|Hockey East Season Preview: This really might be ‘the deepest the league has ever been’||10.07.13 at 9:22 am ET|
If you go to enough Hockey East media days, you’ll realize that there are certain lines you’re bound to hear from coaches year after year.
“Anyone can beat anyone in this league.”
“There isn’t much of a difference between the first-place team and the last-place team.”
“This might be the deepest the league has ever been.”
“There’s more parity now than ever before.”
The first quote is obviously true. That’s how sports work. We see upsets all the time, and Hockey East is no different. Just last year, we saw conference champ Massachusetts-Lowell drop the season series against eighth-place Maine (Lowell went on to sweep Maine in the playoffs, though), and second-place Boston College lose games against each of Hockey East’s bottom three teams.
But the fact that the first quote is true doesn’t necessarily mean the second quote is true. Let’s face it: the worst teams really only have a chance of beating the best teams when the best teams are off their game. There’s a reason Lowell and BC ended up with significantly better records than Massachusetts and Northeastern last season — because Lowell and BC were significantly better teams. And barring something crazy, they’ll be significantly better teams again this year.
As for the third and fourth quotes, when you hear them every year, you start to wonder if coaches would say those things even if they didn’t actually believe them. The league can’t really get deeper every single year, can it? There can’t really be more and more parity every year, right?
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|Notre Dame third down a real downer for Eagles in loss||11.11.12 at 11:08 am ET|
Midway through the third quarter, it seemed as though quarterback Everett Golson and the Notre Dame offense would’ve been content spiking the ball on first and second down and still manage to gain a first down.
Why not? The Fighting Irish started off the game off by going perfect 10-for-10 on third down, twice overcoming penalties that had backed them up or taken away a successful conversion. Of those eight conversions, Golson ran or five and passed for two. He also threw for two touchdowns and ran for another score in a 21-6 win at Alumni Stadium.
“You have to play good defense to win, and you certainly have to play good third down defense,” coach Frank Spaziani said. “Some of it was our execution and some of it was their execution and some of it was their improvisation. It goes back to my topic sentence: We have to make some plays and when we get the opportunity, we have to make our share of them.”
The Eagles were heavy underdogs heading into the game and were predicted to get steamrolled by the undefeated Irish. With that said, Notre Dame came in and scored the easy victory, but it’s difficult to say that they blew the doors off BC. The Eagles defense allowed six yards of offense per play, but did not surrender many big plays, giving up no breakaway plays over 25 yards or quick-strike scores.
Instead, Irish coach Brian Kelly and the offense showcased a gameplan of cold-hearted efficiency that lead to sustained, but, more importantly, successful drives. Each of Notre Dame’s three scoring drives went at least nine plays and lasted at least four minutes, 56 seconds. The Irish’s most sustained drive was a grueling 16-play, 97-yard drive scoring drive right before the half that lasted eight minutes, 30 seconds.
“Whenever you’re facing a national-caliber team, you know they’re going to execute, and that’s something that we struggled with this year,” linebacker Steele Divitto said. “We gave them the third-and-long and we just can’t get off the field and that’s something we have to work on and continue to build on in the future.”
The Eagles, though, were never truly out of the game, as the lead never stretched past 18 points and came back within two scores in the fourth quarter. However, the Eagles, who spent much of the game watching the Irish convert time after time, couldn’t sustain their drives, going 8-of-15 on third down conversions and had converted 4-of-8 before Notre Dame faltered once on third down.
The main source of frustration, especially on third down, came in the form of Golson, a redshirt freshman that is known as a dual-threat quarterback, going 16-of-24 through the air for 200 yards while rushing for 39 yards on 11 carries. Both sets of skills were on display Saturday, as Golson showed his scrambling abilities as well as a capacity to manage the game in an effort to sustain drives.
“He’s good. He’s still a freshman, though,” Divitto said. “He’s very dynamic, he’s quick and he’s a good athlete. He’s definitely a playmaker. He’s definitely a guy they can go to to make plays. He’s been the guy who led them down the field in the fourth quarter or whatever it was and he’s done a heck of a job so far.”
