Aerial Attack Crucial to Victory over Massachusetts

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — University of Massachusetts quarterback Ross Comis looked down the field, rolled to his right, and threw the football. Tight end Adam Breneman was somehow, impossibly, wide open at the Boston College 40-yard line. He caught the pass cleanly and ran it in for a touchdown. And thus, to everyone’s surprise, UMass opened the scoring in Saturday’s Battle of the Bay State matchup at Gillette Stadium. Fortunately for BC fans, the Minutemen would not score again in the game. The Eagles stormed back, attacking through the air and on the ground to finish the game with a 26-7 victory. It was BC’s first victory in almost a full year.

The Eagles controlled the game and rightfully earned the victory. Let’s take a look at the things that stood out from today’s game.

1. Air Game
The Eagles dominated in the sky today. Quarterback Patrick Towles completed 12 of his 22 attempts for 191 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receivers made impressive, highlight-reel leaps to bring the ball in. UMass looked completely outmatched by the passing attack.

Best of all for BC fans? The growing relationship between Towles and receiver Jeff Smith. Both of Towles’ touchdown passes were to Smith, who tallied 98 yards today on just five catches. Towles praised Smith in the postgame press conference, saying that when the receiver takes off, nobody can catch him.

Smith, BC’s newest deep threat, was not the only receiver to tally some serious yards. Charlie Callinan recorded 48 yards on three catches, including a leaping catch bringing BC deep into Minutemen territory and setting up a rushing touchdown several plays later. Head coach Steve Addazio named Callinan’s catch as one of the key moments in the game.

Towles was able to show off his arm today, but that doesn’t usually happen in this program. Far from being a pass-happy team, the Eagles typically rely on the running game. But today, BC wasn’t able to excel on the ground. Jonathan Hilliman rushed for a touchdown, but the rest of the Eagles’ points came in the air or from field goals. In fact, Towles was the leading rusher for the Eagles, finishing with 66 yards. Hilliman came next, with 54. Myles Willis averaged 7.3 yards per carry, finishing with 22 total. Addazio likes to see at least 200 yards on the ground to consider the rushing offense successful. In future games, BC will also need to establish the running game as a threat, or else it will not see the same level of success as today.

BC’s breakout day in the air was good news for the program. The Eagles aren’t typically known as a passing threat, so Addazio was especially pleased with the progress he sees in his offense and hinted that fans may be seeing more throws in the future.

“Hey, we can throw the ball,” he said. “I think our passing attack is getting better, and we’ll see more of that.”

2. Sack City
After the game, Addazio revealed that UMass’ touchdown was a result of a mix-up and blown coverage. It certainly makes sense, because for the rest of the game BC’s defense was stellar, never allowing the Minutemen to gain momentum.

Comis’ touchdown pass was one of the only times he was able to find an open receiver downfield. He finished the game with 11 completions for 145 yards on 28 attempts, but often looked overwhelmed by the Eagles’ defense. Only three UMass receivers finished with double-digit gains. BC applied pressure on the quarterback throughout the game, forcing him to scramble around and look for a receiver. The coverage was so tight that he was often unable to find one in time, resulting in an astonishing eight sacks for the Eagles on the day. Connor Strachan recorded two and a half sacks, while Zach Allen added one and a half. Matt Milano chipped in one sack and eight tackles.

But, the defense stifled the Minutemen in more ways than just one.

3. Turnovers
BC’s tough pressure forced UMass to turn the ball over several times today. Late in the third quarter, deep in their own territory after two incomplete passes, the Minutemen lined up on third-and-long. Comis called for the ball and tried yet another throw. BC’s William Harris was ready for it. Harris stepped in front of the UMass receiver and cleanly intercepted the ball. His pick set the Eagles up for a 37-yard field goal just a few minutes later.

Aside from the interception, the Eagles also forced three fumbles, recovering two. Late in the second quarter, Comis tried to rush on first-and-10. Isaac Yiadom was ready to meet him with a powerful hit, forcing the ball out of Comis’ hands and into the air. Strachan dove on the fumble. The very next play for the BC offense was a 36-yard bomb from Towles to Smith for a touchdown.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

September 10, 2016