Wednesday, January 15, 2014
2013 Season Wrap-up
For a brief time, I had visions of a 9-4 season dancing in my head. The Eagles were ten seconds from finishing the regular season with an 8-4 record but Syracuse's last second victory ruined those hopes. Then the Eagles were destroyed by Arizona in the Advocare V100 Bowl. It was a disappointing and embarrassing end to a pretty successful season. The Eagles increased their win total from two to seven and played tough games against BCS champion Florida State and Orange Bowl champion Clemson. 7-6 is nothing to brag about but after dropping to 2-10, finishing above the .500 mark is a nice accomplishment. What is worth bragging about is the season of Andre Williams who rushed for 2,117 yards and won the 2013 Doak Walker Award as the nation's best running back. Nate Freese also had a great senior season. He converted on all 20 of his field goal attempts (38/40 the last two years).
Improving from two wins to seven wins was not an easy task but continuing to improve might be even more difficult considering that BC will lose its starting quarterback along with the school's all-time leading rusher, receiver and kicker. The Eagles are also losing their starting left tackle, right tackle and four best defensive players. I hate to say it, but matching this season's seven wins might be a reasonable target for 2014.
Most of the attention in the offseason will of course be on the quarterback position. Chase Rettig's backup Josh Bordner, who will be a senior, has thrown just eight passes in three seasons. He's far from a lock to win the job. Florida transfer Tyler Murphy will have a shot. He started six games for the Gators last season, going 2-4. He completed 60.5% of his passes for 1,216 yards, 6 TDs and 5 INTs. In his final game against Vanderbilt, he passed for 305 yards but threw three interceptions. 2014 recruit Darius Wade from Delaware ranked 23rd on the Rivals.com list of dual-threat (running and passing) quarterbacks. Interestingly, freshman James Walsh from Ohio ranked 22nd on the 2013 dual-threat QB list. It's possible that Wade or Walsh could be in the mix if Bordner and Murphy fail to impress Coach Addazio and the coaching staff. It will be an interesting battle.
I am now officially closing the MVP and coaching approval rating polls. It comes as no surprise that Andre Williams was your choice for 2013 Boston College Football MVP. Andre grabbed 78% of the vote with Nate Freese picking up 17%. Andre's 78% is the second highest percentage since I started doing MVP polling in 2005. Luke Kuechly earned 90% in 2011. Steve Addazio's approval rating is a lofty 86% with Don Brown at 77% and Ryan Day at 53%. It will be interesting to see how those numbers move next season now that the new bar has been set at seven wins.
The 2014 football schedule will, presumably, be announced sometime in February. It's been announced in late February the past two years but I've seen it in early February in the past. We do know this: BC will host Clemson, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Syracuse in the ACC. Their ACC road games are: Florida State, NC State, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. They will also host USC and Colorado State and open the season with UMass at Foxboro Stadium. Maine is expected to be the other non-conference home game. I will post the new schedule when it's released.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
It was struggle in many ways but the BC Eagles came away with an important and dramatic victory over the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday. It was dramatic for obvious reasons. It was important for three key reasons. First, this was just BC's second road win since the start of last season and the first with some legitimacy (sorry, New Mexico State). The program needed a big road win. Second, BC won the game with a drive in the final two minutes. This hadn't happened since last year's Maryland game in Chestnut Hill. Yesterday's victory required huge plays from the offense, defense and special teams in a pressure-packed situation. That's a big step. Lastly, this is important for the simple fact that it guaranteed a winning record. At worst, BC will end up 7-6 and they now have a good chance to finish, dare I say it, 9-4. This season has already been a success, but 9-4 (with a tight game against Florida State) would be amazing after the 2-10 debacle.
If the voters are unbiased (not carrying water for the "glitzy" teams), both Andre Williams and Nate Freese will be First Team All-Americans. Williams is a lock. Hopefully, Freese locked it up with his 52-yard game winning field goal. The fact that Freese hasn't attempted a lot of long field goals could have been held against him. With that one kick, he proved he can hit for long distance as well.
Williams became the 16th player in NCAA history (what is now called FBS and was once called Division 1-A) to reach the 2,000 yard plateau. He has now rushed for a mindboggling 1,135 yards in his last five games. Williams is 555 yards shy of Barry Sanders' all-time record of 2,628 rushing yards set in 1988. To set that record, Andre would need to be even more spectacular than he's been in the past five weeks. However, Williams needs only 270 yards to pass Marcus Allen (and a dozen other players) and achieve the third highest single season rushing total of all-time. UCF's Kevin Smith rushed for 2,567 in 2007. Williams should get serious consideration for the Heisman but he won't for three reasons: (1) BC is not a marquee program (2) The Heisman is part "Player of the Year" and part "MVP" and MVP typically requires a championship contending team (3) The Heisman is much about building hype and that doesn't happen when people don't start to know your name until November. It's unfortunate that the notoriety is lacking because Williams is having one of the greatest seasons in college football history.