While the Irish thrived in the running game, recording 184 yards on 40 carries as a team, the Eagles failed to get a consistent ground game going, leading to unfavorable third down situations. While the output far outshined last week’s effort that produced 12 yards on 21 carries against Wake Forest, BC totaled just 53 yards on 23 carries, a 2.3 average, thanks in large part to quarterback Chase Rettig losing 36 yards from sacks.
|BC prepares to take on high-powered Notre Dame offense||11.16.11 at 12:54 pm ET|
Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly was once again the catalyst behind a strong defensive performance in BC’s 14-10 win over NC State this past Saturday. Kuechly recorded a game-high 18 tackles on his way to becoming just the fifth player in ACC history to reach 500 career tackles.
“Nothing surprises me with Luke,” coach Frank Spaziani said in the weekly ACC teleconference on Wednesday. “He’s a fantastic football player that just gets to the ball and makes plays. I don’t know where our defense would be without him.”
Kuechly is just 15 tackles away from matching BC’s school record of 524, held by Stephen Boyd. But Kuechly and the BC defense will have their work cut out for them this Saturday when they face a Notre Dame team that is averaging just over 41 points per game in its last three outings.
“They’re a championship-caliber football team,” Spaziani said of the Fighting Irish. “We’re going to have to play our ‘A’ game to play them. Moving the ball is an issue and they have a high-powered offense with a lot of weapons over there, so we’re going to have to try and slow them down and hopefully scrap away and get some points ourself.”
Notre Dame’s last two games have been wins against ACC teams Wake Forest and Maryland. Against the Terrapins Saturday, Notre Dame put up 508 yards of total offense on its way to a 45-21 win.
Leading the Fighting Irish offense is quarterback Tommy Rees. After losing his job early in the season, Rees regained the starting role and has helped Notre Dame (7-3) win seven out of its last eight games. Rees passed for 296 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Maryland while operating in Notre Dame’s no-huddle offense.
“He is accurate. He looks like he has a tremendous understanding of what they want him to do,” Spaziani said of Rees. “I’m quite impressed with him really. I think they don’t skip a beat with him. From my perspective, he’s very efficient and a very accomplished quarterback.”
|Five Things We Learned: Rettig can’t take flight||10.03.10 at 12:57 am ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — This is not – by any stretch of the imagination – the way Chase Rettig had it planned in his mind this week.
Boston College and Notre Dame kicked off the 20th chapter of the “Holy War” rivalry with plenty of storylines for both teams. But there was none greater for BC fans than the anticipated debut of true freshman quarterback Chase Rettig for the Eagles.
Rettig’s debut was cut short near the end of the first half with an ankle injury that had him leave the field for the rest of the game. Prior to the injury, the Eagles had shown signs of life but an early Notre Dame lead and a putrid second half led to a 31-13 defeat at the hands of the Fighting Irish.
Rettig beat out sophomore Mike Marscovetra for the start after coach Frank Spaziani decided the offense needed a change from quarterback Dave Shinskie. The BC coaching staff had originally intended to redshirt the touted quarterback but early struggles from Shinskie prompted Spaziani to change his plans after a 19-0 shutout at the hands of Virginia Tech.
The Eagles looked stunned out of the gate after the Fighting Irish, led by quarterback Dayne Crist, jumped to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Notre Dame returned the kickoff to midfield on the opening kickoff and four plays later Crist ran the ball for a 7-yard touchdown.
The Eagles were unable to respond in their first three drives after Rettig was unable to complete a pass on his first four attempts. Notre Dame proceeded to score on two of their next three possessions to bring the score to 21-0 with just over two minutes left in the first quarter. Crist threw two touchdowns to Kyle Rudolf and Theo Riddick in addition to his scramble score.
After failing to reach a first down on their first three possessions, BC scored when Rettig completed a 58-yard touchdown strike to freshman receiver Bobby Swigert, the team’s longest pass of the season. On Notre Dame’s next drive, sophomore Luke Kuechly recovered a Cierre Wood fumble in Irish territory at the 45-yard line.
