FOOTBALL: Up Tempo
Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 23:10
After losing its first away game of the season by four touchdowns, the Boston College football team will have a crack at road redemption this weekend.
Yet Saturday’s matchup at Clemson presents BC with a caveat—entering a lion’s den known as Death Valley to duel with the country’s No. 3 ranked team.
“We’re playing one of the finest teams in America right now,” said head coach Steve Addazio.
The Eagles will face their biggest challenge so far in 2013, as the Tigers boast one of the most potent offensive units in college football. Their averages of nearly 344 passing yards and 45 points per game are among the country’s top 15 marks in each category.
Although the Clemson offense’s dynamic personnel and downfield strategy are no secrets, its ability to execute big plays has been on display over a dominant 5-0 start. Addazio acknowledged that the offensive attack that BC’s revitalized defensive unit will encounter on Saturday is of the highest caliber imaginable.
“I don’t see anybody that matches up to them from that standpoint,” he said, noting the Tigers’ national stature.
At the heart of Clemson’s offensive machine is senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Tajh Boyd, who has dominated the stat sheet with 14 scores and 1,449 yards. His knack of eluding the pass rush with speed and arm strength gives him the potential to throw BC’s defense off balance during its aggressive pursuit of the ball. Boyd’s skill set resembles that of another elite ACC quarterback—FSU’s Jameis Winston—but also includes veteran experience in an NFL-worthy repertoire.
Addazio realizes that his team’s best chance for a competitive afternoon is to storm out of the gates with quickness, keeping Boyd and his cohorts on the sideline as long as possible.
“Obviously, the best recipe is to jump out early and to get going strong,” Addazio said. “That’s the best recipe against a great team, especially on the road.”
BC’s defense came up strong throughout the second half last week against Army, allowing only one touchdown en route to a 21-point victory. Yet its impressive finish followed a shaky start that surrendered two touchdown scores of 75 yards or more.
Another slow defensive start is something that the Eagles simply can’t afford.
“There’s no question that we have to come out fast,” Addazio said. “It’s a totally different scenario with what they’re defending.
“If you give this team too many cracks, they’re going to hit it.”
While the Eagles will have their hands full with the elite product Clemson places on the field, they’ll also have to contend with an infamous 12th man in college football—a home crowd at Death Valley.
Practicing yesterday morning with the Tiger fight song blaring in the background, Addazio’s players prepared for a confrontation in one of the most hostile atmospheres they’ll ever enounter on a gridirion—with a crowd twice the size of Alumni Stadium’s capacity.
“It’s the loudest stadium we’re going to play in,” Addazio said. “It’s like an SEC stadium. You’ve got to prepare for it or it’ll rattle you.”
Senior quarterback Chase Rettig is preparing for the blitz of noise and intensity he’ll encounter on Saturday like he would for any play or on-field situation—by anticipation through visualization.
“It’s definitely a loud environment,” Rettig said, “so you’ve just got to control it, execute it, and just worry about the plays on the field.”
Despite the anticipation preluding Saturday’s contest, BC is no stranger to matchups with some of the country’s best. A gritty performance against top-10 FSU a couple of weeks ago resulted in the Seminoles’ most closely contested victory of the season.
Regardless of opponent records or close scores, a loss is still a loss. Yet even a loss can teach valuable lessons to a team on the rise.
“You learn from yourself and you learn from them,” Rettig said.
The Eagles have shown early on that they can hold their own against upper-echelon teams and gaudy rankings. When they step into the lion’s den this weekend, they’ll realize they belong.
“They’ve got a bunch of players,” said linebacker Steven Daniels, “but we have our players. We’re going to go down there and play BC football.”
And considering the never-say-die attitude the Eagles have exhibited each week, Clemson will encounter a visiting team unafraid to leave it all out on the field.
Addazio hopes a relentless will to win can do what even the best playbook sometimes can’t—take down Goliath.
“We’ve got to scratch and fight and claw for everything we can get right now.” n