As for Freese, he's now 17 for 17 this season and 35 of 37 since the start of last season. Ironically, his only non-conversion this season was an extra point that was returned 100+ yards for two Maryland points in yesterday's game. I can't imagine how the Eagles would have felt had they lost the game because of that bizarre play.
Alex Amidon's great season has been lost in the shuffle a bit mainly because of Andre Williams' heroics. Amidon probably won't match his school record 1,210 yard season of 2012 but he should be able to post a second consecutive 70+ reception, 1,000+ yard season. He already holds the BC record for career receiving yards and is now only 12 catches shy of Pete Mitchell's career receptions record. Last week, his key play was a hustle, fumble recovery for a TD. Yesterday, it was a 74-yard TD reception where he somehow managed to get open by about 15 yards.
Statistically-speaking, the Boston College defense had one of its best games of the season yesterday. Maryland had only 278 total yards with just 178 passing yards. The Eagles have been giving up a ton of yards through the air so this was a pleasant surprise. The strong pass rush created four sacks bringing the team total to 33 for the season. Steven Daniels was probably BC's top defender against the Terps. He had six tackles, including a sack, and a fumble recovery.
BC was fortunate to win in one respect. Randy Edsall out-bad-coached Steve Addazio in the final minutes of the game. With the score tied at 26 late in the fourth quarter, BC made a defensive stand to force a Maryland punt. BC could have used their last timeout and received the punt with about 2:10 left on the clock. They had the wind at their backs and only needed a field goal to win the game so using the timeout and trying to score (rather than playing for overtime) was an easy decision. Instead, Addazio allowed the clock to run prior to the punt (BC got it back with 1:32) and then was content to run with Williams and take his chances in overtime. Thankfully, Randy Edsall matched Addazio's blunder by using a timeout of his own after BC's second down play. With a third down stop, Maryland would have been against the wind, deep in their own territory with under 30 seconds remaining. Clearly, that is a situation where you play for overtime. Andre Williams ripped off a big run and was stopped on the Maryland 37 yard line with 35 seconds remaining. This left time for several plays and the opportunity to set up a higher percentage field goal chance but Addazio decided to run one play and settle for a 52-yarder. Nate Freese missed wide left but Randy Edsall was determined to take the poor coaching contest to the next level. He called timeout about a second before the field goal snap (perhaps the most irritating and senseless thing in all of sports) giving Freese another chance to be the hero.
Steve Addazio was lucky. Andre Williams and Nate Freese saved him from blowing this game for BC. Addazio's end of half (in this case, end of game) clock management has been abysmal all season. We heard a lot about his "Be a Dude" philosophy prior to the season but his coaching in these situations reflects cowardice and a lack of confidence in his senior quarterback and his defense. Chase Rettig has not had a great season but he hasn't turned the ball over either. I think he can be trusted to avoid turnovers in that situation. The BC defense played fairly well yesterday but even if they hadn't you still have to go for the points when you have an adequate amount of time on the clock (2:10 was more than enough). Possessions are valuable. Yards are even more valuable, especially when you are setting up for a field goal. The coaching staff has done an excellent job changing the attitude, getting the most out of their talent and dealing with injuries but the poor game/clock management is going cost BC some games in the future.
BC could really help their bowl position with a win next week at Syracuse. Ten ACC teams are already bowl-eligible (Syracuse would be #11 with a win over BC) and we know BC will be bypassed if the option is there. If BC finishes 8-4 they could be higher in the "pecking order" than teams like Maryland, North Carolina and Pittsburgh who currently sit at 6-5. The latest projections from ESPN's Mark Schlabach and Brad Edwards have BC in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl (December 31st in Shreveport, Louisiana) against either Ohio or Arkansas State. Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com forecasts a much more interesting BC-Georgia Music City Bowl matchup (December 30th in Nashville).
Yesterday's results put us one step closer to a five-way tie for first place in the ACC Coastal Division. If North Carolina beats Duke at home, Virginia Tech wins at Virginia and Miami wins at Pitt (all three will be favored) then those four teams plus Georgia Tech will finish at 5-3. Duke cannot win a tiebreaker but they are the only team that controls its own destiny. If they beat UNC, they finish 6-2 in the ACC and win the division. If Duke loses and Virginia Tech wins, the Hokies take the Coastal regardless of what Miami does. Miami needs Duke and VA Tech losses to win the division. Georgia Tech needs losses by Duke, VA Tech and Miami. North Carolina cannot win the division. Here are the Tiebreaking scenarios explained.
I found it quite interesting that both Florida State and North Carolina put up exactly 80 points yesterday. I'd love to know the odds of two teams from the same conference scoring exactly 80 on the same day. I also have to wonder why BCS conference schools are playing teams like Idaho, Old Dominion, the Citadel and Alabama A&M in late November. I can understand this kind of scheduling in the first couple of weeks of the season because the NCAA has no preseason. It really takes away from the division races to play the cream puff non-conference games this late in the season.
