Sports, Football, Top Story

Banged-Up Eagles Hope To Crush Cardinals

A sea of maroon and gold, accessorized with thousands of red bandannas, engulfed the field the last time the Boston College Eagles had a home night game. Afterward, the victory over the USC Trojans was widely expected to be a lone bright spot in a tough year for the rebuilding Eagles. Head coach Steve Addazio has repeatedly acknowledged that his team is very thin, and that it will likely take him three years to build up the depth he thinks is necessary to compete in the ACC. And yet, eight weeks later, BC is already bowl eligible with three games remaining on the schedule, having earned another chance in the national spotlight as it faces the Louisville Cardinals at Alumni Stadium.

With the losses of Andre Williams, Chase Rettig, and Alex Amidon, the predominant question on the minds of BC fans was, “Where’s the offense going to come from?” Thus far, those fears have proved unfounded, as numerous Eagles have stepped up to contribute in a huge way. The Eagles have actually improved on offense, up from 94th in yards per game at 367 to 68th in yards per game at 407.

In nine games, Tyler Murphy has rushed for 965 yards, leading the team and making him BC’s career-leading rusher as a quarterback. Murphy has also completed 94 passes for 1,144 yards to 12 different receivers, and he has been able to work both the play action pass and the read-option offense with deadly results at times. Along with Murphy, the additions of right tackle Ian Silberman and wide receiver Shakim Phillips have helped relieve the loss of personnel as Addazio fills out his roster over several recruiting classes.

The offense faces a tough task going up against a Louisville team that ranks third nationally against the run and sixth overall, though. Murphy knows what the team is up against.

“It seems like I say the same stuff every week,” Murphy joked, “but we’re gonna have to take some shots, open them up a little bit, and kinda get ’em on their heels and keep attacking them, try to wear them down.”

Murphy has taken a pounding this year, and was noticeably limping against Virginia Tech at some points in the game. Addazio noted that Murphy has been “banged up a little bit,” and is dealing with a thigh bruise, but that he doesn’t see it really affecting his quarterback. That said, Murphy could do with a bit of rest, which Addazio is certainly eyeing. “Next week will be tremendous,” Addazio said of the upcoming bye. “It couldn’t come at a better time, honestly, mentally and physically.”

Defensively, BC lost a number of key players via graduation and others via injury. BC fans again expected regression. Again, BC has defied those expectations.

Statistically, BC has gone from allowing 427 yards per game in 2013 to allowing 312 yards per game this year, going from 93rd nationally to 11th nationally, a huge jump for a unit that really didn’t add many impact pieces like the offense was able to.

With the graduation of Kasim Edebali, BC’s most effective defensive lineman in 2013, there was a 6-foot-3, 246-pound hole left by his presence. Connor Wujciak, playing the interior of the line, has stepped up and proven to be a disruptive force for the Eagles, generating five tackles for loss, including two sacks in nine games from the defensive tackle slot.

The defense began the year unevenly before finding its footing against USC—a game in which the Eagles only allowed 20 rushing yards. In its last seven games (starting with the USC game), BC has allowed an average of 63.14 rushing yards per game, turning teams one-dimensional and allowing defensive coordinator Don Brown’s blitzes to continually pressure the opposing quarterback.

“Our guys understand how to fit,” Brown said. “We’re a little bit unorthodox in how we go about playing the run because we pressure so much … We defend the run with 11 guys. Everybody has their fits, everybody has their responsibilities, and we defend the pass with 11 guys.”

After the Eagles managed their way through a fairly easy schedule last year with a 6-6 regular season record, most fans recalibrated their outlook for this year to more realistic records of 5-7, 4-8, or maybe even 3-9 if things went really badly.

Well, that field-storming, stadium-shaking, massive upset over the Trojans perhaps should have been an early indication that this season would be something else: expectation-shattering.

Featured Image by Emily Sadeghian / Heights Editor

November 6, 2014