Suddenly, Boston College had some desperately-needed life. The Eagles failed to reach the end zone but freshman kicker Nate Freese drilled an impressive 49-yard field goal to cut the Irish lead to 21-10. Freese’s field goal was BC’s longest since a Sando Sciortino 49-yard kick in 2002. However, an ankle injury to Rettig forced the BC offense to substitute Marscovetra early halfway through the second quarter. Rettig’s return to the field remained questionable for the rest of the first half after going 5-for-10 attempts with 72 yards and a touchdown.
Irish running back Armando Allen’s fumble on the next drive was recovered by BC safety Dominick LeGrande to the ND 13-yard line but Marscovetra was unable to move the ball for the Eagles, resulting in Freese’s 25-yard field goal. Thanks to a suddenly resolved defense and a deep pass by Rettig, the Eagles reduced their deficit to 21-13. Neither team reached the end zone for the rest of the half but Notre Dame struck back with a 37-yard field goal from David Ruffer to give the Irish the halftime lead of 24-13.
The second half began with the announcement that Rettig would not return to play for the Eagles. With Marscovetra at the helm, the offense was not able to replicate any success to the tune of zero points in the second half. Notre Dame scored their fourth touchdown on Armando Allen’s two-yard run that put the Fighting Irish up 31-13.
Allen’s score proved to be the last points of the game with neither team scoring in the fourth quarter. For the second straight game, Boston College failed to score any points in the second half while trailing. The crowd of 44,500 in Alumni Stadium left disappointed after the Eagles’ second straight loss, both to rivals ND and Virginia Tech.
Decisions to be made on quarterbacks following injury
Players, fans, and coaches left the game wondering what could have been if the debut of Chase Rettig had not been cut short in the first half. After struggling to communicate and connect with his receivers, Rettig settle down and showed promise at quarterback for the Eagles. Rettig showed comfort in the pocket and was even willing to scramble when the talented Irish defense applied pressure. Most importantly, Rettig avoided double coverage and refused to give the ND defense a chance to create turnovers. After the game the X-ray of the left ankle of Rettig was ruled negative but was sprained.
“I’m pretty sure I was leaving the pocket and I did a spin move back and I think a defender that was trailing me just slid into my ankle. So I sprained my ankle. We’ll know more tomorrow,” said Rettig as he described his injury.
The decision will have to be made if Rettig will be able to return in the future or if the BC coaching staff will seek a medical redshirt for the freshman quarterback.
Marscovetra’s performance showed why Rettig took over the starting job in their week long competition to replace Dave Shinskie. Marscovetra looked completely out of sync with the offense and was unable to lead BC to a single score in the second half. The sophomore quarterback finished with 22-for-37 attempts with 193 yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions. Bobby Swigert had a game high 137 yards on 7 receptions including BC’s only touchdown of their past two games. Turnovers, penalties, decision making, and play calling were once again problems for the Eagles offense. Eagles fans should be disappointed that the offense continued to struggle without much improvement after failing to score a point last Saturday.
Numerous passes were dropped by the young receiving core of the BC offense and running back Montel Harris was unable to break free from the Irish defense. Harris had 15 rushes for 28 yards and was consistently stopped at the line of scrimmage as Brian Kelly and the ND coaching staff was able to focus on preventing the elusive junior from finding open field.
“There are certain things that we have to be able to do. We have to be able to run the ball,” said Spaziani. “We left a lot of plays out there. We dropped a few passes that would have helped. We can’t go back and keep throwing the ball all over the place.”
BC defense exposed early by Fighting Irish
After giving up no more than 20 points in any of their first three games, the BC defense gave up 21 points to the Fighting Irish in the first quarter. Dayne Crist exposed the defense for 203 yards, two passing touchdowns, and one rushing score. Brian Kelly’s offensive game plan took advantage of open spaces over the middle of the field and simply gained more points than the Eagles offense was capable of scoring. Junior defensive back Donnie Fletcher was able to come up with Crist’s only interception in the second half but the Eagles were unable to take advantage.
Armando Allen found multiple holes in the BC offense to the tune of 90 yards on 19 carries including his 2-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The talented linebacker corps of the Eagles was unable to close the gaps quick enough to stop Allen or reach Crist, coming up with only one sack.
“I don’t think it’s as much as what they’re doing to us as what we’re doing to ourselves,” said Luke Kuechly. “We came out flat. They start rolling like that and getting down in the red zone and there’s not much you can do. We had good play calls we just couldn’t execute on defense.”