The 2013 Boston College Football MVP balloting is now open. Head back to the front page (right side) if you'd like to cast your ballot.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
The Eagles became bowl-eligible on Saturday and it is highly likely that they will be returning to postseason play for the first time in three seasons. I don't put much stock in bowl predictions but ESPN's Mark Schlabach and Brad Edwards are predicting a BC vs Louisiana-Monroe AdvoCare V100 Bowl (December 31st in Shreveport, Louisiana) and a BC-East Carolina Military Bowl (Dec 27 in Annapolis, MD). Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com is currently projecting a BC-Rice matchup on Jan 1st in the Heart of Dallas Bowl (this is a Big 10 bowl but that conference may not have enough bowl-eligible teams to fill this slot). There are several other possibilities. Of course, BC can strengthen its bowl position and possibly get a more interesting matchup by winning the next two against Maryland and Syracuse.
Needless to say, Andre Williams is doing some amazing things of late. He broke the BC single game rushing record in back-to-back weeks while setting the ACC single game record. In the process he broke Mike Cloud's single season rushing record with (likely) three games to spare. He's 364 yards shy of Montel Harris' Boston College career rushing record. Most amazing of all, he's rushed for nearly 1,000 yards (972 to be exact) in the last four games. With just those four games under his belt, Williams would rank 23rd in the country. I might also add that 339 yards in a victory is a great way to mask three fumbles. Holding on to the ball is about the only thing Andre hasn't done well the past month.
Andre Williams appears a lock to be a First Team All American. Nate Freese could be joining him. The Senior kicker/punter is now 14/14 in field goal attempts (33 for 33 in extra points) this season after going 18/20 (24/24 on extra points) last season. Freese now has 299 points as a BC Eagle, breaking the record previously held by Steve Aponavicius (2006-09). Kickers don't get the glory but Freese has been about as good as Williams the past two years.
Let's not forget the defensive stars. Kevin Pierre-Louis had two sacks on Saturday and raised his season tackle total to 89. Kasim Edebali also had a sack to bring his total to 9.5. He's 10th in the NCAA in that category. BC gave up just 35 rushing yards against NC State (sacks included in the rushing yards total in college football) but as usual surrendered a lot of passing yards (325).
Steve Addazio has done a very nice job this season as evidenced by his 93% approval rating (go back to the right panel of my front page to cast your vote). The team has only had a couple of "clunker" games and has a very legitimate chance of going 8-4. Following 2-10, any kind of bowl season would have been considered a success so the coaching staff deserves a hand. However, Addazio continues to blunder when it comes to timeouts at the end of the first half. On Saturday, he let 35 seconds roll off the clock rather than use his last timeout on defense prior to the NC State punt with just under two minutes remaining in the half (it didn't matter after Andre Williams fumbled the ball back to NC State but that shouldn't get the coach off the hook). Addazio again failed to use his last timeout as NC State let the clock run before attempting an unsuccessful field goal. The snap was poor and NC State fell on the ball at the BC 47 but even a missed field goal would have given BC good field position and about 45 seconds to play with. I joked on Twitter that Addazio may think he can cash in unused timeouts for gift cards. It's shocking how poor Addazio is in this area.
The ACC Atlantic Division was essentially decided on October 19th when Florida State rolled over Clemson. The ACC Coastal, however, is crazy. A five-way tie for first place is not only possible but some might argue likely. If lowly Virginia loses to Miami and Virginia Tech and Duke beats Wake Forest (Duke is a 5 point favorite) then we'd just need a North Carolina home victory over Duke and a Miami win at Pitt in two weeks to create the five-way tie at 5-3 (Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina and Virginia Tech). First place Duke (can't believe I'm typing those words in mid-November) is the only team in the Coastal that controls its own destiny. Virginia Tech holds the most tiebreakers but they lost to Duke and would lose the head-to-head to the Blue Devils. It's interesting that a Duke-North Carolina football game could decide the division title.
Maryland opened as a 1 point favorite to beat BC on Saturday. After three consecutive losses, the Terps pulled off a 27-24 OT win at Virginia Tech on Saturday. Maryland is also bowl eligible but this game could determine who winds up in the better bowl (if there is such a thing when you're winning 7 or 8 games).
Sunday, November 3, 2013
Saturday's win over Virginia Tech was probably the most important BC football win since October 2009 when the Eagles defeated Florida State at home to run their record to 4-1. Saturday's win was critical for several reasons. First, it gives BC four wins and puts them in position to lock up bowl eligibility (though not necessarily a bowl bid) with wins the next two weeks over opponents they should beat. Second, BC needed to bounce back after a humiliating loss to North Carolina last weekend. Another bad loss may have shaken the confidence the team built in the first half of the season. Third, the program desperately needed a win against a team with some name recognition. No disrespect to Villanova, Wake Forest and Army but those victories don't exactly stand out. Beating Virginia Tech gives the program some legitimacy. BC's winning percentage had fallen in every single season since Matt Ryan's departure in 2007. With six solid efforts in eight games they appear to have turned the corner.
