Sports, Football

Facing USC In The Mines Of Moria

They have taken the bridge and the second hall. We have barred the gates but cannot hold them for long. The ground shakes, drums … drums in the deep. We cannot get out. A shadow lurks in the dark. We cannot get out … they are coming. – Gandalf, The Fellowship Of The Rings

Shortly before his apparent death, Gandalf reads these desperate lines from the Book of Mazarbul to the rest of the fellowship—a weary group lost deep in the mines of Moria. Minutes later, history repeats itself when battalions of orcs and giants assault the fellowship, driving them through the darkness of the mines.

The fellowship never sought to venture through Moria, but when the initial plan—hiking over the mountain—failed, the weary group was forced to enter the darkness below.

The Boston College football team, a group that began the season with grandiose plans, has been forced into the proverbial mines by Pittsburgh. BC’s plan—pounding the rock—failed against the second team it faced, and the Eagles have descended into the darkness of a 0-1 ACC record in a critical juncture of its season. Now, a considerably more powerful foe looms, and BC is trapped.

It’s been a crazy, high-profile, scandalous season for the University of Southern California so far. USC suspended senior cornerback Josh Shaw after initially buying and spreading his story about injuring his ankles by leaping from a balcony to save his drowning nephew. Running back Anthony Brown quit the team and accused head coach Steve Sarkisian of racism on his way out the door. The Pac-12 remanded and fined athletic director Pat Haden $25,000 for leaving the press box and engaging officials on the sideline, per Sarkisian’s request, against Stanford. On the field, though, the Trojans have taken care of business.

At this point, it’s hard to tell exactly how good No. 9 USC is compared with the other national superpowers—but looking at the immediate future, USC enters Saturday as a 20-point favorite and is capable of hosing BC by even more than that. Last Saturday, the Trojans held then-No. 13 Stanford—a bastion of offensive line dominance and power running—to 128 yards and one touchdown on the ground in a 13-10 victory. Stanford certainly shot itself in both feet with boneheaded penalties, but USC boasts one of the best defenses in the country.

“You’re talking about a defense that I think is full of great players, extremely strong in the box players, defensive linemen like Leonard Williams, who’s just one of the top defensive tackles in college football today,” Addazio said. “Other guys interiorly along with their linebackers, Hayes Pullard, just sensational players. They were a great defense a year ago. They were in the top 20 in just about every category that existed and really formidable on defense. It will be a great, great challenge for us.”

On the other side of the ball, Javorius Allen rushed for 154 yards and averaged 6.7 yards a carry against Stanford’s defense. In two games, the junior’s amassed 287 yards and a touchdown on 45 attempts—BC struggled mightily to bring down James Conner against Pitt, and it remains to be seen how much the defense can improve in that respect in a week.
“It doesn’t matter what back you’re playing if you don’t tackle,” Addazio said. “We didn’t tackle, and we spent a lot of time this week—that’s why we’re in full pads so much. We’re just tackling and tackling.”

BC is already well acquainted with USC quarterback Cody Kessler—he threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns in USC’s 35-7 shellacking of the Eagles last season. Since locking down the starting job against BC last year, Kessler’s only improved. He’s also found a favorite target in the ultra-athletic, 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior wideout Nelson Agholor. In two games, Agholor’s recorded 148 yards and two touchdowns on 14 receptions. With BC’s secondary still struggling to defend the deep ball and big play, Agholor is a character straight out of defensive coordinator Don Brown’s nightmares, especially given his and Kessler’s propensity to link up on third down.

“[Kessler’s] got a tremendous arm,” Addazio said. “He’s a tough guy. He’s been in a lot of big games. They’re averaging 260 yards rushing, almost 280 yards passing, almost 500 yards per game in 32.5 points per game, so the quarterback is doing some great things.”

USC is going to attack BC on the ground and bombard the Eagles in the air. Looking to further their climb up the national rankings, the Trojans will try to put a nationally televised beatdown on BC. Most of the fellowship may have escaped Moria, but the Trojans are coming, and it’s unlikely BC can hold them back for long.

Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Graphic

September 11, 2014