|Five Things We Learned Against Florida State||10.04.09 at 12:45 am ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — There is a new knight protecting protecting the castle of Alumni Stadium. He is young and bold. He is smart and ferocious.
He is Luke Kuechly.
The 18-year old freshman was instrumental in Boston College’s 28-21 win this evening over ACC Atlantic Division rival Florida State. He made 12 tackles (7 solo, 5 assisted) and made the plays when they need to be made.
Take the Eagles second quarter goal line stand, for instance. On second-and-goal from the 1-yard line Kuechly was in the backfield tackling Seminoles running back Lonnie Pryor before anybody knew the ball had been snapped. On third down he teamed up with defensive end Brad Newman to stop them again. Both plays Kuechly was exactly where he needed to be and delivered crushing hits to keep the ball out of the end zone.
“That was tremendous. Boy wonder over here made two unbelievable plays back-to-back. He’s unbelievable, he really is,” senior middle linebacker and co-captain Mike McLaughlin said.
Kuechly turned bright red.
It must be hard for a true freshman to be getting all this attention, especially considering how unassuming Kuechly is in person. He cannot shy from it though, not when he leads the team with 45 tackles through the first five games and brings pain to ball carriers with such stunning frequency.
Oh, and he did it all of it out of position.
With McLaughlin returning to the field after battling his way back from a torn right achilles tendon, Kuechly has been pushed to the weak-side linebacker position in head coach Frank Spaziani’s defensive scheme. As opposed to backing up McLaughlin in the middle, the coaching staff figured they could move Kuechly to the outside over Alexander DiSanzo so as to get the best players on the field for the most amount of time. One would think that playing the switch would be taxing for a player so young, but Kuechly just did what he does — make plays.
“I think Luke is, and I have to be careful about anointing Luke a little bit, but he has those instincts.” Spaziani said. “He sees that stuff and we try not to coach it out of him. Our whole philosophy is to put the guys in the right position and let them makes some plays.”
With Kuechly, it seems like any position will do him just fine. Last week he delivered his blows on special teams and spelled McLaughlin. This week is was from the weak-side.
Yes, Spaziani was actually talking about the defensive scheme. The goal for the Eagles coaches and Kuechly is just to get him into a position where he does not really have to think and just read and react.
“You know, we took a little chance putting him over there at weak linebacker. We didn’t want him to think and, you know, the whole ‘think you stink’ principle and we didn’t screw him up, he played a good game,” Spaziani said.
It is not yet perfect, but Kuechly looks better every week. He works hard on it.
“I still have a lot to learn. I still make mistakes that I shouldn’t because I practice them everyday. I try to just forget about it and play the next play,” Kuechly said.
Spaziani will probably make sure that he does not forget about those mistakes, but he will take Kuechly’s performance just about any day.
“Well, I haven’t seen the film and the tape but I did see a couple things that raised my blood pressure a little bit. But, once again, as I have been saying about Luke, he has some stuff as a football player that you can’t coach and we got to try not to mess him up. Make him better.”
Only five games into his college career, Kuechly has plenty of time to get better. That is the scary part.
Here are four other things we learned on a wild day at The Heights . . .
The Horse That Draws The Buggy
As we announced earlier, we at The BC Blog finally gave sophomore running back duo Montel Harris and Josh Haden a nickname.
The Horse in the Double H, Harris, was the driving force behind the Eagles win. He ran the ball 25 times for 179 yards and two touchdowns. That is an average of 7.2 yards per carry.
Not too shabby.
Yet, it was more than just a dominating performance. Harris put the team on his back at the end of the game and led them to victory.
The second half of was a little bit of a déjà-vu for the Eagles. Last week they let a 14-point lead go against Riley Skinner and the Demon Deacons. This week? Same story, different quarterback (see below).
That was when Harris kicked it up a notch.
Boston College had just averted a mini-disaster after senior running back Jeff Smith lost a fumble on the kickoff after Florida State’s tying score. The Seminoles recovered the ball on the Boston College 29 yard line and seemed poised for the go-ahead score. The defense held and FSU kicker Dustin Hopkins missed a 37 yard field goal.
The game turned on two plays after that. The first was a third down pass interference penalty on Florida State Jaime Robinson (on Gunnell) that brought the ball to the Seminoles 42. Then, if you were a Florida State fan, disaster.
