the Wolfpack. They led the conference in yards allowed and average per carry at 377 and 1.9, respectively. In terms of yards allowed, no other team was even close.
Then came Montel Harris.
The sophomore running back almost doubled NC State’s total yards allowed in the Eagles 52-20 victory as he set a Boston College record with 26 carries for 264 net yards. His five touchdowns are also a new school record.
“Well, that was a fun game,” Harris said. “That was the most I ever put up in any type of game – high school, college. It was pretty fun to be able to run free. The offensive line opened up some big holes so basically I was just running free.”
How did he do it? Let’s break down the record.
Foremost, this was the best effort of Boston College’s offensive line this season, by far. For a unit that has had some trouble clicking at times, everything was tight. Every man on the line was locking in on assignments and hitting the right person at the right time, something that has not always been the case this year. When guards were pulling, they got out clear and hit their men.
“You have to give credit to the line, I mean, they were making some pretty big holes, pulling around and hitting who they got to hit,” quarterback Dave Shinskie said.
In the unit versus unit battle of offense and defense, the trenches belonged to Boston College. Then it came down to Harris against the secondary.
“I would like to say that we were clever enough to [attack the secondary],” head coach Frank Spaziani said. “What we are trying to do is attack defenses. We are still in the developmental stages and those guys [the offensive coaches] over there felt we could do certain things and we were just able to execute and expand.”
Part of Harris’s day was just pure skill, read and react, bounce inside, bounce outside. At the same time he knew from the film that the Wolfpack secondary were suspect tacklers. His job was to exploit them.
“It was read and react,” Harris said. “On film we saw that their secondary was not too good on tackling. So if we can make it to the secondary we can make some plays. That is what happened tonight.”
Then there was the record.
The 264 yards are the most by a Boston College back since Phil Bennett had 253 on 36 carries on September 23rd, 1972. The mark also represents the ninth highest rushing total in ACC history.
“We weren’t trying to get a record or anything, we were just playing the game. I think the offensive coaches were a lot more aware of it than I was,” Spaziani said.
“I wasn’t thinking about breaking records, I was thinking about breaking tackles and getting as many yards as I could and worry about records after the game,” Harris said.
So, what does Spaziani say to a player who just carried his team to a much needed conference victory?
“What can I say? You don’t see that every day. I don’t see that in practice,” Spaziani said. “You know, 264 yards, five touchdowns. I guess I give him a sticker? That’s a sticker.”
A sticker?! That’s it?
How about a game ball coach, he deserves at least that.
Here are four other things we learned about Harris and Boston College . . . .
Wildcat With A Bazooka
The Eagles have tried to employ the Wildcat offense at times this year with Harris and Josh Haden, to varying degrees of success.
“I really like the Wildcat. We call it Bazooka, but I really like it,” Harris said.
Today it was the the Big Play Machine. On Boston College’s second series of the game Harris lined up for the direct shotgun snap, faked to Haden and busted outside for a 70-yard run down the right sideline to the Wolfpack 2 yard line. Harris would take the rock into the end zone on the next play for his first touchdown.
“Oh yeah. We don’t gave too many plays that go 70 yards average. We get one of those we try to whittle it down,” Spaziani said.
The formation was used sparingly though, perhaps for the element of surprise. On the day Boston College ran the Bazooka five times for 161 yards.
“We have practiced it a lot . . . I mean it’s not like we had not even seen it,” NC State head coach Tom O’Brien said. “We over ran things early and he cut it back. Then we hung inside and he bounced it outside . . . the kid is a good running back and once again our biggest bugger-boo is we don’t tackle.”
For a runner like Harris, the Bazooka plays to his strengths. He is a touch undersized at five-foot ten-inches but he uses his leverage and cut back ability well and has great vision. To be able to see the defense from the shotgun position and try to hit the corners is little easier for him.
“I thought we should have went back to it a little earlier,” Shinskie said. “That is just the formation we put in for him and misdirection with the other backs. It just so happened to catch those guys off guard and worked really well for us tonight.”
Part of the reason that the Bazooka may have been tempered was the fact that the counter-punch in the Double H duo, Haden, left the game in the second quarter with a right ankle injury and would not return. Without the double threat the formation loses a little potency.
Defense Avoids Second Half Letdown
The past two ACC homes games at Alumni Stadium had similar story lines: Boston College goes up by multiple scores then has to cling to them in the second half for the win. This game played out quite differently as the Eagles scored 28 second half points while only allowing a garbage time touchdown to the Wolfpack.