Andre Williams was again the story on the offensive side of the ball. If you take away his 62 yard TD, his numbers weren't great but he did an outstanding job grinding away for the tough yards. His first touchdown run of 19 yards was actually more impressive than the 62-yarder. Rushing for 166 against the sixth ranked run defense in college football is no easy task. Chase Rettig had another efficient game. He completed 11 of 14 passes for only 93 yards but had no interceptions for the third time in four games.
The performance on defense was a mixed bag. BC gave up a ton of passing yards (391) to a non-passing team with missed tackles playing a huge role. Virginia Tech was able to get a field goal on their last possession of the first half despite having a 2nd and 30 on the drive. Steve Addazio also contributed to the Virginia Tech field goal by choosing to take a five yard delay of game penalty on a BC punting situation rather than using a timeout that he did not need. Addazio continues to make poor game/clock management decisions in the final two minutes of the first half. On the other hand, BC did a great job against the run, holding Virginia Tech's running backs to just 17 yards on 9 carries. Logan Thomas had a 13 yard run but didn't hurt the Eagles very often with his feet. Thomas faced heavy pressure from a relentless second half pass rush. The pass rush led directly to the Pierre-Louis interception for a TD and was the key to the game for BC.
Nate Freese continues to be a machine. He had two field goals including a 43-yarder from the left hash mark to tie the game with just under nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. He's 9 for 9 this season and has made 28 of his last 30 field goal attempts since an 0 for 3 stretch in October/November 2011.
Florida State has now all but locked up the ACC Atlantic Division. They just need to beat Wake Forest or Syracuse to make it official. However, there is plenty of drama in the ACC Coastal where four teams have either one or two conference losses. Believe it or not, one of those teams is Duke. At 2-3, even UNC and Pitt have a shot but only if Georgia Tech (5-2 in the ACC) loses to Clemson a week from Thursday. It wouldn't surprise me to see a 3 or 4-way tie in the Coastal. Even a 5-way tie at 5-3 is possible.
The bowl situation will also be interesting. Florida State, Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech appear to be locks. Duke is bowl-eligible and probably needs just one more win to secure a bid. Every other team in the ACC has between 3 and 5 wins with the exception of Virginia who, at 2-7, has been eliminated from bowl contention. There is a good chance that both Florida State and Clemson will wind up in BCS bowls. This is good news for everyone else because that would open up and extra bowl spot for an ACC team. As of last week (I have not seen an update) ESPN's Schlabach and Edwards were projecting a BC-Vanderbilt matchup in the Advocare V100 Bowl on New Year's Eve in Shreveport, Louisiana. We'll see if yesterday's upset win changes things.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Sizing up BC's final six opponents
Boston College has reached the midpoint of the 2013 season with a record of 3-3, putting them right on the bowl bubble. Their two toughest and two weakest opponents are behind them so pretty much anything is possible over the final six games. Following a 2-10 campaign, any bowl appearance would be considered progress for the BC football program. A 6-6 record would give BC bowl eligibility though not necessarily a bowl appearance. Here are the remaining opponents.
North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC) -- The Tar Heels are having a rough season. They are 1-5 with their only victory coming six weeks ago against Middle Tennessee. However, last Thursday they came within 16 seconds of beating #10 Miami at home. UNC's stats are pretty ugly with the exeption of the passing game. Their defense ranks 106th in the country with opponents averaging 30.7 points per game. On the offensive side of the ball, they rank 114th in rushing yards per game (71 fewer yards per game than BC) but 20th in passing yards per game (129 more per game than BC). Senior QB Bryn Renner has thrown for nearly 8,000 career yards with 62 TDs and only 24 INTs. Las Vegas lists the Tar Heels as an 8-point favorite. Given how much trouble BC gave FSU and Clemson, it is a major slap in the face to be an 8-point dog against a 1-5 team, even on the road. I wouldn't put BC's chances at 50/50 but they are much better than the 25% or so that the point spread suggests.
Virginia Tech (Chestnut Hill) -- As usual, the Hokies are atop the ACC Coastal standings. After losing big to Alabama in the season opener, Tech has rattled off six consecutive wins. It has been a struggle at times (they beat East Carolina by only five points then needed triple overtime to defeat Marshall) but they seem to be getting better as Frank Beamer teams frequently do. The statistical splits for the Hokies are quite interesting. They rank 2nd in the country in total defense (6th vs run, 3rd vs pass) but are 110th in total offense (weak in both the run and pass). They have been quite ineffective returning kicks (91st in punt return average, 116th in kickoff returns) but have already blocked three kicks (again, no surprise). They lead the nation in sacks. If BC can run the ball effectively and avoid mistakes, there is no reason why this won't be a close game.
