2010 Boston College Football Notes
January 12, 2011
A season that had its ups and downs ended on a sour note as the Eagles lost 20-13 to the Nevada Wolf Pack in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The Hunger Bowl was eerily similar to so many BC games we've seen this year -- great defense, anemic offense and a solid kicking game. The wild card in this game was a punt coverage blunder in the first quarter that ended up being the difference in the game. Let's start with the good news. The BC defense held one of the top offenses in college football to 13 points and 306 total yards (Nevada averages 42 and 535, respectively). The Nevada offense did next to nothing late in the game despite the fact that the Eagle defense was on the field for 35 minutes. Nate Freese nailed both of his field goals to finish his freshman season 22 for 25. As for the offense, this was one of the poorest efforts this season. I expected the several weeks of practice to help the offense but that didn't seem to be the case. I thought Chase Rettig made some good throws early but the receivers dropped several passes. Rettig appeared frustrated and was not sharp in the second half. Of course it didn't help that BC hadn't played a game in 43 days. The play calling in the first half was the kind that I would expect from a team trying to run out the clock ahead by ten points with four minutes left in the game. After a great TD run early, Andre Williams was not a factor. The great run blocking we had seen in the past few games just wasn't there. It's unfortunate because this was a game that BC absolutely could have won.
Looking ahead ... There is certainly reason to be optimistic. The BC defense was arguably one of the ten best in the country (statistically, they were 13th). Seven defensive starters will return next season and the new recruiting class is loaded with defensive talent. The BC offense was among the weakest in the nation this season but they were extraordinarily young. The quarterback, running back and top receiver in the Hunger Bowl were all true freshmen. Five of the top six receivers/tight ends were freshman and sophomores. That doesn't include Shakim Phillips who caught only one pass this season but was one of BC's top recruits last year. Also, don't forget that Colin Larmond Jr will be returning from injury (596 yards and 5 TDs as a sophomore in 2009). Montel Harris will also be back, giving the Eagles a great tandem of running backs who each bring different skills to the table. Costanzo, Claiborne and Lapham will move on but there seems to be a enough talent and experience on the line to ensure a smooth transition. The key will of course be Rettig. He seems to have the talent and toughness to succeed. A fresh start with a new offensive coordinator and another year of experience should help tremendously. I have little doubt that the offense will improve. The question is how much? With this many unproven players you just never know. I feel good about the kicking game with Freese and Quigley. The Eagles certainly need to find a guy who can make some plays on kick and punt returns. They ranked 118th and 104th in those categories this season. Bottom line: I am cautiously optimistic that the 2011 season will be a very good one and that the future is bright.
Some of the more interesting things to come out of the bowl season:
After finishing second last season, Luke Kuechly was voted the 2010 BCEaglesFootball.com MVP. Montel Harris, who was neck and neck with Kuechly early on, finished second. Mark Herzlich was third. Herzlich may not have had the monster year that he did in 2008 but he had a great season, getting better each week. He is an inspiration to us all and I fully expect to see him playing on Sunday next season. Here are the final MVP results:
Thanks to everyone who voted in the 2010 Fan Pool. Here are the final coaching staff approval ratings.
By the way, Offensive Coordinator Gary Tranquill announced his retirement this week. Receivers coach Ryan Day appears to be the front-runner the job.
As for the rest of the questions:
Q: How do you feel about BC's move to the ACC?
1. Great Move: 43% 2. Good Move: 32% 3. Bad Move: 14% 4. Doesn't Matter Much: 9% 5. Terrible Move: 2%
75% are currently supportive of the move while only 16% are against it. Those are pretty good numbers from BC's perspective. However, when I asked this question in 2006, 95% approved of the move to the ACC and only 2% disapproved. In 2008, the numbers were 80% and 13%, respectively. This is not a scientific poll but it does seem like some folks are missing the Big East. I am extremely happy that BC is not part of Big East football but I do miss the old Big East basketball conference (pre expansion). I wouldn't want to be part of the 16 team conference they have now.
Q: Which BC team do you care about the most?
It will come as no shock that 89% picked BC football with 11% choosing hockey. Sorry, Steve Donahue. You have some work ahead of you.
Q: Which college football postseason format do you prefer?
1. Scrap the bowls and have a 16 team playoff: 54% 2. Final Four - winners of Orange, Rose, Fiesta and Sugar play on: 19% 3. Plus-one (championship game after the bowls): 16% 4. Current system (#1 vs #2 in BCS Title Game): 11%
Only 11% of you like the system the way it is and more than half just want to get rid of the bowls once and for all. Again, this is not scientific but I do think this sample is representative of college football fans in general. The BCS system just gets more ridiculous with each passing year. In 2008, 23% of you said you prefered the BCS system. Last year, that number was 19%. My playoff proposal uses the major bowl games as the quarterfinal round. I see this as a compromise between the bowl people and the fans. However, I also see the value of a 16-team tournament. The first round could be played the week after the conference title games. The quarterfinals could be played as part of a triple-header on New Year's Day with a fourth game either on December 30th or January 2nd or 3rd.
Q: The BC-Notre Dame series will continue. Is that a good thing?
94% said Yes and only 4% said No. Clearly, you want BC to keep playing the Domers. I don't think the interest in the BC-ND game is what it once was, but I do think the teams should meet on an annual basis.
Q: If Boise State goes undefeated, should they play in the BCS Championship?
I probably should have asked "If Boise or TCU goes undefeated ..." since TCU turned out to be the better team. Anyway, 56% answered either "Yes" or "Depends on who else is undefeated" as compared to 44% who said "No". There are mixed feelings about the WAC/Mountain West teams. A 16-team playoff would certainly be the best way to incorporate these conferences into the system fairly.
BC Win Totals
BC's 88 wins since 2001 puts them in a tie for 14th place among the 120 FBS (1-A) schools. Boise State (114) and Oklahoma (109) are the top two.