Kuechly extended his nation-leading streak of double-digit tackles to 13 with a 14 tackle performance against the Irish. Senior defensive tackle Damik Scafe forced two fumbles, resulting in six points for BC in the first half. Senior linebacker Mark Herzlich recorded only two tackles in the game in his return to the Holy War after missing last season’s contest while battling Ewing’s Sarcoma.
Notre Dame’s offense was one of the most talented units that the Eagles defense will face this season but the result was disheartening considering the weight placed on the defense’s shoulders by the team’s offensive struggles. After another week of offensive futility, it is clear that the burden placed on Kuechly, Herzlich, and the rest of the defense is as heavy as ever.
Notre Dame regains control of Holy War
Boston College entered the twentieth edition of the Holy War with a chance to tie the series against the Fighting Irish. The Holy War highlights the matchup between the only two Catholic universities that play in the FBS. The winner of the game is awarded two trophies each year, the Frank Leahy Memorial Bown and the Ireland Trophy. The Eagles had won the previous six contests dating back to a 21-17 victory in Alumni Stadium on Oct. 27, 2001. After their second straight defeat to ND, Boston College now trails 9-11 in the series that dates back to 1975.
Irish coach Brian Kelly won his first meeting of the rivalry while Frank Spaziani moves to 0-2 in his tenure as head coach of the Eagles. Officials from both schools agreed in June to an extension that will face the programs off six more times through 2019. The next meeting will take place next year in South Bend where the Irish won last year’s matchup 20-16.
Eagles struggling at wrong time
The Eagles finished their four-game home stand to begin the season at 2-2. BC’s two victories were against Weber State and Kent State but they have struggled mightily against athletic teams like Virginia Tech and ND. BC should have finished no less than 3-1 to start the season in Alumni Stadium. The next five games on the Boston College schedule are against opposing ACC Atlantic division teams. This means one thing: the Eagles must get their team together.
BC will travel to face a talented NC State team next Saturday. NC State (4-1, 1-1 ACC) had been ranked #23 until losing to Virginia Tech 41-30 Saturday. The Eagles must find a way to win against Atlantic foes in order to have a hope at turning the corner on their early struggles. Three of their next five games will be away from the friendly confines of Alumni Stadium, where BC has traditionally thrived. However, the two straight BC losses have been the first time that they have lost consecutive games at home since 2003.
|Injured BC QB Chase Rettig won’t return to debut||10.02.10 at 10:39 pm ET|
The anticipated debut of true freshman Chase Rettig was cut short in the first half when Rettig suffered an ankle injury. Rettig was injured on a scramble that set up Nate Freese’s 49-yard field goal.
Sophomore Mike Marscovetra filled in for Rettig for the rest of the half with Rettig’s return questionable. At the start of the second half, it was announced that Rettig would not return to the game, leaving Marscovetra at the helm with the Fighting Irish leading 24-13.
Rettig finished the first half 5-10 attempts passing with 58 yards and a touchdown. Marscovetra was 4-7 attempts with 47 yards in relief. There have been no signs that coach Frank Spaziani will choose to play quarterback Dave Shinskie so far in the contest.
|Halftime summary: Notre Dame 24, BC 13||at 10:11 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — Boston College and Notre Dame kicked off the 20th meeting of the “Holy War” rivalry with plenty of headlines present for both teams but none greater than the anticipated debut of true freshman quarterback Chase Rettig for the Eagles.
Rettig beat out sophomore Mike Marscovetra for the start after coach Frank Spaziani decided the offense needed a change from quarterback Dave Shinskie. The BC coaching staff had originally intended to redshirt the touted quarterback but early struggles from Shinskie prompted Spaziani to change his plans after a 19-0 shutout at the hands of Virginia Tech.
Saturday’s contest began with little encouragement for the Eagles after the Fighting Irish, led by quarterback Dayne Crist, jumped to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Notre Dame returned the kickoff to midfield on the opening kickoff and four plays later Crist ran the ball for a 7-yard touchdown.
