BC Enters Week Four With Improved Defense, Limping Offense

Through three quarters of play on Saturday, Boston College football was on pace to hold No. 2 Clemson to 359 yards of total offense—about 150 less than the defending national champions’ season average. It appeared as if the Eagles’ defense was only getting better with time. The unit looked at its best in the third quarter. Cornerback Lukas Denis picked off Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant, and BC conceded less than 50 yards in the entire period.

Head coach Steve Addazio had the Tigers right where he wanted them.

“Our goal was to drag ’em into the fourth quarter,” Addazio told reporters at Monday’s press conference. “Drag ’em in, and then at that point, it’s anybody’s game.”

But everything went south from there.

The Tigers reached the end zone on all four of their fourth-quarter drives. In doing so, head coach Dabo Swinney’s group racked up 213 yards of total offense—just shy of the team’s first-half output. Meanwhile, BC struggled to just move the chains. The Eagles only recorded one first down in the final frame.  

Addazio said that fatigue played a huge hand in the late-game collapse. Not only had his defense been on the field for more than half the game, but it was also lacking depth. Already without starting strongside linebacker Connor Strachan, the position group took another hit in Death Valley. Max Richardson went down in the second quarter with an apparent knee injury. Addazio said that there is currently no update on the middle linebacker’s status.

Ty Schwab is the only healthy starting linebacker that began the season as a starter. John Lamot and Kevin Bletzer will most likely join Schwab in the lineup this week against Central Michigan. But Addazio mentioned that former running back Davon Jones and true freshman Isaiah McDuffie will also get more reps in practice.

The injuries are potentially even more concerning on the other side of the ball. Left tackle Aaron Monteiro was sidelined early on in the fourth quarter against Clemson. At the moment, there is no word on when the big man will back to full strength. Monteiro is latest of BC’s offensive linemen to catch the injury bug.

Left guard Elijah Johnson tore his ACL in the offseason. Then, in Week One, center and captain Jon Baker blew out his knee. All the while, backup center Shane Leonard has been out with a nagging injury of his own. Until Leonard returns, Addazio is forced to play true freshman Ben Petrula at the center position. Ideally, he would like to move Petrula back to the right tackle position, giving him a bit more flexibility, in terms of in-game rotations.

Still, injuries didn’t cost BC the game on Saturday. The inability to convert on third down did though. Entering the game, the Eagles were averaging 19.3 third downs per game—the fifth most in the country. This time around, BC was faced with 16. Redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Brown and Co. only moved the sticks on four such plays. As a result, BC’s offense halted near midfield on multiple occasions.

Shorter drives meant less plays for Addazio’s up-tempo offense. The Eagles only ran 66 plays this weekend, close to 20 short of the season average. Addazio said that the reduction wasn’t part of the game plan, but merely a byproduct of Clemson’s star-studded defense.

Regardless of the Tigers’ talent level, Addazio maintained that BC needed to capitalize on the opportunities that it was presented with. In his eyes, the team fell short of that goal.

“Against those kinds of teams, you have a very finite amount of opportunities,” Addazio said. “And you’ve gotta connect on those. We weren’t able to take advantage of enough of them.”

Fortunately for the Eagles, they won’t be playing one of those teams this week. In the past two weeks alone, Central Michigan has given up a total of 72 points. Addazio anticipates that his team will come out firing against the Chippewas—something BC has yet to do all season.

The Eagles may be 1-3, but, as Addazio pointed out, unlike most Power Five teams, they haven’t played a single “gimme” game this season. In 2016, BC started off the year with wins over Wagner, Massachusetts, and Buffalo. So far, the Eagles have only played one non-Power Five team: Northern Illinois—a team that upset Nebraska two weeks after falling to BC in the season opener. Overall, the four teams BC has played have a combined record of 13-2.

The scores certainly don’t show it, but Addazio believes that his team has made big strides since Week One. BC’s bout against Central Michigan—another team from the Mid-American Conference—will serve as a litmus test of sorts for the Eagles.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

September 25, 2017