The Eagles have now been in the ACC for six years. During that time, they have the second best overall record and the third best conference record.
ACC team records since 2005
Note: only regular season conference games are included in the conference record column
This is my last set of notes for the 2010 season. I will post the 2011 schedule when it is released (please don't ask me when it's coming out). I will also Tweet occasionally between now and the start of next season. Have a great 2011.
December 14, 2010
Just a quick update this week ...
The Nevada Wolf Pack are currently a 9 1/2 point favorite to defeat the Eagles in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Here are some bowl links:
Congratulations to Luke Kuechly, who became the tenth Consensus First-Team All-American in BC football history. The others are Luke Urban (1920), Gene Goodreault (1940), Mike Holovak (1942), Doug Flutie and Tony Thurman (1984), Mike Ruth (1985), Pete Mitchell (1994), Mike Cloud (1998) and Jamie Silva (2007). Anthony Castonzo was a third team All-America selection.
BC football remained near the top of the GSR (Graduation Success Rate) rankings. BC was one of six FBS (formerly Division 1-A) schools with a score of 90 or better. The others were: Notre Dame, Duke, Northwestern, Rice and Navy. Here's the LINK.
StadiumJourney.com reviewed Alumni Stadium. Here's the LINK. Sadly, it's hard to disagree with the poor rating. I've offered the webmaster better pictures. The stands look very empty even by Alumni Stadium standards.
December 9, 2010
It's official, the Eagles will be bowling in San Francisco for the second year in a row and the third time in eight seasons. BC will take on 12-1 Nevada in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on January 9th. It will be an interesting matchup, featuring strength against strength. Nevada ranks third in the nation in rushing while BC leads the country in run defense. It's also weakness against weakness as BC's 93rd ranked passing attack will face Nevada's 106th ranked pass defense. The challenge for the BC defense, which has given up little this season to opposing running backs, comes in the form of a 6'6", 225 pound dual threat quarterback who has passed for 2,830 yards and 20 touchdowns and has run for 1,184 yards and 20 touchdowns. Nevada Senior QB Colin Kaepernick has accumulated an astounding 13,996 yards and 140 touchdowns (combined passing and rushing) in his career. Senior running back Vai Taua has rushed for more than 1,500 yards this season with 19 touchdowns. Given those numbers, it's surprising that the Wolf Pack is only averaging 42.6 points per game. The Nevada defense ranks 65th in yardage allowed but 36th in scoring defense.
There was a lot of talk about various bowl destinations but in the end, all eight ACC-designated bowls passed on BC. Obviously, this was no shock. However, beggars can't be choosers and given where the Eagles were in late October, the fact that they are going to a bowl is good enough for me. The negatives: (1) BC is going to the same bowl destination for the second year in a row. This will undoubtedly depress ticket sales for BC and give the bowl games another excuse for bypassing them. (2) Nevada presents one of the ACC's toughest bowl matchups so the odds of ending the season on a six game winning streak have diminished. The positives: (1) The January 9th game date means the players will have an extra week or so of practice time which is a great benefit to the many freshman. (2) A win over a team like Nevada would be huge confidence-builder heading into the 2011 season.
The BCS, which has been an embarrassment to sports for more than a decade, really went the extra mile this season with UConn grabbing a BCS spot. The 8-4 Huskies are not even in the BCS Top 25 but they clinched the Big East and the automatic BCS spot with a zero offensive touchdown masterpiece over South Florida on Saturday. Well done, BCS. On that note, I've put together a quick list of the biggest BCS embarrassments since the atrocious system was put in place in 1998.
By the way, my 2010 NCAA Playoff Proposal has been updated.
November 28, 2010
We can add Andre Williams to the list of freshman who have made big contributions during the five game winning streak. Williams rushed for 185 yards on 42 carries on Saturday and scored BC's only touchdown. Plenty of credit goes to the offensive line as well. They opened some big holes, frequently enabling Williams to get 2-3 yards before any serious contact. The freshman back did the rest, often driving defenders backwards. There were some no gain rushes, but for the most part the running game did exactly what was needed. They moved the chains and kept the Syracuse defense on the field. BC won the time of possession battle 37-23.
Chase Rettig's performance was very similar to what we've seen the past several weeks. During the five game winning streak, he's completed between 9 and 12 passes (with a 50% and 58% completion percentage in four of those games). He's passed for between 110 and 152 yards in each victory with the exception of Duke (230 yards). He's thrown a total of four TD passes and five interceptions in the wins. He continues to make excellent throws on the rollout. For the most part, his long passes have been on target or slightly overthrown (better than underthrown). He's not turning the ball over (his interception on Saturday was a long pass on third down which pinned the Orange deep in their own territory). All things considered, I am happy with the progress. The same goes for the receivers. Amidon dropped a perfect Rettig pass that may have gone for a TD but he also made a clutch catch on a tipped ball on the first drive. Pantale dropped a would-be touchdown but bounced back later with a big catch and run that set up the Williams TD. McCluskey was great as well.
I'm still not thrilled with the offensive play calling. Apparently, the game plan was to run Williams as much as possible and in the end, it worked. However, it could have easily backfired had BC been tied or behind late in the game. Williams battled right up to his 42nd carry but he was obviously fatigued (and who wouldn't be?) on the last drive. On a big play in any football game, you don't want to have to give the ball to a back who has already carried the ball 35 or 40 times. This is the fifth time since last November that a BC back has carried the ball 36 or more times in a game. Granted, injuries and transfers have a lot to do with this but it still should not happen with such regularity. Obviously, the burden on Williams could have been mitigated with more passing plays. I've been saying for weeks that Rettig needs the opportunity to throw more passes. If he throws more passes on first and second down, his completion percentage should start to rise. BC ran the ball on 22 of 27 first down plays on Saturday. I was infuritated with all of the running plays on 2nd and 1 and 2nd and 2 (it happened three times and each time a running play was called). Yes, it's important to move the chains but why not take a shot downfield on second and short? The good offenses take advantage of those situations. The way Williams was running, there was a high probability of converting on 3rd and short anyway. I'd like to see the coaching staff show greater trust in their quarterback. He's going to make some mistakes but that's part of the learning process.