The Eagles were unable to respond in their first three drives after Rettig failed to complete a pass on his first five attempts. Notre Dame proceeded to score on two of their next three possessions to bring the score to 21-0 with just over two minutes left in the first quarter. Crist threw two touchdowns to Kyle Rudolf and Theo Riddick in addition to his scramble score.
After failing to reach a first down on their first three possessions, BC scored when Rettig completed a 58-yard touchdown strike to freshman receiver Bobby Swigert. On Notre Dame’s next drive, senior linebacker Mark Herzlich forced a fumble that was recovered by sophomore Luke Keuchly in Irish territory at the 45-yard line.
Suddenly, Boston College had some desperately-needed life. The Eagles failed to reach the end zone but freshman kicker Nate Freese drilled an impressive 49-yard field goal to cut the Irish lead to 21-10. However, an ankle injury to Rettig forced the BC offense to substitute Marscovetra early halfway through the second quarter. Rettig’s return to the field remained questionable for the rest of the first half after going 5-for-10 attempts with 72 yards and a touchdown.
Irish running back Armando Allen’s fumble on the next drive was recovered by BC safety Dominick LeGrande to the ND 13-yard line but Marscovetra was unable to move the ball for the Eagles, resulting in Freese’s 25-yard field goal. Thanks to a suddenly resolved defense and a deep pass by Rettig, the Eagles reduced their deficit to 21-13. Neither team reached the end zone for the rest of the half but Notre Dame struck back with a 37-yard field goal from David Ruffer.
With Rettig’s return questionable and continued inconsistency by the BC offense, the Eagles will have to make sure they can find ways to score against the Irish in the second half. At the end of the first half, the Fighting Irish lead 24-13 in a nationally televised showdown between the two Catholic programs.
|Report: Aoki leaves BC for Notre Dame||07.08.10 at 10:17 pm ET|
According to a report by Lenny Megliola in The Boston Globe, Mik Aoki will leave his job as Boston College baseball coach to take a similar position at Notre Dame. An announcement is expected next week.
Aoki, a Plymouth native and 1990 graduate of Davidson, went 114-108-1 in four years at BC, including a 30-28 record this season. Last year, Aoki led the Eagles to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 42 years.
Aoki was a BC assistant for three seasons before taking over from Peter Hughes. Prior to BC, Aoki was head coach at Columbia for five seasons.
At ND, Aoki replaces Dave Schrage, who went 119-114-1 in four seasons.
|BC-Notre Dame football series extended||06.10.10 at 2:25 pm ET|
According to multiple reports, Boston College and Notre Dame have agreed to continue their football rivalry six more times over the next nine seasons. Under the new agreement, BC will play at Notre Dame in 2011, 2016 and 2018. The Eagles will host the Irish in 2012, 2015 and 2019.
The teams already are scheduled to play this season, on Oct. 2 at BC.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series 10-9 following the Irish’s 20-16 victory last October that broke a six-game losing streak to BC.
“[Notre Dame athletic director] Jack Swarbrick and I agreed that since Boston College and Notre Dame are the only Catholic institutions that play Division 1-A football, we should continue to play each other over a period of years,” BC AD Gene DeFilippo told Boston Herald columnist Steve Buckley.
|Five Things We Learned: Turnovers Doom Eagles Against Irish||10.24.09 at 9:38 pm ET|
Notre Dame finally stopped the bleeding in the collegiate football Holy War against Boston College after a decade of dominance by the Eagles. The Fighting Irish created five turnovers en route to a 20-16 victory in South Bend, Indiana.
In many ways, this was kind of a break out game for Boston College true freshman quarterback Dave Shinskie. He had fallen flat on his face in road games against Clemson and Virginia Tech and the rest of the offense fell with him. In terms of offensive output against Notre Dame Shinskie was a revelation — 17-35 for 279 yards and a touchdown. That is about 277 yards more than he had on the road coming into the game.
The problem for Shinskie though? He also threw three interceptions.
The freshman quarterback is probably not going to add Notre Dame senior strong safety Kyle McCarthy to his Christmas card list anytime soon as McCarthy picked Shinskie off twice in the second half. Brian Smith can kiss his spot off that list as well.