Harris took the handoff from Shinskie and busted through the line, squirted right, broke two tackles and busted to the end zone. He leapt at about the 4 yard line for the pylon and caught it with the nose of the ball.
“The offensive line opened up big holes and I was able to get low, break loose and get to the pylon as fast as I could,” Harris said.
“Montel did what we expected him to do, as Josh did I believe. I have not looked at the stats, looked very quick out there but Montel got a majority of the snaps and made some nice plays. As they both did. They are good backs,” Spaziani said.
Harris almost gave it back though. His very next run was a 39 yard scamper that ended with a fumble with about a minute-and-a-half to play. He was saved by his left tackle Anthony Castonzo who recovered the ball.
Harris is small (5-foot 10-inches, 200 pounds) which makes him quick. He can also be powerful, like he said about “getting low.” It gives him leverage in scrums but also can make him a touch fumble prone. It is something that Spaziani does not want to see — “I thought he was going to the end zone but he forget something” — but, like Kuechly, he will take a mistake if it gets him 179 yards.
Well, as long as they get the win.
Shinskie Proves Adept
The big thing for Shinskie to prove today was that last week was not a fluke, that he can play at a consistent level, limit mistakes and help the team drive the ball.
Shinskie’s numbers were not spectacular, but they were steady — 12 for 21, 203 yards, 2 touchdowns.
Most of that was done in the first half, where Shinskie went 9 for 13 for 180 yards and the two scores. The big play came on the third down after the goal line stand in the second quarter. The Eagles had run the ball twice for one yard to set up a third-and-9. Shinskie dropped back, looked down the right sideline and launched the ball to Colin Larmond, Jr. for what turned out to be a 62 yard completion to the Florida State 25. Shinskie managed the drive well and completed it with a 3 yard pitch-and-catch to Gunnell to make the score 14-3.
“I think we just found an identity on offense,” Shinskie said. “We go out there and are just a little more pepped up. We have guys being more vocal in the huddle and on the practice field. I think our offense finally found itself.”
Perhaps that is part of Shinskie finding his way on the football field. He is becoming a decent field general and making some big plays when he needs to. That is really all that Spaziani can ask of his true freshman quarterback.
Like Harris, Shinskie almost gave the ball away at a critical juncture. Two plays before Harris’s winning run he miss-threw a ball that Florida State cornerback Greg Reid had in his hands for a sure interception. But the Reid could not hold on and Shinskie lived to tell the tale.
Spaziani said a couple of times in the post game news conference that the Eagles are a “work in progress.” Shinskie is as much as anybody, but the last two games the progress has been forward.
Secondary Having Trouble
This is the second week in a row where a good ACC quarterback orchestrated a second half comeback against Boston College.
The problem is not so much a matter of not having talent at cornerback and safety. Marcellus Bowman, Wes Davis and Isaac Johnson are fine players (Bowman had 8 tackles on the day, Davis 7), it is just that their opponents have adjusted to the Eagles looks and picked them apart.
“Let me say this. They are big league receivers over there and quarterback and they got us in some space. We are who we are, we tried a couple things a little bit different,” Spaziani said.
Football is like any sport. If you give the opponent time and space, they will eat you alive. In the second half of the last two games the Eagles secondary got exploited by giving up too much time and space and subsequently they gave up big yards and big scores. Part of that is definitely the fact that the opponents have been behind and forced to throw the ball (hence wearing down the secondary a touch). Yet, a trend is emerging that could cost the Eagles a game down the line.
“I have to give them some credit too on it but we certainly want to be better,” Spaziani said. ”We have to be better. They have a lot to do with it, those guys are pretty good and we are still trying to feel our way to get whatever rush we need to get, we are trying to create it and they made some plays too. A couple of those passes they caught, they executed and made the catch. We like to think we can make that play too, but we didn’t. We’ll keep working on it.”
Speed Not A Factor
Much was made before the game about Florida State’s speed and the problems it could pose for Boston College. Well, the Eagles did not seem to mind much about the opposing speed. That could have had something to do with the wet field, but, except for Seminoles receivers Richard Goodman and Bert Reed, two very fast players, Boston College handled it well (Goodman finished with 9 receptions for 105 yards, Reed with 7 for 107).