Thanks to an interesting site, cfbstats.com, I was able to find out that Chase Rettig has completed 66% of his first down passes with a QB rating of 174. On second down he's completed 57% (QB rating: 111) and on third down he's completed just 43% (QB rating: 82). It's true that most quarterbacks are going to have a higher completion percentage and QB rating on first down than third down but the gap in Rettig's numbers is wider than most. Only 25% of Rettig's passes this season have come on first down as compared to 36% for the entire ACC. BC runs the ball 73% of the time on first down (63% for the ACC). Georgia Tech runs the ball on first down more often than BC and Virginia Tech runs on first down nearly as often as the Eagles but those teams have running quarterbacks so their run/pass numbers are predictably higher. I like the fact that BC is a running team and it should stay that way next season but a strong running game should set up the pass.
Saturday was another solid defensive effort with Mark Herzlich sealing another win with an interception. The Eagles allowed a five first down, 80 yard touchdown drive to start the second half. Take away that drive and the numbers are exceptional: 0 points, 148 total yards, eight first downs. BC has now allowed just three offensive touchdowns since halftime of the Maryland game (22 quarters). Saturday's TD drive was the first of more than 60 yards during that stretch. Injuries or not, the D just keeps getting it done.
Another Freshman, Nate Freese, played a big role on Saturday. He connected on all three of his field goal attempts and has now made 20 of 23 this season. His 20 field goals are three shy of Sandro Sciortino's BC record of 23 set in 2002.
I'd say it was a disappointing season for most teams in the ACC. Obviously, things are not good in Miami where Randy Shannon was fired following a 7-5 season. North Carolina (7-5) and Georgia Tech (6-6) were in the Preseason Top 25. Virginia, Duke and Wake Forest were each 1-7 in conference play and 1-19 when they weren't playing each other (Virginia upset Miami). Needless to say, this was a disappointing year for BC despite the recent winning streak. Both Maryland and NC State bounced back following losing records a year ago to a tie for second in the ACC Atlantic so I imagine they are pleased with the 2010 season. Florida State and Virginia Tech won their divisions but I imagine that the Hokies are kicking themselves for letting the Boise State game slip away and then losing in shocking fashion to James Madison. The ACC was 6-12 this season against the other BCS automatic qualifier conferences (Big East, SEC, Big Ten, Pac Ten, Big XII) but only 2-10 if you exclude the Big East. The records are as follows: Big East 4-2, SEC 2-5, Big XII 0-2, Pac Ten 0-2, Big Ten 0-1. The ACC was 24-6 against all other non-conference foes. The Atlantic Division was 10-8 against the Coastal in the regular season.
Finally, there was a little shakeup in the bowl projections. ESPN analyst Mark Schlabach believes that BC will be headed to the Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso (Dec 31st) to take on Army while ESPN's Andrea Adelson thinks BC will play Boise State in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco (Jan 9th). Meanwhile, CBSSports.com is projecting a BC-East Carolina Military Bowl in Washington DC (Dec 29th). We will find out for sure in about a week.
November 22, 2010
The Eagles defeated Virginia on Saturday to gain bowl eligibility for the 12th consecutive year. It's now very likely that BC will be headed to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. The game will be played on January 9th (the night before the BCS Championship). Both ESPN and CBS Sports are projecting a BC-Nevada matchup. This would give the ACC nine bowl teams.
Saturday's game was similar to the previously three -- tough defense, especially in the red zone, a solid ground game and just enough plays in the passing game. Luke Kuechly was dominant as usual (ACC Player of the Week) on Saturday but BC couldn't have won without a 2007-2008 type of performance from Mark Herzlich (eight tackles, a forced fumble, an interception and a key pass breakup). It should come as no surprise to anyone that #94 was all over the field in his final game at Alumni Stadium. What an inspirational player and person.
The passing game is still sputtering. Chase Rettig completed just ten passes for 152 yards (1 TD, 1 INT) but he's making good decisions and is looking more comfortable each week. His TD to Amidon was exceptional. He overthrew his receiver by a yard or two on a couple other long passes that would have gone for touchdowns. These are throws I think he'll be completing next season. He's thrown just six INTs in the six full games he's played. That number could be better but compares favorably with the ten interceptions in five games for the Shinskie/Marscovetra combo.
BC had their best game of the season on the ground as Montel Harris and Andre Williams combined for 222 yards on 36 carries. The bad news: Harris left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on Monday and will miss the Syracuse game. Here's the report. The only positive aspect of this news is that Andre Williams will get some valuable experience on Saturday. He had a great game against Virginia. Hopefully, he can build on that.
Saturday's game at Syracuse probably won't have the slightest impact on BC's bowl situation but I still feel that it's an important game. First of all, BC and Syracuse will be playing each other a lot over the next ten years and it would be great to start the "Grand Reopening" of the rivalry with a victory. Secondly, a win on Saturday coupled with a bowl victory would give the Eagles six consecutive wins to end the season (yes, I was a math major). That would be a great prize for this young team to take into the offseason. Lastly, every game is important for the young players, especially Chase Rettig. As I've mentioned the past couple of weeks, Rettig could use a 65% completion, 250+ yard passing day to really ignite his confidence. I'm pleased with the progress but I'd love to see him put a big game under his belt before the season ends.