The domination really started right before the end of the first half. With Boston College up 21-13 NC State was driving down the field in their two-minute drill. Quarterback Russell Wilson was taking the underneath routes and the Wolfpack were moving the ball well enough to assume at least a field goal to end the quarter.
Then came the turnover. The Eagles had their hands on a couple balls in the first half but could not hang on. It seemed like an inevitability that Wilson would eventually lay one up that a member of the Boston College secondary could pull down.
It turned out to be junior Wes Davis with 1:02 remaining. He was in the right place at the right time and picked off Russell and returned it to the Boston College 42 yard line. Shinskie and company drove for a field goal as time expired to make the score 24-13 with the Eagles receiving the ball to start the second half. That is a lot different than 21-16.
Davis was not so sure that was the turn of the game though.
“I think the turning point of the game was the first drive of the second half by our offense,” Davis said. “Every time that it seems that we get up we come out and have a let down in the second half defensively and offensively. To see our guys punching it in like that kind of took the wind out of their sails and energized us.”
The offensive performance, in turn, focused the defense enough to keep the game from turning into a gunslinger’s party.
“It was feeding off the offense but we knew what we had to do,” senior strong safety Marcellus Bowman said. “The last couple games they [the opponents] made their changes to light us up. To be a championship team, we can’t have that. We just did what we did in the first half but just did it better. We just honed in on our assignments and just made the plays we need to make.”
Defense Adapts To Confront Challenges
With guys like Alex Albright, Damik Scafe and Alexander DiSanzo seeing limited to no playing time becaus of injuries, it was time for Spaziani and company to adapt the defense. Part of Boston College’s problem this season has been putting pressure on the quarterback which in turn causes problems for the secondary.
The Eagles tried to fix that problem by using the secondary, which is a relative strength on the team, to their advantage. More specifically they called in Bowman to be a human rocket with delayed blitzes from the safety position.
“Yeah, we felt that was part of our game plan, to get some of the guys moving. We felt that was what we had to do and fortunately some of it worked. We missed him a couple times,” Spaziani said.
Bowman did sack Wilson once and pressured him a couple times, enough for the quarterback to tread carefully when his eyes read number 8 in red.
“I see the holes just opening up and the running back step up for protection. I just gave him a move and the coverage was good enough where he held the ball down and made a play,” Bowman said. “I wasn’t really sure we were going to run that many blitzes but I guess the coaches seen something and dialed them up. But, they worked pretty well.”
The Wolfpack were able to move the ball against Boston College. They put up 394 yards of total offense (315 passing, 79 rushing) but, for the most part, it was not on big, game breaking plays. Wilson (and later Mike Glennon) took what they could get in the soft underneath of the defense.
“I think they took what they can get,” Spaziani said. “Every defense has holes in it and we try to cover them up and don’t let them find them too often. We’re happy to do that, especially in certain circumstances. If that was going to hurt us then we would do something else.”
Well, it did not hurt them in the end, considering the final score.
Shinskie A Proficient Game Manager At This Point
Yes, it was supposed to be Shinskie’s day. He did play well, Harris just had a much, much bigger day. Overall, Shinskie’s numbers point to two facts: he can bounce back from getting a thorough beat down (as he took against Virginia Tech) and, when he is composed and within himself, he is a reliable game manager.
Shinskie threw for 187 yards on 13-25 passing and two touchdowns, one a 59 yard bomb to Colin Larmond, Jr. down the right sideline that made the score 14-7 in the first quarter. The completion rate shows that he is not yet as accurate as he would like to be but he did not fumble the ball and was not really close to being picked off.
For Shinskie, it is a matter of letting the game play around him, that is when he works best. If he tries to force it or do too much, that is when he gets into trouble. Today, the game, or, more appropriately Harris, ran around him.
“Montel sure made it easy on me,” Shinskie said. “I don’t know what to say about him. He had a career day and I loved watching him.”
The key for the 25-year old freshman will be to take the steady approach he had today and transport it to the road, where his struggles have been terrible.
“I just have to watch film this week. I have watched a lot of film,” Shinskie said. “We worked hard in practice and I just have to do the same thing. Just get on the plane and have the same mentality that we do coming into a home game. Even though it is tougher on away trips, it’s still something I have to do.”