New Mexico State (Las Cruces, NM) -- If BC wants to go bowling in 2013 this is a game they will need to win. The Aggies are 0-7 and lost to Texas and UCLA by a combined score of 115-20. They rank 123rd (dead last) in team defense, giving up a whopping 569 yards per game (351 on the ground). The Aggie offense isn't much better. They rank 98th overall (100th run, 65th pass). This should be an easy win and a big day for Andre Williams.
North Carolina State (Chestnut Hill) -- I suspect that New Mexico State and NC State will be the remaining opponents where BC is a point spread favorite. Tom O'Brien's other former team is 0-3 in the ACC with losses to Clemson, Wake Forest and Syracuse (all by double digits). They beat 2-5 Richmond by only two points. Oddly enough, NC State's statistical rankings are decent. The rank 56th (slightly above average) in total offense and 26th in total defense (52nd against the run and 28th against the pass). They are surrendering just 21.2 points per game. Of course, stats can be deceptive and that is the case here. NC State outgained Louisiana Tech and Central Michigan by a combined 445 yards and outscored them by 60 but they have been outgained in all three ACC contests. NC State has hurt itself in other ways. They rank 116th in redzone defense, 84th in redzone offense and average seven penalties per game. QB Pete Thomas has now thrown 21 touchdown passes and 29 interceptions in his NC State career.
Maryland (College Park, MD) -- Maryland was looking quite strong a month ago after delivering a 37-0 beating to West Virginia to run their record to 4-0. Since then they have lost 63-0 to Florida State, squeaked by Virginia by a point and lost by 24 at Wake Forest. The Terps rank 52nd in total offense (76 rush, 29 pass) and 25th on defense (27 run, 65 pass). The defense that so dominant against West Virginia, surrendered more than 600 total yards to FSU and another 500-plus to Virginia. Maryland outgained Wake by 81 yards but lost in blowout fashion largely because of two interceptions, a fumble, a missed field goal and three turnovers on downs. Maryland QB C.J. Brown is having a solid season (1,262 yards, 63.5% completion rate, 7 TD, 3 INTs) despite the rough day at Wake. Sophomore running back Brandon Ross is also having a nice season (458 yards, 5.0 per rush, 4 TDs) but left Saturday's game early with an upper body injury. Wide receiver Deon Long (32 catches, 489 yards) was lost for the season on Saturday with a broken leg.
Syracuse (Syracuse, NY) -- BC will play Syracuse for the first time as ACC foes on November 30th. Syracuse has a 3-4 record so it is quite possible that the Eagles and Orangemen could be in a situation where the winner goes to a bowl game and the loser is done for the season. Syracuse beat NC State on the road but also lost by a combined score of 105-14 to Clemson (at home) and Georgia Tech (in Atlanta). The Orange's offensive strength comes from the running game where Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley have combined for 877 yards (5.4 per carry) and 12 TDs. By contrast, Syracuse quarterbacks have comined for just 9 touchdowns and 14 interceptions (and 191 passing yards per game). Defensively, the Orange rank near the middle of the pack (70th) but Georgia Tech and Clemson had little trouble moving the ball against them. Last week, Georgia Tech had 26 first downs to Syracuse's 10 and outgained them 482-208. The Orange had nine penalties and three turnovers. Georgia Tech rushed for 394 yards.
If you go by the first half of the season, BC has looked better than five of their six remaining opponents (Virginia Tech is the obvious exception). The Eagles should beat New Mexico State because they are terrible and NC State because BC appears to be the better team and the game is at home. Of the three conference road games (UNC, Maryland, Syracuse) I like to think that BC will win at least one, if not two. North Carolina is probably the toughest of the three because of Renner's talents. While BC played tough games against both FSU and Clemson, both Maryland and Syracuse have been humiliated by tougher competition. This seems to bode well for a BC team that is improving. Virginia Tech is an interesting game as well. I don't expect the BC offense to move the ball nor do I expect a fairly impotent Hokie offense to do big things so this could be a low scoring affair decided by mistakes. Maybe BC can rekindle the turnover magic they had against Clemson.
I hate to make predictions on a game-by-game basis because so much changes from week to week and I'm still not sure what this BC team is capable of (especially on defense) but I do think BC will beat both New Mexico State and NC State. A split in the final two games at Maryland and Syracuse is a reasonable expectation. That would give BC the six wins needed for bowl eligibility. An upset win in either of the next two games would really put BC on a solid path to a winning record and a bowl invitation.