Syracuse and BC have been very similar teams this season. Both have very highly-ranked defenses (BC 17th, SU 6th) and low ranked offenses (BC 105th, SU 101st). Both have solid running games (Harris/Williams - 1,449 yards, SU's Carter/Bailey - 1,437 yards). Both have had shaky quarterback play. Syracuse junior QB Ryan Nassib has thrown for 1,948 yards with 17 TDs and 8 INTs overall but his numbers in Big East play (1,088 yards, 8 TDs and 6 INTs) are not quite as impressive. With two sluggish offenses, this game will likely be low scoring which of course means that turnovers and special teams will have an added importance. Another key to the game might be the pass rush. BC and Syracuse both rank among the bottom 25% in sacks allowed. The Orangemen are currently listed as a 2 1/2 point favorite despite losing to UConn 23-6 last week at home.
Friday will be a very interesting day of college football. #1 Oregon, #2 Auburn and #4 Boise State will all be in action on National TV against ranked teams. Oregon hosts #21 Arizona, Auburn visits #11 Alabama and Boise visits #19 Nevada (BC's likely bowl opponent). Friday's televised games also include the West Virginia-Pittsburgh matchup which will go a long way towards determining which woefully undeserving Big East team will grab a BCS slot. Colorado and Nebraska will meet in the "We Can't Wait to Get Out of the Big XII Bowl".
November 16, 2010
The Eagles are back at the .500 mark and in contention for a 12th consecutive bowl appearance. BC remains a long shot for one of the eight guaranteed ACC bowl slots but the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco appears to be a likely destination if the Eagles win one more game and become bowl-eligible. Both ESPN and CBS Sports are projecting a BC-Nevada Hunger Bowl which will be played January 9th (the last bowl game prior to the BCS Championship). This would be BC's third bowl trip to San Francisco in eight seasons.
As has been the case the past three weeks, the lion's share of the credit for Saturday's win goes to the defense. The Eagle defense held an excellent Duke offense to just 311 yards and no touchdowns. BC opponents have scored just one offensive touchdown in the past three and a half games (and that was a 42-yard drive). BC now has the #1 run defense in the entire country. They are 13th in total defense. Luke Kuechly grabbed ACC Player of the Week honors with 21 tackles. Another Sophomore, Max Holloway, played a second consecutive great game. He had 11 tackles, two sacks and a batted pass that sealed the victory late in the fourth quarter.
The Eagle defense didn't have any interceptions on Saturday, but remained in a tie for the national lead with 17. BC has finished among the top three teams in interceptions in three of the past four seasons. Since 2000, only Virginia Tech has picked off more passes (204) than BC (198).
Montel Harris had another solid day running the ball (109 yards on 23 carries). Unfortunately, he had two critical fumbles that kept Duke in the game. The fumbling is certainly out of character for Harris who, if I'm not mistaken, has lost just six fumbles in his career. This was the first time in four games that BC won a game in which Harris lost a fumble. Harris remains in fourth place on the all-time BC rushing list. He needs just 19 yards to move past Troy Stradford into third place and 112 to eclipse Mike Cloud, who is currently in second place. BC's leading rusher, Derrick Knight, leads Harris by 239 yards.
After a slow start on Saturday, Chase Rettig played an excellent game. The freshman QB was 0 for 5 in the first two drives but from that point on was 12 for 19 with 230 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. He was far from perfect but this was exactly the type of game one would expect from a freshman who is starting to make progress. Swigert, Amidon and Momah each had receptions of more than 35 yards. Duke's defense is atrocious so the 356 yards of total offense isn't a reason for a big celebration but it does show that the offense is progressing.
The Eagles are currently a 6 1/2 point favorite to defeat the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday. The Cavs are 4-6 following a 42-23 loss at home to Maryland. The UVa offense ranks 25th in the country in passing yards. Senior Marc Verica has thrown for nearly 2,400 yards and 14 touchdowns but he's also been intercepted 12 times. He's been picked off nine times in his last four ACC games. Virginia also runs the ball well. Sophomore Perry Jones and Senior Keith Payne are averaging 5.0 and 4.8 yards per carry, respectively. Payne has 14 rushing TDs. On the defensive side of the ball, Virginia has been a mess. ACC opponents have scored 34, 33, 44, 19, 55 and 42 points against the Cavs this season. They have given up an average of 457 yards of offense the past two weeks. Once again, this is a chance for the BC defense to show that it is one of the best units in the country. For Chase Rettig and the offense, this is an opportunity to continue to make progress against a weak defense. I was pleased that the Duke game plan allowed for Rettig to go downfield. I would love to see him throw 30 or more passes on Saturday.
As for the rest of the ACC, Virginia Tech (6-0 in the ACC) needs only a win over Miami or Virginia to clinch the ACC Coastal Division. The race is much more interesting in the Atlantic where FSU (5-2), Maryland (4-2) and NC State (4-2) are all in the mix. FSU needs to beat Maryland next week to remain in contention. Both NC State and Maryland control their own destiny as they play each other a week from Saturday.
November 7, 2010
Montel Harris and the defense led the Eagles to a second consecutive victory on Saturday. It was BC's first road win in three tries this season. The Eagles are now well-positioned to finish the season on a nice winning streak. The team seems to be making progress all the way around.
Defense -- The defense continues to get the job done despite all of the key injuries. Opposing teams have been held to less than 300 yards in three consecutive games (and less than 350 yards in seven of the last eight). The BC defense had not allowed a touchdown in nine quarters prior to the Marshall Williams to Chris Givens 41-yard TD strike in the fourth quarter yesterday. The Eagles are currently ranked third in the nation in run defense and 16th overall. Luke Kuechly has certainly established himself as one of the best defense players in the country. He leads the nation with 125 tackles. Mark Herzlich is looking more and more like the player of old. Since being torched by Russell Wilson and NC State, the pass defense has been solid. Opponent completion percentages have been dropping and the interceptions have been coming fast and furious. The Eagles and Florida Gators lead the nation with 17 interceptions. The players deserve most of the credit but our defensive coaching staff has done a fantastic job as well. It's not easy to lose players like Alex Albright and Wes Davis in the middle of the season and still get the job done.
