Football Looks to Build on UMass Win Against Hokies in Blacksburg

At Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Boston College football accomplished something that it hasn’t done in almost a full calendar year: win a game. Following a tough season-opening loss to ACC foe Georgia Tech in Dublin on a game-winning touchdown in the final minute, the Eagles (1-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) looked to bounce back against a relatively weak Massachusetts team in the Battle of the Bay State. After getting off to a slow start trailing 7-0 after the first quarter, BC’s offense ignited with two long touchdown connections, one for 46 yards and the other for 36 yards, between quarterback Patrick Towles and quarterback-turned-wide receiver Jeff Smith. The Eagles’ defense continued to show its prowess, holding the Minutemen to 122 total yards and forcing three turnovers, as BC ran away with a 26-7 win.

While the Eagles were happy to come away with their first win of the season, they look to accomplish something else this weekend that hasn’t happened since Nov. 29, 2014: win a conference game. It won’t be an easy task for the Eagles, as they venture to Lane Stadium, one of the toughest venues in college football, to take on a solid Virginia Tech squad that’s coming off a loss to No. 17 Tennessee. Though BC won the last time it took a trip to Blacksburg—33-31 in 2014 with Tyler Murphy behind center—the Hokies (1-1, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) have not been too kind to the Eagles over the years. BC is just 2-5 against Virginia Tech in their previous seven meetings, and 8-16 overall.

“They’re a really tough opponent,” Towles said after practice Tuesday. “It’s a really tough place to play. They’re a very good football team that plays hard and it’s going to be a really good challenge for us.”

BC hopes to build off of some of the momentum from the UMass victory both on the offensive and defensive side of the football. While the defense continues to demonstrate that it’s one of the best in the country, the offense, which ranked toward the bottom nationally in several categories, has shown signs of life so far this year. Credit much of that success to Smith, who has adjusted seamlessly to his new position. Smith has become a superb connection for Towles early this season. A former receiver in high school, Smith has made the transition back to his old position seem easy, but he’s the first to tell you that it’s harder than it looks.

“It definitely wasn’t a simple choice,” Smith said. “After the first couple of weeks, it was kind of tough. But I mean, I got over it. It’s definitely working now.”

Smith’s work ethic and productivity have caught the eyes of many of the Eagles’ coaches and players, especially his quarterback.

“[Smith’s] work ethic is incredible,” Towles said. “He’s worked his rear end off to get better. He’s asking me great questions about how he could get more open and how to run certain routes and it’s shown. It showed on Saturday and it’s going to continue to show for the rest of the season.”

Two games into the season, the duo of Towles and Smith has been dynamic and explosive, but the Eagles’ offense still has plenty of room for improvement. Although star running back Jonathan Hilliman is back after missing most of last season with a broken foot, BC hasn’t quite produced a consistent running attack. Towles is also looking to incorporate other receivers and running backs into the offense to create a more dangerous threat to opposing defenses.

“The more you throw the ball around, the more you’ve got to defend,” Towles said. “If we can continue to spread the wealth so to speak to all the different kind of guys, it’s only going to help us.”

If BC wants to come out with its first ACC win, maintaining a consistent offensive attack will be one of the main keys to this game. The defense, which is already one of the nation’s best, looks to take advantage of a Virginia Tech offense that has struggled to hold onto the football. In its first two games—one against Tennessee, but the other against FCS Lamar—the Hokies have fumbled the ball nine times. The combination of BC’s ferocious defense and Virginia Tech’s careless offense favors the Eagles. Therefore, the deciding factor of this game will be the Eagles’ ability to control possession offensively and take advantage of their opportunities to put some points on the board. Head coach Steve Addazio knows that the Hokies should not be taken lightly and that the stage is a big one.

“We’re going to play our toughest opponent to date in Blacksburg, without a doubt,” Addazio said in his Monday afternoon press conference. “This is going to be a really tough place to play. It’s very tough to go into a place like that and win. It’s very difficult.”

Nevertheless, the Eagles must maintain their composure in this hostile environment and control the pace of the game to come out of Blacksburg with their first ACC win since 2014.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

September 14, 2016