One more thing ... Final Win-Loss Poll results ... More Polls to follow
Monday, September 30, 2013
Saturday's game was a tough loss for the Eagles but, unlike the debacle in Los Angeles, there were good things to take away from the 48-34 loss to Florida State. Despite the 14 point spread, it was a fairly even game. The difference was that Florida State had three huge plays (two touchdown throws of 50+ yards and an interception return for a TD) compared to only one for BC (a 52-yard TD pass from Chase Rettig to Myles Willis). BC had some good moments with the running game, the passing game, the pass rush and special teams. The offensive attack was balanced (197 passing yards, 200 rushing yards) and the defense played better than the 489 yards allowed would indicate. For Florida State, it was the Jameis Winston show. He passed for 320 and rushed for 96 if you exclude BC's four sacks. Every time the Seminoles needed a big play (at least in the final three quarters) he delivered. From a raw talent perspective, Florida State is the better team by a lot, but on Saturday they were only the better team by a little.
My biggest concern at this point is the coaching. With BC up 14-3 early in the second quarter and driving (55 yards on 6 plays), the Eagles were faced with a 4th and less than a yard from the FSU 8-yard-line. Steve Addazio chose to kick the field goal to put BC up 17-3. First of all, you don't beat a team like Florida State by kicking field goals when you have the ball inside their 10-yard-line. Second, BC had been running the ball very well. Third, and most important, kicking the field goal sent a message to the offense that the coaching staff has no confidence in them. (Addazio made a similar decision against USC when the Eagles had a 4th and 3 from the Trojan 41-yard-line and chose to punt). Holding BC to a field goal seemed to energize the Seminoles as they quickly scored twice and tied the game. BC then took over on their own 25-yard-line with 1:53 remaining on the first half clock (and I believe two timeouts). Rather than trying to put more points on the board and regain some momentum, Addazio chose to run the ball three times in hopes of running out the clock. Forget for the time being that FSU scored on the Hail Mary. Why was Addazio giving up that possession? Again, the head coach was sending a "I have no confidence in you" message to his offense. It was the exact opposite of the "Be A Dude" motto that Addazio has been preaching.
Then there's the "Hail Mary" at the end of the first half. I put "Hail Mary" in quotes because it really wasn't one. It looked like man coverage in a situation where there should have been five or six Eagles near the ball. The players screwed up but poor defensive coaching was more to blame. If a receiver outleaps everyone and comes down with a lucky Hail Mary touchdown you can live with it, but to be totally unprepared to defend a 60 yard throw as time expires was inexcusable. On the plus side for the coaching staff, the team was certainly ready to play and some of the offensive wrinkles really made a positive difference.
As far as good news goes, you have to start with with Andre Williams who rushed for 149 yards on 28 carries. The offensive line opened some nice holes for him. Spiffy Evans created much of the early momentum with two excellent punt returns. Freshman Myles Willis was a huge surprise with 211 all-purpose yards (28 rushing, 69 receiving, 114 on kick returns). Nate Freese continues to be one of the best kickers in the country. Chase Rettig played a solid game with four TD passes and nearly 200 yards passing. He had two interceptions but he can't be faulted for the second, which came on a 4th and long late in the game with BC needing a TD to keep their hopes alive. On defense, Kasim Edebali had two sacks (Abdesmad and Ramsey the other two). BC's put good pressure on Winston (unfortunately, not nearly as good at containing him). A less mobile quarterback would have been sacked seven or eight times on Saturday.
The Eagles face a critical game next week against Army. Let's be honest, BC's odds of winning in Clemson in two weeks are slim so a win against Army means they will be no worse than 3-3 heading into the second half of the season. A loss to Army and they will probably be riding a 2-4 record and a four-game losing streak into their second bye week. After Clemson, BC's three toughest games (at least on paper) will be behind them. The second half features a lot of teams that BC will have a roughly 50/50 shot at beating so Army could be game that eventually determines whether the Eagles are invited to a bowl game.
Last year, Army won just two games and one of them was a 34-31 victory over BC. They are 2-3 this season. They defeated Louisiana Tech by 19 points on Saturday and lost by just 14 to #5 Stanford (they rushed for 284 yards). Army ranks second in the nation in rushing yards (325 per game) so the Eagles better not overlook them again.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Needless to say, Saturday's trip to the Los Angeles Coliseum was a disaster. The Trojans outgained the Eagles 521 to 184. USC averaged 13.9 yards per pass attempt and 6.0 yards per rush, compared to just 3.5 (incredible) and 3.9 for BC. The raw talent disparity, more specifically speed disparity, was certainly on display.
The game started off reasonably well for BC. USC went three-and-out on their first possession of the game (though an overthrow by QB Cody Kessler was the only thing standing between USC and a 7-0 lead after one play). After a USC punt, BC put together back-to-back first downs. BC was then faced with a 4th and 3 on the Trojan 41-yard-line. Steve Addazio chose punt. The data shows that going for the first down in that situation is the correct decision. I assume Addazio was apprehensive due to the caliber of the USC defense and because he didn't want to give them the momentum that a stop on 4th down would surely provide. However, 14 point underdogs on the road need to take chances and the down side of going for the first down was pretty small (the punt netted the Eagles only 27 yards of field position).