Easier said than done. Especially when the Eagles next trip is to a little place called Notre Dame.
|Boston College rolls over Wolfpack||10.17.09 at 7:05 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — Boston College bounced back in a big way this afternoon by blowing out North Carolina State 52-20 in front of 35,261 at Alumni Stadium. Montel Harris set both the Boston College single game rushing record as well as the single game touchdown record with 27 carries for 264 yards and five scores.
Check back for all the post-game reaction …
|The Horse Montel Harris Sets Boston College Records||10.17.09 at 6:09 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL- Coming into this game NC State had only allowed 377 rush yards on the season. Montel Harris on the day? So far 24 carries for 244 yards and five touchdowns. Harris has done it out of the shotgun, out of the wildcat (with him taking the direct snap) and from the single back formations.
The five touchdowns are a Boston College record.
The results? A 25 point Boston College lead heading into the fourth quarter and a large chunk of time taken away from the NC State offense. Heading into the second half Boston College held the ball for nearly seven minutes less than the Wolfpack. Time of possession heading into the fourth quarter: NC State 23:27, Boston College 21:33.
That is the formula you want if you are the Eagles, who watched first half leads dissipate in their last two home games against ACC opponents before coming back to win at the end.
UPDATE — Harris has now set the Boston College single game rushing record with 27 carries and 264 yards as of 11:37 left in the fourth quarter. The previous record was 36 carries for 253 yards by Phil Bennett on September 23rd, 1972.
|Halftime – Eagles On Top||10.17.09 at 5:10 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — North Carolina State has found the way to move the ball against the Boston College defense. Quarterback Russell Wilson has consistently thrown underneath the Eagles secondary for medium gains and the Wolfpack have moved the ball well.
That does not mean they are putting it in the end zone.
Twice in the first half NC State has driven within the Boston College 20 yard line and twice they have ended up with field goals. Wilson is having a good game, eluding the Eagles rush and the occasional blitz by strong safety Marcellus Bowman to hit receivers downfield. Wilson was 19-30 for 187 yards in the half.
Yet, as evidenced by their 2 for 9 third down conversion rate, the Wolfpack are having trouble finishing the deal against the Eagles defense.
On the other end of the spectrum, Boston College has been able to use the big play against the NC State to put up 21 points in the first half. Montel Harris hit a 70 yard run that led to an Eagles touchdown, Dave Shinskie hit Colin Larmond, Jr. for a 59 yard touchdown and Jeff Smith returned a kickoff for 42 yards to the 50-yard line to set up a short field on the third touchdown.
Harris has 12 carries for 132 yards on the half.
Wes Davis intercepted Wilson in the last minute of the half to stop a Wolfpack tw0-minute drive. The Eagles drove back in the final 1:03 of the half for a 37 yard Steve Aponavicius field goal.
Halftime – Boston College 24 NC State 13
|First Quarter – Big Plays & Trading Touchdowns||10.17.09 at 4:15 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — North Carolina State has held the football for 9:34 of the first quarter. So far though, the offense has been all Boston College.
The Wolfpack cannot stop the Eagles big plays. The Horse Montel Harris torched the NC State defense for 70 yards out of the wildcat formation on the Eagles second series from scrimmage. He punched the ball in from the 2-yard line for the first score of the game.
NC State came back with a seven-play, 73 yard drive that culminated in a 1 yard Russell Wilson quarterback keeper for the tying touchdown.
On the next series Boston College quarterback Dave Shinskie hit Colin Larmond, Jr. for a 59 yard, play action double pump pass for the go ahead touchdown. Boston College’s two scoring drives have totaled 2:52 of playing time.
|Afternoon Preview: NC State Wolfpack||10.17.09 at 2:28 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — The mission is simple. Defend the Citadel.
A pack of wolves (and an old friend) invade The Heights today looking to spoil the Eagles hope at winning the ACC Atlantic division and another trip to the ACC championship game in Tampa Bay in December.
So, what can we expect from NC State and coach Tom O’Brien?
Well, as Meter and Chach pointed out earlier this week, the Wolfpack secondary is ripe for the plucking. In the first six games of the season NC State has started five different starting lineups and the inconsistency has showed. Last week it was carved up by Duke’s Thaddeus Lewis in amazing fashion — 40-50 for 459 yards as the usually woeful Blue Devils put up 49 points en route to a victory in Raleigh. The week before Wake Forest’s Riley Skinner (no stranger to the Eagles) torched the Wolfpack for 361 yards on 31-45 passing.
The question for Boston College is if it has the type of quarterback who can take advantage. Dave Shinskie has been up and down this year but he has played much better at home in wins over Wake Forest and Florida State.
