Stanford's defensive strategy worked well
Published: Monday, September 10, 2001
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
Palo Alto, Calif. – A successful rushing attack is a delicate thing. Any number of factors can contribute to a running game going wrong, and the Boston College Eagles found that out the hard way as Stanford made William Green and the BC offense stall long enough to take command of Saturday’s 38-22 Eagle loss in California.
Green was held to 39 yards in the first half as the Cardinal jumped out to a 21-7 halftime lead. Although Green finished with 103 rushing yards, the running game’s overall effectiveness was nothing like it was against West Virginia, when the Eagles racked up 325 yards in the ground. The Eagles mustered less than half of that (130 yards) against the Cardinal.
“I think William wasn’t effective because they had a bunch of guys on the [defensive] line,” said Head Coach Tom O’Brien. “If they’re going to put that many guys in the box, you’ve got to be able to throw the ball. We couldn’t do that with no pass protection.”
Stanford only sacked BC quarterback Brian St. Pierre twice on the evening, but he was hurried many times and his 15-38 passing stats show that misguided throws were forced by the Cardinal defense.
“They were getting to Brian a lot more than I’d like,” said tackle Marc Colombo. “We don’t do that at BC.”
Chestnut Hill is known for producing quality offensive lines, and Colombo and his mates will likely look back to the Stanford game as what not to do. St. Pierre had much more protection against West Virginia, and as a result had time to make better decisions with the ball.
“[St. Pierre]’s on his back getting killed,” O’Brien said. “It’s hard to throw when you’re on your back.”
Colombo said that Stanford’s defense surprised the Eagles’ offensive line by keeping their linebackers stationary and not showing the type of run-stopping defense that he expected.
“They loaded up the line pretty good and didn’t have much movement in their linebackers,” Colombo said. “That threw us off a bit.”
St. Pierre was expecting to see exactly what Stanford brought – linebackers geared primarily towards getting inside to thwart Green’s ability to take over the game.
“They were geared up to stop the run,” St. Pierre said. “They did a good job of that.”
The Cardinal was able to stop Green from taking over the game although he gained over 100 yards, generally considered a good mark for a rusher. But Green was unable to get outside and come up with one of his patented long runs down the sideline.
“With their game plan, I knew they would be along the perimeter,” Green said. “They got the best of us.”
Although the fact is not glaring in the game’s final stats, BC was unable to pass as well as it wanted to and as a result, the running game was keyed in on and shut down by the Cardinal. Green’s longest run was for 20 yards in the second quarter, but besides that run, he was only able to break free for two more runs longer than 10 yards.
Green and the Eagles’ offense will undoubtedly have an easier time in two weeks against Navy, but the lessons learned in the Stanford game should not be forgotten.
The Eagles’ rushing attack, despite being solid against West Virginia, was torn into against Stanford. But irreparable harm was not done and O’Brien and his staff will fine-tune their scheme to try to avoid another shutdown.
“That’s a good defensive team,” O’Brien said. “But we didn’t play good fundamental football and that’s not good on my part.”