The Trojans swiftly grabbed the momentum anyway, marching 84 yards to the endzone in 14 plays. Kessler was nearly sacked on the touchdown pass to a wide open Tre Madden in the flat. The next three drives resulted in punts (two for BC, one for USC) but Southern Cal scored just one play into their fourth drive. Kessler hit the otherwise quiet Marquise Lee with a 15 yard pass that was turned into an 80 yard touchdown by a missed tackle and Lee's breakaway speed.
BC had one more opporunity to get back in the game when Madden fumbled on his own 5-yard-line with one minute remaining in the first half. Despite having several bodies around the ball, the Eagles were not able to recover. At this point, both the referees and Addazio didn't do their jobs. The refs allowed 20 seconds to roll off the clock while they tried to determine who recovered the fumble. Coach Addazio then failed to use his final timeout of the half. He could have forced USC to punt from the back of their endzone but instead chose to let the second quarter clock expire.
Like the first half, the second half started okay for BC. Both teams went three-and-out to start the third quarter. BC's next drive resulted in two first downs, followed by a 4th and 1 on the USC 46-yard-line. This time, Coach Addazio chose to go for the first down (the right call). Unfortunately, Andre Williams lost a yard on the carry and the Trojans got the ball back. It took just 2:34 for USC to deliver the dagger which was a 30-yard Tre Madden touchdown run. The rout was on.
There weren't many bright spots for BC. Freshman Tyler Rouse had a nice 29 yard TD run to put the Eagles on the scoreboard. Rouse had 38 yards on just three carries. Nate Freese pinned the Trojans deep in their own territory a couple of times and had a 65-yard punt. It says it all when the punter is your player of the game.
I'll have a slideshow with some photos from Saturday's game up soon.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
It was far from perfect but the BC Eagles did a lot of good things on Friday night to improve to 2-0 and match their 2012 win total just six days into September. The key to the victory was the running game. BC averaged 4.2 yards per rush compared to just 1.4 for Wake Forest. After a little bit of a slow start, Andre Williams battered the Wake defense to the tune of 35 carries for 204 yards (5.8 per carry) and a TD. The passing game, unfortunately, left something to be desired. Chase Rettig completed just 7 of 14 passes for 123 yards and a couple of touchdowns (one interception). The fact that only two passes were completed to players other than Alex Amidon is certainly a concern. The Eagles are not going to win many games if Amidon is the only guy catching passes. Part of the problem was the pass blocking. The offensive line did an excellent job run blocking for Williams but didn't give Rettig much time to throw. He was sacked three times.
The BC defense has been very good the past six quarters. Except for a long 43-yard pass completion in the second half the Eagle defense didn't make any major blunders. Wake's only touchdown came on an excellent throw and catch from Tanner Price to Michael Campanaro. BC had two impressive goal line stands. The first came after a blocked punt late in the first half. With a chance to cut the lead to 17-14 at the break, Wake failed to score on 1st and goal from the BC 3-yard-line. BC later held Wake Forest to a field goal after they had a 1st and goal from the 4. BC needs to return to the days of stingy run defense and this was a good sign. To cite another example, last season Josh Harris gained 84 yards on 17 carries against BC. This year, he gained just 18 yards on 10 rushes.
BC special teams will have some work to do this week after allowing a Nate Freese punt to be blocked. Freese nailed his only field goal, a 33-yarder. He's now 20 for 22 on his field goal attempts since the start of last season.
BC's next opponent, USC, lost at home to Washington State by a surprising score of 10-7. The Trojan offense on Saturday could best be described as anemic. USC gained just 193 total yards with just 54 of those coming through the air. Quarterbacks Max Wittek and Cody Kessler combined for just 11 completions (0 TD, 2 INT). Superstar receiver Marquis Lee caught 7 of those 11 passes (sound familiar?). USC sophomore running back Tre Madden did rush for 151 yards on 32 carries but it didn't help much without a passing game.
The Eagles are currently a 15-point underdog despite the USC loss. That translates to about a 9-10% chance of winning. The Trojans are at least 15 points better if you go by talent alone but if you figure in USC's quarterback issues, I'd say the Eagles have a much better chance to win than 10%. Wide receiver Marquis Lee has been one of the most dominant players in college football but he hasn't been the same player since Matt Barkley was injured late last season (and then drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in April). In 11 games with Barkley last season, Lee averaged nearly 12 catches for 156 yards and more than a TD per game. In four games since, Lee has averaged 6.5 catches for 61 yards and has no TDs. Like BC, the Trojans are a team with one standout wide receiver that will feature the run. Washington State is not a great defensive unit (they surrendered nearly 400 yards to Auburn the previous week) so there is no reason why BC can't keep the USC offense in check.