Florida State ran a spat of end-arounds, sometimes with double pitch options, like the two-point conversion they made to tie the game. Yet, for the most part Boston College was able to sniff them out and limit the damage. Not that Florida State was completely unsuccessful, but the Eagle were not limited by the speed the way they were against the Clemson Tigers, when nothing went right at all.
The handling of the speed was as much a part of the players making plays but also the coaching staff putting them in the right positions. They stayed their bases and, for the most part, let the play come to them.
|‘Noles Cook Up Some Magic||10.03.09 at 6:37 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — Florida State has come back to tie this game with 10:48 left in the fourth quarter. It has taken a little magic to do it.
The Seminoles have been driving most of the second half, out gaining Boston College 216 yards to 57. A lot of that came with Florida State’s 91 yard drive to finish off the third quarter but they have been cooking it in the fourth as well. The big play came when senior wideout Richard Goodman split Marcellus Bowman and Isaac Johnson down the middle on a post route. Chris Ponder delivered the ball up . . . and that is where Goodman went to get it, hauling it down in traffic for a 33-yard gain to the Boston College 8-yard line. Jermaine Thomas punched it into the end zone to put the Seminoles down by two.
Florida State went for the conversion, using a double end-around option with the ball ending up in Bert Reeds hands in the right flat. He held it, held it before throwing against he grain in the defense to Caz Piurowski to tie the game.
On the ensuing kickoff senior running back Jeff Smith fumbled the return, which was recovered by Florida State on the Boston College 29 by Maurice Harris. The Seminoles were not able to convert though as Dustin Hopkins missed a 37-yard field goal with 7:02 remaining.
The Eagles are currently driving with 5:50 to play on their own 35 yard line.
Boston College 21 Florida State 21.
|Chris Ponder And Bert Reed Connecting In Third||10.03.09 at 6:10 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — Florida State has brought the game back to within one touchdown (with a 2-point conversion) with a 6-play, 91 yard drive late in the third quarter on a 10-yard Louis Givens end-around run. The drive was a quick strike from the Seminoles as they drove the down the field in 1:37 on the strength of Chris Ponder’s arm and Bert Reeds hands. In consecutive plays Ponder hit Reed for 33 yards and 28 yards before Givens’ run. The drive looked a lot like last week when Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner tore up the Eagles secondary to come back late in the game. Boston College will have limit the big plays in the final quarter to hold on in the final quarter.
Start of fourth – Boston College 21 Florida State 13.
|Another Uplifting Check For Herzlich||10.03.09 at 5:38 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — The case of Mark Herzlich has been well documented. The Atlantic Coast Conference and other college football teams have been banding together to raise funds for the Boston College chapter of Uplifting Athletes which helps with cancer research and treatment. During a short on field ceremony early in the third quarter Florida State donated a check of $9,400 to Uplifting Athletes in Herzlich’s name.
|Alex Albright Seen On Crutches During Half||10.03.09 at 5:24 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — Injury update: Boston College defensive end Alex Albright was seen on crutches favoring his right leg exiting the athletics center on his way to the trainers room during the halftime break. When asked what the injury was Albright turned with a grimace and said “don’t know quite yet.” More updates when we have them.
UPDATE – It was just announced in the press box that Albright has a “right ankle injury and will not return.”
|Eagles Attack — Stop And Bomb||10.03.09 at 5:05 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — Boston College is becoming quite proficient at these goal line stops. Last week it was Isaac Johnson and Wes Davis teaming up to stop Wake Forest and Riley Skinner on a forced fumble and recovery to end the game. In the second quarter against Florida State is was Luke Kuechly and Alex Alrbight getting together to frustrate the Seminoles.
It looked like Florida State was going to march into the end zone with first-and-goal from the one yard line. Seminoles freshman running back Lonnie Pryor tried to break the plane twice . . . only to meet freshman stud linebacker Kuechly. On second down Kuechly was in the backfield before Pryor knew it and delivered a crushing blow for a loss of 2 yards. On third down it was Kuechly and defensive lineman Brad Newman who corralled Pryor for no gain.
The ‘Noles went for it and sent quarterback Chris Ponder on a bootleg that defensive end Alex Albright recognized. Albright’s pursiot was true and he took down Ponder for an 11-yard sack and a turnover on downs.