With the Eagles trailing in the final minutes, Shinskie and company were finding a way to move the ball. Shinskie had just hit Rich Gunell for a 30 yard completion on fourth-and-17 to keep hope alive and McCarthy had just committed a pass interference penalty on Justin Jarvis to get the Eagles into Irish territory. It looked as though Boston College had a chance to march all the way down for the winning touchdown. That is when Shinskie blew it. On a broken play he rolled out to the right flat and threw the tried to force the ball through traffic. Instead, it landed right into the hands of Smith.
Game. Set. Match.
“We got flustered and made a play that we probably would like to have back,” head coach Frank Spaziani told reporters. “Once again, we have a true freshman, I don’t care how old Uncle Dave is, he is a true freshman. You’ve got 80,000 people on national TV with the game on the line, it’s a tough task. We have to get to the point where we can make those plays but we just didn’t do it today.”
Without the interceptions, Shinskie had a good game. He hit 10 throws of at least 20 yards, most of them to Gunnell.
“Am I happy to have 10 ‘explosives’ in the same game? Absolutely not,” Irish head coach Charlie Weis said.
But Shinskie was not the only Eagle responsible for giving the ball away. Montel Harris can lay claim to that dubious distinction as well. Harris had come into the game on a streak of 356 carries without losing a fumble. In this game he fumbled three and lost two.
The worst of it came in the third quarter with Boston College looking to drive for a back-breaking touchdown with the score 16-13 Eagles. Harris was looking to punch the goal line when Irish safety Sergio Brown got his helmet on the ball, knocking it loose of Harris on the 2-yard line. The Irish recovered.
That was probably the swing play of the game. If Harris had been able to break the plane then the Eagles would have taken a 23-13 lead and been able to play a more conservative game meaning that Shinskie would not have been in the position he was to throw those interceptions.
So, the duo that are normally responsible for Eagles victories handed the game to the Irish. Sometimes that is just how things work out.
Here are four other things we learned as the Irish won their first game against Boston College since 2000 …
RICH GUNNELL HAS BEEN WAITING FOR THIS
You kind of had to feel bad for Gunnell this season. The senior co-captain would have loved to put up some monster numbers to help increase his draft status next spring but he has been cursed with a trio of freshman quarterbacks learning how to cope with life in big time college football.
It is not that Gunnell has not been getting the ball. Entering the game he led the team with 22 receptions for 260 yards and three touchdowns through seven games. That would leave him short of matching the 49 catches he had last year or the 64 he had in 2007.
Well, Gunnell finally got up to speed with Shinskie. His 10 catches for 179 yards and a touchdown nearly double his output for the season.
“I am sure he would have liked to have a couple more. We need Richard to play well for us to do well,” Spaziani said.
Gunnell was instrumental in helping the Eagles move the chains. Through the middle of the game when it looked like Boston College was going to come out of Notre Dame with a seventh consecutive victory against the Irish, it was Gunnell and Shinskie leading the charge. Any time that the offense faced a third down, Gunnell would find a way to get open to keep the Eagles alive.
THE DEFENSE HAS A SOFT UNDER BELLY
Here is what Weis had to say about the Irish game plan heading into the game:
“I told Jimmy [Clausen] that we are not throwing the ball down the field,” Weis said. “How would you like to be quarterback who is a front line quarterback and everybody is tooting your horn and you say ‘we are not throwing the ball down the field.’ I said because they are going to play him deep and we are going to dump the ball off, that is what we are going to do. We are going to throw the ball to the flat, we are going to throw it short, that is what we are going to do.”
“I thought that [running back] Armando Allen would have been the leading receiver in the game. Our intent was to dump the ball to Armando . . . I wanted to wear Armando out,” Weis said.
Weis and his coaching staff obviously studied the film from Boston College’s win last week against NC State where Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson really worked the underneath against the Eagles for good yardage. If there is a chink in the Eagles defensive armor it is definitely that they are susceptible to the short throw, almost by design. The cornerbacks normally do not play press coverage and the linebackers play more of a read-and-react coverage game as opposed to a hard coverage game.