It also must be noted that USC is not the dominant defensive team they once were. The Trojans ranked a mediocre 60th last year in total defense (slightly better against the pass than the run). They were pretty stingy against the run last week, holding the Cougars' running back tandem to just 43 rushing yards on 15 carries. But WSU quarterback Connor Halliday completed 26 of 38 for 215 yards (0 TD, 2 INT). The biggest danger for BC is USC's pass rush. The Trojans were fifth in the country last season with 45 sacks and they already have 11 in two games this season. The persistent QB pressure has led to some of their six interceptions. Given how poorly the offensive line protected Rettig at times on Friday, I see the Trojan pass rush as the key to the game. This is one of those rare times where the 15 point underdog has the better quarterback. If Rettig has time to throw, BC can take advantage of that. If the USC pass rush gets going, bad things will probably happen including interceptions, strip sacks and more punts to Marquis Lee.
Needless to say, BC needs to play a solid first quarter. Under past coaching staffs (and against Villanova), they have had a tendency to start badly in big games. Being down 10-0 or 14-0 can't happen on Saturday. The team that gets the lead can focus on their strength, the running game. Neither of these teams wants to have to rely on a pass-happy offense. USC, because of their shaky quarterback situation. BC, because they don't want to face that ferocious pass rush in obvious throwing situations.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
It was a tale of two halves for the BC Eagles in Saturday's opener. The Eagles trailed Villanova 14-7 at halftime and had been outgained by nearly 100 total yards. Villanova was clearly the better team in the first half. In the second half, however, the Eagles controlled the game the way an ACC team should against an FCS opponent. Villanova is one of the best FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) teams in the country but shouldn't be able to outplay an ACC team with superior size and depth. In BC's defense, very few teams look good in the first half of a college football opener. Dumb penalties, turnovers, inaccurate passes and missed assignments on defense are not uncommon in the first game. BC had more than their share of mistakes in the first half but very few after halftime. Steve Addazio's first halftime speech, one would assume, was a good one.
Chase Rettig was sharp for much of the game, completing 23 of 30 passes (77%) for 285 yards, 2 TD and 0 INTs. If the Eagles are going to be successful this season, Rettig needs to improve on his 54% completion percentage of the last two seasons. This was a good start. Alex Amidon looked like a man ready to break his own school records for receptions and receiving yards, set last season. Amidon caught 13 passes for 146 yards and a TD (and had a TD nullified because of a penalty). Amidon's heroics were not a big surprise but that can't be said about freshman fullback Bobby Wolford who shocked everyone with 6 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. I was disappointed that no other receivers caught more than one pass on Saturday. Some ACC opponents will be able to shut down - or at least slow down - Amidon so other receivers and tight ends are going to have to step up and make an impact.
Andre Williams had an interesting game. He looked solid on the first drive but was finding yards hard to come by for the rest of the first half. I commented via Twitter at halftime that 2.7 yards per carry was unacceptable and that it should be double that against a smaller team like Villanova. In the second half, Williams looked great and the offensive line took advantage of the size mismatch. Williams finished the game with 114 yards on 23 carries (that 5.0 average I was looking for). He left early with a hamstring injury that does not appear to be serious. David Dudek and Tyler Rouse combined for just 19 yards rushing on 12 carries. Obviously, that needs to improve.
The BC defense got off to a miserable start on Saturday. Villanova started the game with back-to-back 75 yard TD drives. The first ended with a 47 yard rush to the endzone on a fake punt. The second came on a 27 yard pass play on 3rd and 14. In Villanova's fifth possession, the Wildcats marched 64 yards but failed to convert on a 4th and goal from the 1 yard line. Nova quarterback John Robinson missed a wide open receiver in the back of the endzone (this would have given Villanova a 14 point lead). I think most would agree that this was the turning point in the game. The Eagle defense allowed just 85 yards in the next six possessions. Half of Villanova's final eight possessions would end with turnovers.
Though they surrendered far too many yards (355) and first downs (17), the BC defense made a lot of big plays (3 interceptions, 11 tackles for lost yardage, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles). Kasim Edebali (3 tackles for loss) and Kevin Pierre-Louis (8 solo tackles) were solid as usual. Manny Asprilla had a spectacular interception in addition to a great solo tackle for lost yardage. Bryce Jones also had an INT and a great solo tackle that may have prevented a big play. They looked like a different team in the second half and that tells me that the coaching staff did it's job in the locker room.
The Eagles will take some confidence and momentum into Friday's game with Wake Forest. With #24 USC, #11 Florida State and #8 Clemson looming in the first six games, it is critical that the Eagles grab the home victory against arguably their weakest conference foe before the rough stretch of games begins. There is a good chance that Friday's game could be the difference between BC going to a bowl game this season and not going. In that respect, this is a big game.