Then Dave Shinskie went to work. On third-and-9 with the ball on the 13 he unloaded the ball down the right sideline where is was hauled in by sophomore Colin Larmon, Jr. for a 62-yard gain to the Florida State 25. Eight plays later Shinskie found senior captain receiver for a 3 yard touchdown to put the Eagles up 14-3.
Florida State could not gain any traction on the next series. Ponder was hurried out of the pocket by Damik Scafe who got a hand on the quarterbacks arms as he tried to complete a shuffle pass. The ball was ruled a fumble and was recovered by Mike Morrissey at the FSU 44.
Then it went back. Josh Haden fumbled the ball after an 8-yard gain on a screen pass from Shinskie on third-and-14. The ball was recovered by the Seminoles Kendall Smith at the 41.
Right before halftime Shinskie struck again. With :59 left, he hit senior running back Jeff Smith in stride streaking down the left sideline to put the Eagles by 18.
Florida State came back in the last seconds for a 38-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal as time expired.
For the half Shinskie is 9-13 for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
Note – With :40 left in the half Alrbight was helped off the field, favoring his right foot. No word on his condition yet. Also around that mark the rain, which was light if nonexistent through much of the first half, began again in a torrent.
Halftime – Boston College 21 Florida State 6
|The Horse Puts BC On The Board||10.03.09 at 4:16 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — We at The BC Blog have finally come up with a nickname for the Eagles sophomore running back duo of Montel Harris and Josh Haden — Double H: The Horse And Hound.
Harris is the horse. He gets the majority of the carries for the Boston College offense while the Haden Hound provides the lightning behind him. Together they form a pretty effective tag team supplying the Eagles punch.
Harris has just put Boston College on top of the Florida State Seminoles late in the first quarter, capping off a 9-play, 79-yard drive with a 3 yard touchdown on a nifty spin-and-cut for the punch in. Quarterback Dave Shinskie kept the drive going with three completions for 57 yards including two of 20 yards or more (Colin Larmond, 23 yards and Justin Jarvis, 20).
The Horse and Hound combined for some trickery earlier in the drive when Harris took a direct snap from center, made a beautiful fake to Haden before rushing down the left for a 21 yard gain.
The Eagles held Florida State to a field goal on the preceding possession when the Seminoles drive bogged down at the Boston College 14 on third-and-short when cornerback Donnie Fletcher sniffed out a wide receiver screen to Taiwan Easterling.
Note – Eagles senior strong safety Marcellus Bowman injured his right knee in the quarter and was announced as questionable for his return. The injury turned out not to be too serious apparently as he just made the first tackle of the second quarter.
End of first quarter. Boston College 7 Florida State 3
|Evolution of Dave Shinskie||10.03.09 at 3:23 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — It is supposed to be a “Gold Out” day at Alumni Stadium. Fans have been encouraged to show their unity in the fight against cancer by purchasing gold “beat cancer” t-shirts in support of Mark Herzlich and his fight against Ewings Sarcoma (which he may have finally won).
The “Gold Out” may turn into a wash out.
It has been raining in Boston all day and the forecast for the rest of the day is not promising. Thus, unless Boston College starts passing out golden ponchos, it may not see a sea of golden t-shirts unless there are some brave souls who do not mind being wet and cold for the duration of the game.
One wonders how the conditions will effect the quarterbacks in this game. Boston College is no stranger to bad weather this year. It was raining in the second week when it beat Kent State (though not as bad as today) and there was an absolute deluge in Death Valley in the loss to Clemson.
|Herzlich: A sunny break on a rainy day||10.03.09 at 3:01 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL – As the Eagles take the field today against the Florida State Seminoles, they do so after getting an big-time boost earlier in the week from their emotional leader.
Mark Herzlich announced that he was ’99-percent’ cancer free.
The linebacker was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma earlier this year and immediately began treatment. And this week, he announced that his aggressive treatment was paying off.
When ESPN’s widely popular College GameDay announced they were coming to Chestnut Hill for today’s game, they cited Herzlich’s story as one of the prime reasons for making the trek to The Heights.
Herzlich spoke earlier in the week and here’s what he had to say about his improving health and hopes for a comeback in 2010.
|Florida State Preview: Speed And Big-Time Football||10.01.09 at 12:26 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — Big-time football is coming to Alumni Stadium this Saturday.
