Sports, Football, Top Story

A Diversified Disconnect: Eagles’ Varied Offense Falls to Clemson

With the Boston College football team trailing No. 24 Clemson 10-7 early in the fourth quarter, quarterback Tyler Murphy hit a wide-open Dan Crimmins down the middle for 48 yards. Soon after, on third and 10, a scrambling Murphy connected with Charlie Callinan for a 15 yard pickup and first down. After a Myles Willis dive made it first and goal, Murphy, sweeping out to his right, found Josh Bordner in the opposite corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

The Eagles needed that big drive to put themselves in the lead. They did it, however, in an unusual fashion.

Against Clemson, offensive coordinator Ryan Day and the Eagles opened up the playbook, attacking the Tigers up the middle and opting for the pass in big situations instead of focusing on the run. In the end, however, BC’s slightly new-look offense came up short, and Clemson held on for a 17-13 victory.

“We didn’t just run that thing right up in there, which we would normally do,” Addazio said. “I thought we mixed it up good. I thought we called everything we wanted to call.”

With the Tigers’ defensive front seven being one of the best in the nation, the Eagles needed to mix things up to get the offense going. The most memorable play of the game came off of a double reverse, which ended up in the hands of former-quarterback-turned-wide-receiver Bordner, who completed a 35-yard pass downfield to Callinan. That drive ended, however, without the Eagles putting any points on the board.

So far this season, the Eagles have found success pounding the ball into the end zone on the ground, but on Saturday, Day came up with a different kind of red zone play call that left Sherman Alston wide open out of the backfield for his first career receiving touchdown.

As for the run game, the Eagles stayed away from the outside, running Hilliman and Willis up the middle for most of the game, aside from a few Alston jet sweeps. So far this season, both Willis and Hilliman have been extremely effective in getting to the outside and picking up yardage.

“We came out trying to attack the perimeter as hard as we could,” said head coach Steve Adazzio. “We tried as much play-action as we could, and then we had to come back and take our shots inside.”

More often than not, pounding the ball up the middle was ineffective, as the Eagles’ running backs were continually hit in the backfield for losses. Willis’ 15-yard first down, off a straight dive, ended up being one of the few successful runs up the middle of the game.

As he has shown a tendency to do throughout the season, Murphy came up with some big plays against Clemson when BC needed them. This time, however, Murphy did it through the air, rather than on the ground. With the exception of a key 19-yard pickup to set up the first TD and a 43-yard scramble late in the game, Murphy looked to pass the football instead of trying to beat the defense with his legs every time.

Twice he threw the ball deep on the same play down the middle, with Bordner dropping the first and Crimmins catching the second. When it really mattered the most, Murphy connected with his receivers en route to taking the lead in the fourth quarter.
“We tried to do a little bit of everything. We tried to keep it as loose as we could possibly keep it,” Addazio said of the more dynamic play calling.

In a defensive game filled with three and outs and booming Alex Howell punts, the Eagles got away from the run game, and the usually dominant Hilliman recorded his lowest carry total since week two by a significant margin.

“In a game like that, which we knew would be that game going in, it was going to be a bunch of ugliness, and we gotta play defense, hang in there, and make some plays,” Addazio said. “We hit a couple of runs—a few, not many—here and there, not a ton, and we were going to try to make our plays.”

While the Eagles’ defense looked very strong, with solid tackling and a couple of key breakups in the secondary, the Clemson offense was able to get into the end zone just enough to hang on for the win, as BC’s varied play calling, notwithstanding bright moments, came up just short in the end.

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

October 20, 2014

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