Offense - Running Game -- What a gutsy couple of weeks for BC's junior tailback. Montel Harris has carried the 36 times in each of the past two games. He's now over 1,000 yards for the season with 632 coming in the past four weeks. What's most impressive is the way he's gained many of those yards. He is consistently dragging defenders and pushing piles for an extra 2 to 3 yards. He's also had some long gains thanks to giant holes opened up by an offensive line that is getting better despite several key injuries.
Offense - Passing Game -- The passing numbers still look awful but I've seen something the past few weeks that I hadn't seen in the past two years. Progress. Chase Rettig threw two interceptions yesterday and the second could have been very costly but he completed 12 of 16 passes, which included a couple of big plays. Saturday's game against Duke provides a great opportunity for Chase Rettig to boost his confidence. Duke's pass defense ranks 106th in the country and they are coming off a game in which they surrendered 643 total yards (417 through the air) to Virginia. I hope the coaching staff allows Rettig to throw early and often. This is critical for several reasons: (1) If Chase Rettig is going to be a solid ACC quarterback in 2011, he needs to throw more passes in 2010. He also needs a big game (let's say 250+ yards passing) to build his confidence. (2) BC's freshman receivers need more opportunites to catch the ball and take some hard hits (in other words, get over the "alligator arms") and (3) Montel Harris needs a break. He's carried the ball 72 times the past two weeks. It would be great to keep him under 20 against Duke. The offensive line is also doing a better job protecting the QB. Opponents have five sacks in the last three games (17 in the four games prior to that).
Special Teams -- Nate Freese missed his first extra point and third field goal yesterday but he nailed the game-clincher with four minutes left in the fourth quarter. His 16 for 19 in field goal attempts puts him among the nation's top kickers in field goals and accuracy. Ryan Quigley is having another great season. He's averaging 42.5 yards per punt and has pinned the opponents inside the 20 yard-line 17 times. Not much to be excited about on the kick/punt return front. BC ranks 107th in punt return average and 117th in kickoff return average (out of 120). Obviously, this is an area where BC needs to improve for next season. BC has done a good job covering punt returns. There haven't been a lot of big kick returns but BC's short kickoffs have often led to great field position for the opposition.
All things considered, the ship is moving in the right direction but there is a lot of room for improvement. If they continue to progress, they will win the next two games. Syracuse has been surprisingly competent this season so the season-ender in the Dome will likely be a tough game.
BC's bowl prospects dimmed a little over the weekend despite the victory. Clemson's win over NC State puts the Tigers just one win from bowl eligibility. Florida State, Maryland, NC State, Virginia Tech, Miami and North Carolina are now bowl eligible and will almost certainly grab six of the ACC's eight automatic bowl slots. Clemson and Georgia Tech (both 5-4) as well as BC and Virginia (both 4-5) are vying for the last two spots. Clemson would have to lose to Florida State, Wake Forest and South Carolina to fail to be bowl eligible. Georgia Tech would need to lose to Miami, Duke and Georgia. Bottom line: BC would need to win two of their last three games, hope that UVa loses two of three and get help from either Wake Forest or Duke (among others) to automatically qualify for an ACC bowl slot. That is, of course, very unlikely. BC could also take an open bowl slot (conferences often fail to have enough automatic qualifiers). Mark Blaudschun of the Boston Globe believes that the Eagles will go back to San Francisco to play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (currently a Pac Ten-WAC matchup). Believe it or not, this bowl game is scheduled for January 9th. There are actually FOUR bowl games being held between the BCS games on January 1-4 and the BCS Championship on January 10th.
November 5, 2010
After five long weeks, the Eagles got back on the winning track with a 16-10 victory over Clemson on Saturday. It looked like we were in for another long day when Chase Rettig threw a pick-six three minutes into the first quarter, but the Eagles rebounded nicely. The defense was the story once again. Clemson amassed just 262 yards of total offense in the game. The BC defense now ranks 22nd in the nation, 3rd against the run. BC's last three opponents are averaging just 265 total yards. The offense was very sharp in the first half on Saturday, which surely helped the defense. Following the interception on the first drive, the next four drives were as follows:
Montel Harris rushed for a hard-fought 142 yards on 36 carries (23 rushes for 108 yards in these four drives). Most of those yards were gained the hard way as Harris repeatedly dragged defenders for an extra 2-3 yards. This helped the Eagles win the time of possession battle, 34 to 26. Unfortunately, the offense is still having trouble putting together two solid halves of football. The following table shows the total first and second half drive yardage (including penalties) in ACC games.
Upset wins by BC and Virginia (over Miami) last weekend created a little extra bowl drama in the ACC. Florida State, Maryland, NC State and Virginia Tech are already bowl eligible. Miami, Georgia Tech and North Carolina all have five wins and will almost certainly grab one of the conference's eight automatic bowl bids. That leaves Clemson (4-4), Virginia (4-4) and BC (3-5) likely battling for the last slot. Three of Clemson's final four opponents are in the Top 25 so they could very well end up ineligible for postseason play. Virginia plays at Duke this week but ends the season with Maryland, BC and Virginia Tech. In other words, the victory over Clemson gives BC a chance to get back to a bowl game but of course it won't matter if they Eagles don't win at least three of the next four games.
* 110 yards in last two drives
Most of the problems have occurred in the second half, which shows that the opposing teams' defensive coaching staffs are winning the halftime adjustment battle. It's also a sign of a young offense. The next four games will provide a great opportunity for the offense to progress.
The difference in Saturday's game turned out to be the kickers. Nate Freese made all three of his attempts while Clemson kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed two of three. Freese is now 15 for 17 this season. He's tied for sixth in the nation with 15 field goals and has the third highest field goal percentage among kickers with 15 or more attempts.
BC is currently listed as a three-point favorite to beat Wake Forest.
Check out the latest college sports blog at Boston.com for a BC injury update.