It is not just because ESPN’s College GameDay crew is heading to Boston College this weekend. That just adds to the level of intensity. It’s also the football team paying a visit.
Florida State is the kind of college program that needs no introduction. The Seminoles are always good, they are always fast and opponents know that if they are going to bring down the behemoth they have to play their best. Nothing else will satisfy.
“The whole stadium picks up a little bit,” Eagles senior captain Mike McLaughlin said of the GameDay atmosphere. “You can feel it in the air. It’s tough to describe, but you can tell. It’s big time. It’s big-time football. It’s what you sign up for, and you can definitely feel it on Saturday, no question about that.”
The Seminoles — unranked at 2-2 and looking to make a comeback statement after a 10-point home loss to South Florida — bring speed to the field unlike many other teams in the country. They have it with their wide receivers, they have it with their defensive backs, they have it on with their defensive ends. If Boston College thought Clemson was fast, it has a whole different level coming this Saturday.
“It is definitely the top speed in college football,” McLaughlin said. You can’t match that speed that we are going to see on Saturday in practice. ”
The best coaches in college football know speed kills, and there are not many coaches in college football history better than Seminoles leader Bobby Bowden. Year in and year out he stacks his teams with the fastest players he can get his hands on. The success is evident. Since the advent of the Bowl Championship Series, Florida State has six BCS game appearances (behind only Oklahoma, USC and Ohio State, with seven apiece).
The question becomes: How can the Eagles (3-1) prepare for the type of speed that the Seminoles will bring when there they have no equivalent on their own squad?
“You have to kind of fake like it,” McLaughlin said. “Like coach [Frank Spaziani] says, ‘chasing rabbits,’ so, every play I will try to run through the ball and past the ball. You are trying to do your best to make like it is going to be on Saturday because nobody is going to be quite as fast as those guys will be.”
“When you chase a rabbit,” Spaziani said. “You have to cut off all their escape routes, that’s what it means to me.”
There is no one aspect of Florida State that stands out where someone might say, “This is the fastest group.” Every unit has its own peculiar brand of quickness. It goes from quarterback Chris Ponder to wideouts Rod Owens and Bert Reed to cornerback Greg Reid to the bookends on the defensive line — Kevin McNeil and Markus White.
“It’s Ponder, it’s the offensive line, it’s their stable of running backs, it’s their receivers as a whole that we are concerned about on defense,” BC junior free safety Wes Davis said.
The BC defense has played well this year, despite the mad-scramble comeback that Riley Skinner and Wake Forest made last Saturday. The Eagles hit hard, they cover well and they track the ball efficiently. One of the only deficiencies Boston College has had has been getting pressure on the quarterback. If it hopes to force Ponder into mistakes and create turnovers, it will have to be in his face all day. Yet, that may prove to be a difficult task this week against a Florida State offensive line that has grown together into a much more mature unit than a year ago.
“This may be the best offensive line we have seen before in terms of their experience and their maturity,” junior defensive end Alex Albright said. “They come back, they hit hard, they stay low as opposed to last year when they stayed high. … So, just their maturity in general has grown astronomically. They are a much better cohesive unit.”
The Seminoles defense creates headaches as well, starting with their Butkus Award candidate, senior Dekoda Watson, at middle linebacker. Watson leads Florida State in tackles for loss (5.5) and sacks (4.5) through the first four games of the season. It does not end there, though, with McNeil (6-foot-2, 257 pounds) and White (6-4, 261) challenging offensive lines all across the conference from their defensive end positions.
“They are definitely a fast team,” BC junior right tackle Rich Lapham said. “They have some real twitch guys on defensive end. They have some guys who can fill in. They have some of the bigger, taller bodies, different kind of build than we have at defensive end. When you have some guys who are 6-3, it is different than blocking somebody who is 6-1.”
The Eagles are ready for the next big challenge of the year. As the season progresses there is a feeling around the program that this team can do far better than the last-place predictions of preseason prognosticators. Hence, the approach to Florida State is no different than anything BC has done already this year. Just ask quarterback Dave Shinskie.
“Just going to approach this game like we do every other game,” Shinskie said. “We have to run the ball every week. They are fast on defense, they’re athletic, they hit hard. It’s going to take all of our ability, all of our strength and, you know, we are going to work hard and come in on Saturday ready to play.”