Clausen finished the game 26-39 for 246 yards with a great majority of those receptions on short-to-medium range routes. The evidence of attack the underneath is evident statistics. You would figure that a quarterback who completed 26 passes would have much more than 246 yards. The one long reception of the game, Golden Tate’s game-winning 36-yard touchdown, was a 10-yard corner route where sophomore cornerback Donnie Fletcher slipped after the catch and Tate raced to the end zone.
The “give up the underneath” scheme has worked reasonably well for Boston College this season, even if opponents have been able to move the ball pretty well. But after the way Notre Dame exploited that aspect of the defense this afternoon the Eagles may want to step back and reassess the philosophy.
STILL GOOD ON THE GOAL-LINE
At the same time the defense gets tough when it is backed up in its own five yard line. For the third time this season the Eagles stuffed an opponent on the 1-yard line. With 11:27 left and the score 16-13 Notre Dame had marched down the field and was looking for the go-ahead touchdown. Weis decided to gamble and go for it on fourth down. The Irish staff chose an odd play though, choosing to go to the Wildcat (which the Irish call the Leprecat) with second string running back Robert Hughes taking the direct snap.
Hughes faked the handoff to running back Theo Riddick and tried to slip the line of scrimmage only to be met by a human rocket in the form of senior strong safety Marcellus Bowman. Hughes came up inches short.
If not for Shinskie’s interceptions and Tate’s touchdown, the stand would be remembered as the play of the game. With the way that the game ended it will probably not be much of a discussion point in the breakdown this week.
DELEON GAUSE AND RYAN QUIGLEY HAD GREAT PERFORMANCES
Give a game ball to junior cornerback Gause. For the first time this year Gause was the primary kick returner and and on four returns Gause averaged 26.3 yards with a long of 39. That is more than six yards above the season average of 19.9 (good for 10th in the ACC). Perhaps the Eagles will employ him in that position more in the future if he is healthy.
Gause was also instrumental in holding the Fighting Irish to a field goal at the 8:58 mark in the second quarter. Clausen was looking for Tate on the goal line near the pylon on second-and-7. Clausen rifled the ball to his star receiver but Gause, who had started the play covering John Goodman, stepped in front to nearly pick off the pass and break up the play. One play, covers two men, nearly picks off Clausen and helps keep the Fighting Irish out of the end zone. Not bad.
Gause left the game late in the third quarter with an injury and was replaced by Fletcher. Would Tate have scored the winning touchdown if Gause was still in the game?
For Quigley’s part, he pinned the Irish deep in their own zone three times in the first quarter, landing punts 12, 7 and 8 yard lines. Quigley also had a great punt from his own end zone (after Boston College went three-and-out after the goal line stand) as he boomed a 53 yard kick past mid-field to put Notre Dame back further than they had hoped to start its next series.
|Notre Dame Preview: Charlie Weis And His Heisman Hopeful||10.22.09 at 8:51 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — Willie Nelson should be commissioned to sing “On The Road Again” as the theme song for Boston College’s trip to Notre Dame this Saturday.
The Eagles’ road woes have been well documented. They have laid eggs in the homes of both the Clemson Tigers and Virginia Tech. In both instances, they got caught in the quicksand early and were unable to climb out of the muck. Death Valley and Lane Stadium are some of the most notorious venues in the country for opposing teams, but this week’s trip to South Bend — “the mother of all stadiums,” according to senior linebacker Mike McLaughlin — is another matter entirely.
Boston College and Notre Dame are similar schools, on and off the field. Both are private Catholic institutions and have storied football traditions and excellent academic reputations. Players on both sides have family and friends who attended the other school and a significant rivalry exists between the two universities. At the same time, Boston College cannot shake the notion that Notre Dame views it as more of a little sibling rather than an equal.
“There will always be a chip on our shoulder considering how some people who go to Notre Dame feel that BC is [its] little brother school,” defensive end Alex Albright said. “I am definitely going to take the mentality that they think we are lesser. That is another reason to play hard . . . I feel the team treats us as a good team but the overall school does not feel the same way.”
The rivalry has come to a balance point. The all-time series is 9-9 (though Boston College has won the last six matchups to make it so). This year both teams have two losses and are separated by five votes in the latest USA Today/Coaches poll (Notre Dame has 31 votes, Boston College 26 — the two highest vote totals for teams not in the Top 25). Boston College is a good running team while the Fighting Irish are a great passing team.