“They are trying to find their secondary the way we are trying to find our offense,” Shinskie said. “They are division one athletes, they are not slouches. Just because they gave up that many passing yards the last two weeks doesn’t mean they cannot come out and play well . . . I am looking forward to coming out and taking some shots and throw a little bit this weekend.”
If wideouts Rich Gunnell and Colin Larmond, Jr. can gain some separation from the secondary on deep corner routes, look for Shinskie to try to light it up a couple times throughout the game.
The Boston College running game may be another story. NC State leads the conference in rushing defense by a wide margin (377 yards allowed with the next closest being North Carolina at 675) but part of that is a product of the fact that teams have gone pass heavy against Tom O’Brien’s squad. Though, through 196 rushing attempts against the Wolfpack are only allowing a 1.9 yards per carry average so it will be a challenge to get the Double H duo galloping.
On the other side of the field the Eagles have to deal with yet another quality quarterback from an ACC rival in the form of Russell Wilson. The sophomore signal caller has the ability to pick apart defenses from the pocket or bounce out and use his feet for big gains as is evidenced with his team-high 91 yard rushing effort in the Wolfpack’s win over Pittsburgh.
“He is basically a Riley Skinner and Tyrod Taylor hybrid,” defensive lineman Alex Albright said. “The two quarterbacks who have torn us apart the most with their own individual skills are meshed together with him and that provides a whole mess of problems. He can sit in the pocket and go through all his progressions but also understand where the pocket pressure is coming from and be able to run.”
The ability of Albright and to get on the field and put some pressure on Wilson will be key for a team that is last in the ACC in sacks. Albright injured his ankle against Florida State two weeks ago and only played nine snaps last week at Virginia Tech. But the junior is resilient and hard working, a trait that embodies the Eagles defense in general.
“You could cut his head off and he would pop up and say he is ready to go,” head coach Frank Spaziani said of Albright.
The Eagles will also hope to contain Wolfpack halfback Toney Baker, who ranks sixth in the conference in rushing yards with 365 with a 5.4 yards per carry average.
Kickoff is in about and hour. Stay tuned to The BC Blog for updates throughout the game.
|Tom O’Brien And His Gang Return To The Heights||10.16.09 at 3:30 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — Reunion Day is coming to The Heights, and there will be little need for introductions on Saturday.
NC State head coach Tom O’Brien roamed the sidelines at Alumni Stadium for 10 years. As the head coach of Boston College he turned around the storied program and won more games than any other coach in the team’s history. The Eagles won an NCAA-best six consecutive bowl games under O’Brien’s watch while posting a 74-45 record. Known as a disciplinarian and a tough-minded coach, O’Brien thrived on Chestnut Hill before heading south to take the reigns in Raleigh in December 2006.
O’Brien’s legacy is still present at Boston College, as the players he recruited in his last years are now the starting corps for the current incarnation of the Eagles. Co-captains Mike McLaughlin, Matt Tennant and Rich Gunnell all had full doses of O’Brien while others were just rising freshman when O’Brien left.
“It’s a story line for those who it may concern,” junior free safety Wes Davis said. ”For me it is NC State. Coach O’Brien, I hope he remembers my name, maybe he doesn’t, I was just a freshman backing up Jamie Silva when he was here.”
It is definitely a story line for a lot of players on this team and not just because of the return of O’Brien. The older guys have been through this before. This is the third meeting betweens the teams since the coach’s departure. Boston College won the first two with the last a 38-31 victory at Alumni Stadium last October. When O’Brien left he took with him most of his staff — six coaches in all — to ply their wares in Raleigh.
“I just want to play them so I can see [defensive line coach Keith] Willis again,” defensive lineman Alex Albright said. ”You know, I haven’t seen him in a long time and he was my first real mentor here. That is a big reason I like playing NC State is to see him again, talk to him, even if it is for five to ten minutes. It still means a lot to me and I know it means a lot to others guys who had [offensive line coach Don] Horton and [Jerry] Petercuskie.”
Dana Bible (offensive coordinator), Jim Bridge (tight ends), Horton, Petercuskie (special teams), Jason Swepson (running backs) and Willis all spent time with O’Brien at Boston College and are now part of his staff at NC State. Almost every upperclassman on the Eagles roster has worked intimately with one of these coaches at one point or another. They want to go out and show that the coaches who recruited them did not make a mistake.
