Sports, Football

Eagles Close At NC State

Two weeks ago, Boston College had the chance to head into its conference schedule 4-1, and blew it. A resume worthy of the national spotlight was in the Eagles’ sights—because that’s what you get when you piece together three consecutive wins, including one against a top-10 team, and have a star quarterback whose footwork bamboozles defenses on a weekly basis.

In the fourth quarter against Colorado State, though, the Eagles’ blockers were exhausted. BC was clinging to the lead, but slipped up multiple times in attempts to hold its advantage, and the team lost its traction.

Against North Carolina State last Saturday, the Eagles were in a similar situation. With a 10-point advantage, 10:42 on the clock, and a grip on the game as tight as Tyler Murphy’s grip on the football, BC had the chance to close things out—just like it did against Colorado.

Then, in a 75-yard, five-minute, 42-second drive, head coach Steve Addazio’s power-run game yielded success, as the Eagles pounded the football until Murphy & Co. had no room left to run and a 30-14 win over NC State was secured.

Jon Hilliman started the drive with three consecutive runs that drilled a tired, wet, and cold NC State defense. He bullied his way through the line of scrimmage before three massive defenders took him down. Those plays set the tone for 10-play, nine-run drive that followed.

BC’s execution of such a physical style of football hadn’t worked against the Rams because it requires a high level of fitness that allows players to put out maximum effort at each stage of the game. It’s difficult to successfully pull off a smash-mouth style of play without a full set of offensive linemen available to practice.

“We had to have a break,” Addazio said. “We were hanging on, to be honest with you, hanging on.”

During the bye week, offensive lineman Bobby Vardaro recovered from the injury he suffered against Maine, which gave the team a boost.

A healthier group of pocket protectors was able to give 100 percent throughout the game, which allowed Hilliman to go to work on the ground not just in the first half, but in the third and fourth quarters, as well.

But the tradeoff with rest is that rust has a chance to build up, and Addazio had to strike a balance. He did so by setting practices as close to the game as possible without putting the period of relaxation in jeopardy. Players were dressed in full pads at times during the week to keep the team wired and intensity levels up, which sharpened the Eagles’ dull edges.

The concern of having too much rest resurfaced during the game itself, as just after halftime, play was stopped for nearly an hour due to lightning. Just like the bye week, some schematic changes were made during the break, but BC needed a way to stay present in the moment. It needed the locker room to be as pumped as Addazio was after the team knocked off USC.

“Our kids were ready to roll,” Addazio said. “They had a great attitude, great attitude. That didn’t faze us a lick. It might’ve helped us … I mean, we just seemed stronger, to be honest with you.”

BC was first to retake the field after the pause, and the energy it brought out lasted through the remainder of the half. Just as the defense was making plays, the blockers on the other side of the ball sacrificed their bodies to create inches of space for the backs and Murphy.

The Eagles’ dual-threat quarterback has used his speed to bail BC out of tough situations in each win this season, most notably in his game-icing scamper to topple USC and his lung-busting and tide-changing outburst against Maine. None of that changed on Saturday, as a design-run worked due to another massive block from Josh Bordner and efforts downfield from Charlie Callinan. Murphy’s run for 26 yards capped the team’s 10-play move. The extra inches created by those blockers were due to BC’s freshness coming off the two-week break.

“We had more punch, which is what we lacked a couple of weeks ago when we couldn’t close that game out,” Addazio said. “We were tired. We were beat down. We were missing players, I mean, I know everybody is, but we were. The bye week helped us. From that standpoint, there’s no doubt the bye week helped us.”

But heading into a matchup with Clemson and the rest of its ACC schedule, BC will have to pack a punch to close games out on one week of rest, just like everybody else.

Featured Image by Gerry Broome / AP Photo

October 13, 2014