Top Story, Football

For First Time in Eight Years, Eagles Top Florida State

Two years ago, Boston College football wide receiver Jeff Smith was lining up under center on a daily basis. Originally recruited to play quarterback, Smith was thrown into the starting lineup following Darius Wade’s Week Three, season-ending leg injury. The 6-foot-1 dual-threat gunslinger went on to start nine games that season, but only managed 253 yards and two touchdowns through the air. His completion percentage hovered around 33, and, worst of all, he didn’t win a single game. BC finished 0-8 in the ACC and 3-9 overall, and the St. Petersburg, Fla. native abandoned the quarterback position at the season’s end.

Well, not entirely. Since transitioning to the outside, Smith has tossed three touchdown passes—the latest of which came on Friday night against Florida State. Quarterback Anthony Brown took the snap out of the shotgun and handed the ball off to Thadd Smith, who then pitched it to Jeff Smith on the double reverse. The junior briefly rolled right, planted his feet, and let one fly—easily his best pass of his career. His 34-yard touch pass to the end zone landed in the arms of Kobay White for the Eagles’ first touchdown of the game.

The trick play jumpstarted BC’s offense, as the Eagles scored twice more before intermission, en route to a 21-point first half. While BC wasn’t nearly as explosive in the latter portion of play, it did more than enough to secure its third-consecutive ACC victory, a 35-3 blowout. Smith won’t be credited with the victory, but the former signal caller can unofficially add this one to his resume.

BC’s (5-4, 3-4 Atlantic Coast) offense didn’t lose a step after last week’s 41-10 rout of Virginia. If anything, it gained one. Michael Walker ran back the opening kickoff all the way to the Eagles’ 43-yard line. Immediately after that, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler called for a double reverse. Jeff Smith sped off the edge for 26 yards into Seminole territory. A couple plays later, Brown threaded the needle to Tommy Sweeney. His pass squeaked by a pair of FSU (2-5, 2-4) defensive backs and hit the tight end in the hands. But the junior couldn’t bring it down. The drive culminated in a 49-yard missed field goal—one that Colton Lichtenberg shanked wide left.

But it didn’t take the Eagles long to make up for the empty possession. BC got the ball back three minutes later, and marched 79 yards downfield to take the lead. Loeffler rode a variety of run plays for much of the series. Eventually, the second-year man went back to the double reverse. Only this time, Jeff Smith wasn’t gunning for the outside. Instead, he delivered a 34-yard pass to White, who toe-tapped his way to his second touchdown of the year.

FSU—a team that entered the game averaging just 19.8 points per game—needed something to get its offense going. That something was a taste of the Eagles’ own medicine. From the Seminoles’ own 36, head coach Jimbo Fisher pulled out the ol’ double pass. Quarterback James Blackman dropped back and passed the ball to running back Cam Akers, who was behind the line of scrimmage. The true freshman flung a 47-yard pass to a wide-open Nyqwan Murray. But the gadget play didn’t result, or even lead to a score. In fact, soon after, Akers fumbled inside of the red zone. That was the closest FSU would get to reaching the end zone.

The Eagles didn’t score on their next drive, but they did push the ball to midfield, which enabled Mike Knoll to pin FSU at its two-yard line. Fisher called three-straight run plays for Akers, but he went nowhere. The defensive stand forced Logan Tyler to punt from his own end zone. Brown and Co. took over on Seminole turf and made quick work of the FSU defense.

Thanks to a quarterback keeper on fourth down and a big pass interference call—one of three on the night—the Eagles kept their drive alive. BC only needed two plays in the red zone: a two-yard carry by A.J. Dillon and a 11-yard play-action pass to Sweeney. The junior redeemed himself, after having dropped a touchdown in the first quarter. As soon as he came down with the reception, Sweeney plowed through FSU defensive back Stanford Williams III for six.

Things only got worse for the Seminoles on their ensuing series. Shortly after crossing midfield, Blackman attempted to fit a pass into a small window in the middle of the field for Ryan Izzo. But Eagles linebacker Ty Schwab was all over the tight end. The senior fought for inside positioning and picked off the pass—Blackman’s seventh interception in the past four games.

BC turned around and ran seven-straight rushing plays. Dillon, who notched his third 100-yard rushing game of his career, broke away for a 39-yard gain on the second play of the series. Loeffler continued to feed the workhorse, as the Eagles inched toward the goal line. Once they were there, Brown got his shot. Off the play-fake, he rolled right and surveyed the field. No one was open, so he tucked the ball and ran it in on his own.

Head coach Steve Addazio’s team had all the momentum on its side. On the other hand, FSU couldn’t have been more dysfunctional. Time and time again, Blackman stood tall in the pocket, but he could only do so much against a terrorizing BC defensive front. The true freshman took a beating, and at one point, appeared to have severely hurt his shoulder. Blackman got no help, especially from his backfield. Coming off his three best games of the season, Akers was held to a mere 42 yards on the ground. The Seminoles tacked on a field goal before the half, but showed no signs of life on offense for the rest of the night.

The two teams traded punts to start the second half. But the second—a 37-yard boot by Knoll—was a bit out of the ordinary. Back to receive the punt, Tarvarus McFadden tried to pick up the short kick off the bounce, near the 10-yard line. Unfortunately for the Seminoles, it grazed off his hands. BC safety Will Harris pounced on the live ball, putting his team right back in scoring position. From there, it was pretty simple. Dillon booked his ticket to the end zone with three-consecutive power run plays.

Down four scores with time winding down in the third quarter, FSU was in desperation mode. Fisher decided to go for it on a 4th-and-1, inside his own 25-yard line. But Zach Allen came up with a huge stop, wrapping up Akers well short of the first down marker.

Again, BC capitalized on the short field. A healthy dose of Dillon and a 11-yard bootleg got the Eagles down to the one-yard line. But Brown’s scramble was costly. The redshirt freshman tried to extend for the touchdown as he was tackled. Yet, in doing so, he rolled over his right shoulder—the same one that he injured against both Clemson and Louisville. Brown would later return, but in the meantime, it was Wade’s chance to shine. On 4th-and-1, the graduate student piled forward for a one-yard touchdown, the Eagles’ fifth and final score.

Neither team materialized any kind of offense in the final quarter of play. But the students weren’t leaving. As soon as the clock hit triple zeros, they stormed the field in celebration of BC’s first home ACC victory since 2014.

After the game, players of all different ages talked about the magnitude of the victory, especially considering its context—the fourth annual Welles Crowther Red Bandana game.

“I’ll definitely remember this game, probably for the rest of my life,” Schwab said.

BC has outscored its last three opponents 121-65. The only thing stopping the Eagles is their upcoming bye week.

“I mean, we’re really hitting on all cylinders right now,” Addazio said. “You almost, you know, hate to get out of the rhythm you’re in right now.”

Over the span of three weeks, BC has undergone a full-blown transformation. Addazio’s job used to be in jeopardy. Now, he’s safer than just about anyone in the ACC, and the Eagles are within striking distance of their second-consecutive bowl game.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

October 27, 2017