“I think it is really a major aspect for the older guys,” Albright said. ”With Tom and all the other coaches that were there, too. I don’t know if it is so much, it is not like anger or anything, more just like a friendly thing, like competition. You want to go out and play the people that recruited you and prove that you still got it and that they did a good job recruiting you.”
At the same time NC State represents a significant hurdle to the Eagles’ goal of making it back to the ACC championship game. The Wolfpack are a division opponent that the Eagles must defeat if they hope to be playing in Tampa in December. In that vein, McLaughlin and others do not think much of their former mentors.
“I think now this is just a huge football game for us, playing an Atlantic Division opponent. You are not putting a name on it, like ‘O’Brien and the Wolfpack,’ it’s more, this is a must win,” McLaughlin said. “We have respect for one another . . . it is good to see familiar faces but you are going out to win a huge game.”
On the opposite sideline is Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani, a disciple of O’Briens and a branch of the George Welsh coaching tree through their shared time at the University of Virginia. All in all the two coached together for 26 years before O’Brien made the jump to NC State and Spaziani stayed in The Heights as defensive coordinator under Jeff Jagodzinski.
Though O’Brien’s time at Boston College was a successful era for the football program, some look back on the period with negativity. O’Brien as a man and a coach is about as tough as they come and he rubbed some people the wrong way. When asked if O’Brien does not get the credit he deserves, Spaziani paused to contemplate how to answer the question.
“I appreciate the job that he did here. I understand what he did,” Spaziani said. “People are going to think what they think about everything, so I don’t spend too much time worrying about that.”
|Midterm Grades at The Heights||10.15.09 at 12:16 am ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — Boston College is not looking back after it got blown away against Virginia Tech last Saturday. The veterans are making sure of that.
Senior linebacker and co-captain Mike McLaughlin called a players meeting on Sunday evening after the team returned from Blacksburg to make sure the Eagles did not get too down on themselves after the humbling experience against the Hokies. With a division opponent in N.C. State coming to Alumni Stadium this weekend, McLaughlin wants to make sure the team remains focused on what lies ahead rather than look back.
“Anytime you go down to a place like that and play a team like that and, unfortunately, get beat like that, I think you kind of need to regroup a little bit,” McLaughlin said. “[The meeting] was more focused on this weekend, N.C. State … You want to stay positive. You don’t want to focus on the negative. A good team moves on.”
The second half of the season starts this weekend. The Eagles are 4-2 (2-2 ACC, 2-1 Atlantic) and have had an up-and-down year so far. They are 2-0 against ACC teams at home (Wake Forest, Florida State) and 0-2 on the road (Clemson, Virginia Tech). Another Atlantic Division crown and trip to the ACC championship game in Tampa Bay is still a possibility if they can win out in the division and get a little help along the way.
No other team in the Atlantic yet has two division losses (though that will change with Wake Forest and Clemson playing in Death Valley Saturday). In addition to N.C. State, the Eagles just have Maryland to play in the division in the regular season finale on Nov. 28.
“This is kind of a must-win game. This is a championship game,” McLaughlin said. “There is no doubt about that.”
If he is referring to the division championship, then yes, McLaughlin is right. A second loss in the division will probably eliminate the Eagles from ACC championship contention.
“Crazy things happen all the time in our conference,” senior wide receiver and co-captain Rich Gunnell said. “Last year we lost two in a row in the same way and we still made it to the ACC championship game. So, we let them know that there is still a shot to make it down there.”
From here on out the Eagles alternate games at home and on the road — N.C. State, at Notre Dame, Central Michigan, at Virginia, North Carolina, at Maryland. The key for Boston College will be to capitalize at home and get its offense together on the road to steal victories from Virginia and Maryland (the Notre Dame game always is a toss-up, while Central Michigan will be a tough opponent no matter where the Eagles play them).
While the Eagles are looking forward, WEEI.com takes a moment to look back at the season at the midterm mark and hand out our grades. The players may have their eyes forward but that does not stop us from assessing what we have seen before we look ahead.
“Here’s what we know,” coach Frank Spaziani said of the midseason review, “We have some players that have some potential. We know the areas that need a lot of work and we need to work on them. We know we are nowhere near where we have to be to compete in the level that we want to compete at. So, that’s what we know.”
Spoken like a true coach — not too high, not too low, did not really give away his opinion at all.
