Eagles Get Another Go At Ironing Out Mistakes

Head coach Steve Addazio threw out a bunch of numbers in his press conference on Monday, but the one he kept coming back to more than any other was 18—the number of plays his Boston College offense ran on its second possession against Maine last Saturday.

“Now I haven’t seen an 18-play drive in a very long time,” he said. “I really didn’t realize it was as long—18 plays. We only came away with three points, but it was 18 plays. And there were a lot of good things going on in those 18 plays.”

It’s this drive that gives Addazio a good feeling about his team’s potential to move the ball down the field. But it also drives him crazy to see a drive of just about 10 minutes wind up short of a touchdown. Fortunately for Addazio, the Eagles have a game this Saturday against a second FCS team in Howard University—a game that will not directly help BC’s bowl chances, since only one win against an FCS team can count toward bowl eligibility.

That said, it’s a game BC must take seriously. If the Eagles make some of the same mistakes from last week in one of their eight ACC games, they can’t expect a reprieve. But this Saturday they get exactly that—another sandbox test-run to get the young guys some more work.

After going three-and-out on their first possession against Maine, the Eagles took the ball at their own 20. They ran those 18 plays Addazio mentioned, getting as close as 1st and goal at the four. The next three plays: Wade sacked for no loss; Wade rush for a loss of 10 yards; Wade pass, complete to Sherman Alston for a one-yard gain. Kicking a 31-yard field goal after a 1st and goal at the four-yard line is not a result any coach would want to see.

Now, Darius Wade looked good overall in his premiere. He went 14-25 with 155 yards and “managed the game pretty well,” according to Addazio. But the head coach’s emphasis for his quarterback to avoid unnecessary sacks comes back to this drive—and it’s something that will become harder as the blitzes get better. Wade also has more work to do when it comes to accuracy, overthrowing a few targets by a decent amount against Maine. But he should continue to have the chance to hit open receivers against an unintimidating Howard secondary.

The guys who need reps against Howard the most are those on the offensive line. With all of the turnover from last season, it was a potential weak spot coming into the year. They certainly had some rough plays against Maine, but Addazio hammered home the point that he didn’t expect them to gel right away.

He also doesn’t expect them to have everything together by Saturday, but the Eagles’ line shouldn’t get a big challenge this weekend anyway. Howard had three of its defensive linemen go down with injuries last week in a game where Appalachian State picked up 359 yards on the ground. This may give BC’s line some much-needed confidence going forward, where it will start ACC play against another manageable Florida State squad that allowed Texas State to gain four yards per carry last weekend.

Some teams may use an opportunity like this to take some risks and expand their playbooks, but Addazio isn’t looking to make many adjustments to his gameplan in the near future.

We’re not doing anything fancy out there, I’ll tell you that right now,” he said about Saturday’s upcoming game. “We’re going to go back to fundamentals this week. Fundamentals, basics, and work on get a higher level of execution.”

He wants to focus on getting his young guys up to speed, fixing the mistakes that they made last week, and getting them in more consistent shape to battle. But the glaring mistakes, even to the untrained eye, came from special teams.

After calling a fair catch pretty much anytime a punt went up last season, return man Sherman Alston struggled against Maine, nearly causing a fumble after rushing up for a last-minute effort on one play. On BC’s third drive, which went an impressive 12 plays, Alex Howell missed a 35-yard field goal, reinspiring the nightmare that was BC’s kicking squad last season.

Fortunately, none of those things mattered against Maine and they shouldn’t matter against Howard either. Addazio brushed off a question about the other ACC teams putting up large winning margins in their first weeks, saying he preferred to balance his offense and defense, and pointing to a huge advantage in time of possession as an indicator for more points to come. Beyond 18, the only number he really cared about was “1”—BC’s 1-0 record.

Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor

September 10, 2015