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FOOTBALL: Notebook: In The Red Zone, Defense Was Able To Hold Strong

Asst. Sports Editor

Published: Monday, September 17, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

EVANSTON, Ill. – Although the offense struggled to put up points against Northwestern on Saturday, junior weakside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis and senior middle linebacker Nick Clancy both had impressive outings against the Wildcats. NU accumulated 293 yards on the ground and 267 yards through the air, but only put up 22 points, with seven of those coming on a late touchdown when the game was out of reach. The reason for the limited scoring from Northwestern was Boston College’s red zone defense, which was championed by KPL and Clancy.

“We always do well with our backs against the wall,” Pierre-Louis said. “That is one thing we excel on. However, we couldn’t stop them from getting to the red zone. We know we can stop teams in the red zone. The next step for our defense is not let them get into the red zone in the first place.”

The Northwestern offense drove up the field by using a mix of zone reads, bubble screens, halfback screens, and quick passing routes to take advantage of the Eagles’ defense. Clancy was in charge of containing the zone reads once they got past the defensive line, and racked up 24 tackles chasing around the Wildcat quarterbacks and running backs. Northwestern had the benefit of using interchangeable QBs throughout the game, which allowed them to keep up their extremely fast pace for four quarters.

Although the Eagle defense only gave up 22 points, it also allowed 560 yards of offense, and no one on the BC side could explain what was different in the red zone, except that the difference in that part of the field compared to the area in between the 20s was incredibly exasperating.

“It’s extremely frustrating, it’s kind of hard to put into words,” Clancy said. “To the average person watching, it’s kind of like they’re just going to let them walk down the field and then they’re going to turn it on in the red zone—that’s not what we’re doing.”

The Wildcats mainly found success by entirely avoiding Pierre-Louis’ side of the ball. Time and time again on third down, Northwestern would attack Steele Divitto, running or passing as far away from KPL as possible. Pierre-Louis refused to let that keep him from being a factor in the game. He made his way into the backfield disrupting plays and ran across the field to bring down wide receivers and running backs on his way to 17 tackles.

Time to regroup
BC has a bye week before facing a top-ranked Clemson squad the following week. Clemson will be coming off a huge game against Florida State, and the Eagles already sound confident about the matchup with such a high-quality team.

“It’s nice having this bye week. Just get this bad taste out of our mouth and start preparing for next week. Just to forget about what just happened, but learn from it and learn from our mistakes,” Clancy said.

“We’ll try to get this out of our system as fast as possible,” Pierre-Louis said. “Clemson is going to be ready for us, and we’re definitely going to be ready for Clemson. We have two weeks to focus on them and make sure everything is right. It’s going to be a good game, I promise you that.”

Freese still solid
Lost in the lack of execution by the offense and the copious amount of yards allowed by the defense was the continued excellence of kicker Nate Freese. The junior connected on field goals from 21 and 34 yards to remain a perfect 7-for-7 on the year. More importantly, he took Northwestern’s Venric Mark out of the return game entirely. Mark was only allowed one return for 17 yards. It’s been one year since Freese missed a kick against Duke that would’ve won the game for BC, but since then he has proven himself as a steady and reliable force for the special teams unit.

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