On to the grades …
The group of freshman quarterbacks on this team has not been an utter disaster. At the same time, it has not exactly been a rousing success. The performance has been very up and down, as is fitting for a group that, collectively, had not thrown a single pass for Boston College heading into the season. Dave Shinskie, a 25-year-old true freshman, has taken over the starting role at this point, beating out redshirt freshman Justin Tuggle and true freshman Mike Marscovetra. When Shinskie has been up he has been decent — 18-of-29 for 228 yards and three touchdowns against Wake Forest and 13-of-22 for 211 yards and two touchdowns against Florida State. When he has been down he has been horrible — three snaps, two fumbles (one lost) against Clemson and 1-of-12 for 4 yards against Virginia Tech. It is probably not a coincidence that Shinskie’s poor performances have come on the road (where he said the offense has “lost focus”) but that trend will probably even out down the stretch. Overall, BC quarterbacks are ninth in the conference with a 126.3 passer efficiency (Georgia Tech leads with 169.2). There is nowhere to go but up.
Running Backs: B
The Double H: Horse and Hound duo of Montel Harris and Josh Haden has not exactly been as good as advertised, but it has been pretty decent. Like the rest of the offense, Harris and Haden have done nothing on the road, but otherwise have been pretty good. Harris, the Horse, had a career-high 25 carries and 184 yards to lead the Eagles in their win against Florida State. Haden, the Hound, set a career high with 17 carries for 93 yards against Wake Forest. Overall, the running game is seventh in the conference in yards per game, but even mediocre performances on the road would probably set them in the top four.
Wide Receivers: C
The fate of the receivers lays in the hands of the quarterbacks. Gunnell and sophomore Colin Larmond Jr. are the leaders of this group (17 catches, 218 yards, 3 touchdowns for Gunnell; 16 catches, 309 yards, 3 touchdowns for Larmond), though it seems at times that they get lost in the mix as the young quarterbacks find their ways.
Offensive Line: B
“O-line U” has not exactly lived up to its name this year. Though the unit has two preseason All-ACC members in Anthony Castonzo and Matt Tennant, the group has not gained much traction this year. They are tied for third in the conference (Miami) in sacks against with 10 total for 69 yards lost (Georgia Tech leads with 4 for 19 yards). The Eagles are middle of the conference in rush yards per game and the inability of the unit to put the offense on its back on the road is a mark against the group. Yet overall, the group has played reasonably well.
Defensive Line: C
B.J. Raji and Ron Brace are plying their wares in the NFL and this group has suffered for it. The inability of the defensive line to put pressure on the quarterback has led to problems for the secondary, as passers have had time to wait and go through their progressions. Boston College is last in the ACC in sacks with eight (10 behind leader N.C. State). Five of those have come from the defensive line.
The strength of this defense has definitely been with the linebacking corps, which is amazing if you consider that Will Thompson has not played a down all year, Butkus Award finalist Mark Herzlich is recovering from cancer and McLaughlin missed the first three games coming back from an Achilles injury. True freshman Luke Kuechly has taken charge, leading the team with 55 tackles, and Alexander DiSanzo is tied for third with 25. The linebackers are a big reason why Boston College has managed to be fourth in the conference in rushing yards allowed (with 741) and sixth in total yards despite being a relatively young group.
Senior Marcellus Bowman, junior Wes Davis and sophomore Isaac Johnson have done their best to hold the secondary together despite the plethora of quality quarterbacks BC has seen this year. Bowman is second on the team in tackles with 28 and has really stepped up his game as a player and a leader in his last year on The Heights. Johnson is tied with DiSanzo for third on the team in tackles. The group is middle of the conference in both passes broken up and interceptions, but the bend-but-don’t-break quality of the defense has a lot to do with the play at the back end.
Special Teams: A-
Place kicker Steve Aponavicius is a perfect 26-for-26 on his kicks this year (21 PATs, 5 field goals). Punter and kickoff specialist Ryan Quigley has been decent with a 41.2 average yards per punt (36.5 net), which is good for fifth in the conference. Quigley has been in a bit of a slump of late but in the beginning of the year he was quite proficient at putting the ball inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, at one point going 5-for-11 in that department.
The returners have not had much of a chance recently with Jeff Smith and Chris Fox handling most of the kick off returns while Gunnell and Harris have mostly handled the punts. The Eagles are third in the conference with a 13.9 yard average in punt returns while they are ninth in kickoff returns with a 21.3 yard average.
Not much was expected of Spaziani’s boys this year, but the first-time head coach has done well in bringing his young group together. Boston College is two wins from being bowl eligible and it has found ways to win despite a young defense and a trio of freshman quarterbacks.