October 27, 2010
Saturday's loss to Maryland was the most frustrating of the season. The BC defense held Maryland to 222 total yards of offense, Montel Harris rushed for 116 yards and the Eagles got seven free points on a lucky touchdown on a tipped ball, yet they still managed to lose to a weak opponent at home. To make matters worse, Wes Davis was carted away after a scary neck injury (thankfully, he's okay) and Alex Albright was lost for the season. Though the Eagles blew their chances on Saturday and deserved to lose, the bizarre spotting of the football by the officials didn't help. It's been a Murphy's Law season (deflected touchdown aside) for the Eagles. Hopefully, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
It was a mixed bag for Chase Rettig on Saturday -- some good plays and some bad ones. He appears to be getting more comfortable as the season moves along. He's shown some of the QB instincts that we have not seen the past couple of seasons. His biggest problem has been execution as evidenced by the bad passes on the slant routes. I have little doubt that he is going to get better. Though it is disappointing to burn a year of Rettig's eligibility on a miserable season, I think it will benefit the program in the long run. Chase will have eight starts under his belt when he begins next season as a sophomore. Over the next five games, he'll be able to build a rapport with the other young receivers such as Swigert, Coleman, Amidon, Phillips and Lee (all are freshman except for Lee). Pantale is a sophomore and Larmond will have two more seasons of eligibility. In other words, the offensive future could be very bright.
The defense continues to play well. If the offense had been even mediocre this season, BC would be 5-2. BC is ranked 22nd in the nation in total defense and 4th in run defense (opponents are averaging only 2.6 yards per carry) despite an offense that rarely sustains a drive for more than six plays. The injuries are starting to pile up so we'll see if they can keep it up. Luke Kuechly continues to lead the nation in tackles. He's putting up ridiculous numbers.
Obviously, Clemson is going to be a tough matchup for the Eagles but they are far from unbeatable. The Tigers rank 73rd in the nation in total offense and 51st in total defense. Andre Ellington torched Georgia Tech for 166 rushing yards last week. Ellington against the highly-ranked BC run defense will be the key matchup and the one that the Eagles will have to win to keep this game within striking distance. Clemson is currently listed as a seven point favorite.
I've posted the 2010 BC Fan Poll. Here are the questions (link below):
1. Do you approve of the job that Coach Spaziani is doing at BC?
2. How do you feel about BC's move to the ACC?
3. Which BC sports team do you care about the most?
4. Which college football postseason format do you prefer?
5. The BC-Notre Dame series will continue. Is that a good thing?
6. Do you approve of the job Coach Tranquill is doing with the offense?
7. Do you approve of the job Coach McGovern is doing with the defense?
8. If Boise State goes undefeated, should they play in the BCS Championship?
October 20, 2010
The Eagles are now riding a four-game losing streak (after not losing more than two in a row for 13 years) but last week's effort was clearly a step in the right direction. The defense played an outstanding game. They forced four turnovers and held the FSU offense (which was averaging 36 points per game) to 311 total yards. That yardage is deceptively high because 143 of the yards came on FSU's final drives of each half (the seventh drive in each case). It was a fairly hot day and the Eagles seemed to wear down at the end of each half. Also, had the offense done a better job sustaining drives, FSU would not have had those possessions at the end of the half. I would also put an asterisk next to the first Florida State touchdown which resulted from a fluke play on a deflected pass. If you take away the last drives of the half and the 32 yards resulting from the fluke play, FSU had only 150 yards of offense. All told, FSU failed to get a first down on 8 of 14 drives (and 8 of the first 11). This was the defensive effort we have been waiting for.
Once again the offense struggled. Montel Harris' final numbers were amazing: 26 carries for 191 yards (7.3 per carry). Unfortunately, 139 of those yards came on the first two drives of the game. Harris' rushed 20 times for only 52 yards (2.6 per carry) after that. The FSU defense adjusted. Our coaching staff did not. Chase Rettig completed just 9 of 24 for 95 yards but the good news is that he did not turn the ball over. I didn't see the wild throws into triple coverage that we've seen far too much of the past two or three seasons. The biggest disappointment from the offense was the failure to put the ball in the endzone on either of the first two drives. Not only could those extra 4-8 points have been the difference in the outcome, but it would have been a nice confidence-builder for Rettig. The BC offense has only reached the endzone three times (one in "garbage time") in four games.
Hats off to Nate Freese. He is now 12 for 14 on field goal attempts and is filling the shoes of Steve Aponavicius nicely. Freese nailed a 49-yarder against Notre Dame so appears to have distance and accuracy.
The key play of the game was obviously the 42-yard reverse to Bert Reed with just under 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Eagles had just taken the lead and gained additional momentum on a huge hit for a loss by Donnie Fletcher. Had BC forced a punt on that drive, I think they had a chance to grind out a win. But that's what often happens when you play a team with that kind of speed. Fisher chose the perfect time to use the reverse and BC didn't react to it in time. The second biggest play of the game, in my opinion, was the Christian Ponder deflected pass on third down that miraculously would up in the hands of an FSU receiver. The next play was a 23 yard run and Noles scored their first points on a TD three plays later. On the previous play, BC was offside on a 3rd and 10, setting up a 3rd and 5. The deflected pass went for 7 yards. This series of plays was a microcosm for this season: a silly penalty, followed by bad luck, followed by a bad play (23 yard run).
Saturday was a tough loss but I feel a whole lot better than I did a week ago, mainly because the defense that I thought would carry the team to a decent season returned to form. He didn't accomplish very much on Saturday, but I already feel more confident with Chase Rettig behind center. The rough part of the schedule is behind BC. BC could be favored in five of the next six games (Maryland, Wake, Duke, Virginia and Syracuse). None of those teams are very good. Clemson in two weeks will be a tough matchup but if the Eagles can gain some confidence against Maryland, who knows.