The challenge for any team that has faced Notre Dame since former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis took over the program is how to contain its passing game. Weis first had Brady Quinn and turned him into the career leader in just about every one of the Fighting Irish passing categories. Now Weis has Jimmy Clausen on the same path. Clausen is a legitimate Heisman candidate. He is second in the nation in passing efficiency at 166.35 and ninth in total yards at 292.5 a game. Weiss has put weapons around Clausen that make the offense dangerous, such as wide receiver Golden Tate (fifth in the nation in receiving yards at 119.83 per game), receiver Michael Floyd (five touchdown catches) and tight end Kyle Rudolph (24 catches, 3 touchdowns).
“This guy is the real deal, it is not a mistake that he is up for the Heisman,” McLaughlin said. “He has the best weapons we faced all year with the tight end Rudolph and the wide receivers, Golden Tate . . . As far as an offense, it is scary to say it, but this is the best we are going to face.”
No description of a Boston College opponent is complete without McLaughlin saying, “He is a big time college quarterback, no doubt about that.”
He said that about Riley Skinner (Wake Forest), Russell Wilson (NC State), Christian Ponder (Florida State), Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech) and now Clausen. While it is true that all of them are good college quarterbacks (Skinner and Ponder are right behind in passing yards), Clausen is just a step better. Considering the march of quality arms listed above, that is saying something.
“Every quarterback is going to be an issue along the way. Clausen is our focus this week, Notre Dame is the only issue at hand. Yeah, it is a daunting task but it is any time you play a team like Notre Dame on the road,” junior free safety Wes Davis said.
For Weis, it almost seems that he searches for quarterbacks to mold into his own college version of Tom Brady. Clausen is third on the Notre Dame career list in passing attempts with 876 (behind Quinn and Ron Powlus), fourth in passing yards (Quinn, Powlus, Steve Beuelein) and should finish his Fighting Irish career second to Quinn in just about every category.
“I think they run the right offense for [Clausen],” Albright said. “He does a good job of getting it to all his receivers and when a quarterback like that has a lot of weapons, they are going to make him look good . . . We have definitely seen Jimmy Clausen progress the last few years.”
On defense Notre Dame is an aggressive, blitzing team. They try to penetrate the backfield by bringing linebackers in on the blitz through its 3-4 scheme, especially sophomore Darius Flemming from the strong side. Flemming is 12th in the nation in tackles for losses (second among linebackers) and is the epitome of the Fighting Irish’s defense.
“Good defense,” Montel Harris said. “I see a lot of aggressiveness on defense. When a defense is aggressive it helps out the running game as well as the passing game, so we should be able to switch it up on them.”
Notre Dame is 31st in the country in scoring defense and 63rd in rushing defense. The Eagles’ hope is that they can get Harris on track the way that they did against NC State last week, when the running back set school records with 264 yards and five touchdowns. Even half of those totals (perhaps 130 yards and 2 touchdowns) would mean that Boston College has put behind its road woes and came to play.
The key for the Eagles offense will be to get going early. In both the Clemson and Virginia Tech games, the offensive output in the first half was nonexistent, both times heading to the locker room with nearly zero yards.
“We just have to get first downs,” sophomore Colin Larmond Jr. said. “Once we get first downs everyone settles down. If you keep going three-and-out from the start it is kind of rough because everyone is getting the jitters and the defense is going out quickly. So, if we can get a first down everyone relaxes. The quarterbacks get comfortable, the running backs, everyone just eases off on the stress when we get our first first down.”
Boston College is looking for its sixth win of the year, which would make them bowl eligible. That, along with the prospect of building on the six-game winning streak against Notre Dame, offers the Eagles plenty of incentive. No player on this B.C. squad has ever lost to Notre Dame and the veterans would like to keep it that way.
“I am sure they hope they can get back at us this year, but it’s not happening,” senior defensive end Jim Ramella said.
Join Meter, Chach, and Rowinski on the BC Blog at noon this Friday, Oct. 23, for a live chat about Boston College football, Notre Dame and the state of gridiron affairs on the Heights. Click here to join the conversation — see you there!