Saturday's game is essentially an elimination game as far BC's bowl hopes are concerned. The ACC is locked into eight bowl games. If we make the reasonable assumption that FSU, VA Tech, GA Tech, Miami, UNC, NC State and Clemson grab seven of those slots, that leaves Maryland, BC, Wake, Virginia and Duke to fight over what would probably be the Eagle Bank Bowl. Wake, Virginia and Duke appear to be headed for bowl ineligibility which leaves BC and Maryland. We know that BC will never get an available bowl slot unless the bowl is forced to take them. That leaves two possibilities: (1) win two more games than other bowl-eligible ACC teams or (2) be the last of eight bowl-eligible ACC schools. Since it is unlikely that BC will run the table and finish 8-4, the second scenario is more likely. If BC wins this weekend, they would be 3-4 with a very good shot at 7-5. Maryland would be 4-3 and would have to lose four of their remaining five games to be ineligible for a bowl game. So, BC could win this weekend and finish 7-5 and still not go bowling but they have virtually no chance to get one of the ACC slots if they lose to Maryland. The other possibility would be to grab an open slot vacated by a conference that fails to have enough bowl-eligible teams to fill their automatic slots. It is way too early to speculate about that.
I was in attendance for the game last weekend in Tallahassee. I had a great time. Thank you to the people of Tallahassee for their kindness. Several people welcomed me to Tallahassee on the way in and wished me safe travels on the way out. One of those nice people was none other than Bobby Bowden (he was on my connecting flight from Atlanta to Tallahassee). He chatted with fans and posed for several pictures. Anyway, I would recommend the trip to any BC fan or football fan in general. A little advice: try very hard not to check a bag on the plane and book your hotel rooms early.
Here are a few Game Day Pictures. I took an iPhone pic of Coach Bowden but unfortuntely it came out blurry. I guess I need to clean that tiny lens.
October 14, 2010
Things have gone from bad to worse for Boston College football. Three weeks ago, a series of self-inflicted wounds turned a winnable game against Virginia Tech into a 19-0 loss. Two weeks ago, BC essentially surrended the game in the first quarter against Notre Dame but the defensive effort in the final three quarters left some room for hope. Last weekend, however, was a drubbing of major proportion. NC State destroyed BC in every area - offense, defense, special teams and coaching. I'm guessing that the mascot was even depressed. Once again, the Eagles fell behind by double-digits very early. They flirted with a touchdown early in the second quarter (settling for a FG) but once NC State got the ball back, the rout was on. Russell Wilson, NC State's exceptional Junior quarterback, completed 38 of 51 passes for well over 300 yards. Meanwhile, BC starter Dave Shinskie started the game 4 for 18. NC State had more than twice as many first downs and outgained the Eagles by 150 total yards but anyone who watched the game knows those numbers are deceptively positive for the Eagles.
The Eagles have now lost three consecutive games for the first time since the miserable 1998 season (they lost six in a row that year). In 1999, the Eagles began the current streak of eleven consecutive bowl appearances. Clearly, that streak is now in serious jeopardy. Needless to say, this is the lowest point for BC football in more than a decade. What's disturbing to me is not the losses but the way they have lost. They are getting blown out and playing lousy football in almost all areas. The BC teams of 1999 to 2009 lost between 3 and 5 games in each season (averaging exactly 4). More than a third of those losses (36%) were by 7 points or less. About a third of the losses were by more than 14 points. In other words, the Eagles were winning a solid number of games and being competitive in many of the losses. In fact, in the Peterson/Ryan years of 2004-2007, the Eagles lost just 12 games with 7 of those losses by 7 points or less. Those years were frustrating because the Eagles were missing great opportunities to go to BCS bowls but that's a whole other story. The other disappointing part of this season has been the way the team has responded following losses. Between 1999 and 2009, the Eagles were 35-7 in games following a loss. The key to last season's surprising 8-4 regular season was the 4-0 record following losses.
There are a lot of disgruntled BC fans (and rightfully so) and there seems to be a debate about where the blame lies. Some point the finger at Jeff Jagodzinski for his poor recruiting and leaving the program in disarray. Others think Coach Spaziani and the coaching staff are the problem. Some would say the poor quarterback play creates a domino effect (weak passing game allows the defense to key on the running game and the short drives mean the defense will be more fatigued). One could even argue that the law of averages is catching up with BC and a bad season had to eventually arrive. It's probably a combination of all of the above but I think the lion's share of the problem is the quarterback position (which is largely a product of poor recruiting, an unimaginative offensive gameplan and a disappointing offensive line). I feel bad for Dave Shinskie. He just doesn't have what it takes to play at this level, but the coaching staff just keeps putting him out there. I was shocked to see him start the game against NC State and even more shocked to see him return to the field drive after drive. To be fair to Shinskie, the QB position has been a problem even since Matt Ryan graduated. Here is the average season for BC starting quarterbacks between 2004 and 2007 (Peterson, Ryan and a few games from Porter).
61.5% completion percentage, 20 TD, 13 INT, 7.0 yards/attempt, 130 QB rating
Now compare that to the average numbers for 2008-2010 (Crane, Davis, Tuggle, Shinskie, Marscovetra and 10 passes from Rettig).
51.3% completion percentage, 19 TD, 20 INT, 6.3 yards/attempt, 110 QB rating
What jumps out most is the completion percentage. Yards per completion and TD passes aren't very different but the efficiency isn't there. It's hard to pick up first downs when your completion percentage is that low. Shinskie is completing only 48% of his passes this season. I have not been overly impressed with Marscovetra but he has completed 59% of his passes going back to last season. Then there are the interceptions. In the 2004-2007 period, only 1 in 36 BC passes were intercepted. That ratio has dropped to 1 in 21 since 2008 and is 1 in 16 this season. I hate to see so much pressure put on a true Freshman but BC needs Rettig on the field right now. There is no guarantee that he is the answer, but he's obviously the best hope for the near and more distant future.
According to the Boston Globe, Rettig is expected to start. Shinskie is out with a concussion.
As for Saturday's game, I don't really want to make a prediction because if I did, it might sound something like THIS.
October 7, 2010
Well folks, there's no way to sugarcoat it. The last two weeks have been brutal. The Eagles have lost consecutive home games to their two chief rivals by a combined score of 50-13. One of the few highlights was Chase Rettig's 58 yard touchdown pass to Bobby Swigert on Saturday. The momentum was short-lived, however, as Rettig left the game with an ankle injury on the very next drive. Here are some of the BC stats from the past two games (combined):
Those are awful numbers no matter who you are playing, but these were home games against opponents who came in with records of 1-2 and 1-3, respectively. The blame obviously goes to the offense for the VA Tech loss but the defense was probably more responsible for last week's loss. The defense certainly played well enough to win against Virginia Tech but gave up three touchdowns in the first four drives against Notre Dame (ND: 24 plays for 194 yards of total offense in the first quarter). Notre Dame averaged just over two yards per play the rest of the way (nine of the next ten ND drives were turnovers or three-and-outs) but the damage had already been done.
Last week's game against Notre Dame was just the latest example of a BC team giving up a lot of early points at home. I went back to 2004, looking for big first quarter (sometimes early first quarter) deficits at home. I knew there would be a lot of examples but this following list is stunning:
All told, BC played 24 home games against conference opponents/Notre Dame between that fateful Syracuse game in 2004 and last week. In nine of those games, BC trailed by 10 or more points in the first quarter! It's hard to believe that a team with as many wins as BC could so frequently fall behind by large margins in the first quarter at home. This problem spans three different coaching staffs. What might be the most amazing thing about the list above is the fact that BC won four of these nine games. But maybe this isn't so surprising considering that three of those four wins came with Matt Ryan at the helm. Clearly, this year's offense is not likely to erase a 10+ point deficit.
So, will this be a lost season? Not necessarily. With the exception of the first quarter meltdown against Notre Dame, the defense has been decent the past three games. Having said that, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech played much of the game the past two weeks with a big lead so we won't know exactly how good this BC defense is until they are tested in a close ACC game. I suspect that they will play more like the team we saw in the final three quarters on Saturday, not the one that was decimated in the first quarter. The kicking game has been good. Nate Freese looks like the real deal. Obviously, the offense is not getting it done but Bobby Swigert is showing great promise in the early going. The young receivers will get better and the pass drops will decrease. The biggest surprise to me (and I'm sure most people) is the poor play of the offensive line. I know they are better than what we have witnessed the past two weeks.
I'm happy that the Eagles are on the road the next two weeks. Hopefully, the road trip will make them more focused and relieve them of the extra stress that comes with playing at home in the midst of a losing streak. Needless to say, a good first quarter on Saturday is crucial. I'd love to see how this team performs with a lead. Unfortunately, we haven't seen one of those since the Kent State game.
Chase Rettig was back at practice yesterday. The good news: it looks like his injury is not as serious as some originally thought. The bad news: his status for Saturday is unknown. Mark Herzlich broke some bones in his hand but is expected to play against NC State. The Boston Globe has an article with information about the injuries.
September 19, 2010
The Eagles are off to a 2-0 start for the fifth time in six years. Though the Weber State and Kent State contests were never really in jeopardy beyond the third quarter, it is a bit concerning that the Eagles failed to dominate those first two opponents. In 2008, BC defeated their first two non-conference opponents (Kent State in Week 1 and Central Florida in Week 3) by a combined score of 55-7. Last season, the Eagles defeated Northeastern and Kent State in Weeks 1 and 2 by a combined score of 88-7. This season, the wins over Weber and Kent were by a combined score of 64-31. Of course, a win is a win. Just ask Virginia Tech.
There was more good news than bad in the first two games. Freshman Johnathan Coleman is off to a good start (7 catches for 150 yards). After a poor performance against Weber State, the defense bounced back against Kent State, surrendering only 205 total yards. The kicking game has been a bright spot through two weeks. Kicker Nate Freese has hit all five of his field goal attempts (albeit none have been longer than 33 yards) and Punter Ryan Quigley has one of the nation's best punting averages at 46.6 yards per kick. The fact that Mark Herzlich is back on the field is of course the best news of all.
It may have been a less than optimal start for BC, but it's been a downright awful start for the ACC across the board. Five ACC teams where ranked in the preseason Top 25. Four of those five were bounced from the rankings in the first two weeks (only Miami remains). Those five teams went a combined 0-5 against non-conference foes from the other BCS conference schools plus Boise State. What's worse, Virginia Tech lost to James Madison after a tough loss the previous Monday night to Boise State. All told, the ACC is 0-9 against ranked opponents this season. Five of those losses were by double-digits and three were by 30 points or more. To be fair, only one of those nine was a home game for the ACC and that was Duke hosting #1 Alabama. But any way you cut it, this has been a humiliating three weeks for the ACC.
I don't really know what to expect on Saturday in the ACC opener. Obviously, Virginia Tech is not the Top Ten caliber team that most of the so-called experts thought they were. However, they put things together in the second half against East Carolina after about seven bad quarters of football going back to the end of the Boise State game. Standout running back Ryan Williams, who rushed for 159 yards last season against BC, left Saturday's game with a hamstring injury and is "day-to-day" as of last check. This isn't necessarily bad news for the Hokies since David Wilson (7.1 yards per carry), Darren Evans (6.4 ypc) and QB Tyrod Taylor (5.0 ypc) have been running the ball better than Williams (3.0 ypc) this season. As usual, Taylor hasn't been throwing the ball a lot but he's been accurate and efficient (61% completion rate, 5 TD, 1 INT) when he does. The Hokies have been far from dominant on defense. East Carolina gained 361 total yards (most in the first half) and James Madison was able to control the ball for 28 minutes in the game two weeks ago. The bottom line -- neither team has been sharp in the early season and neither has established an identity. There is no outcome on Saturday (close game or blowout one way or the other) that would surprise me.