Last season, Boston College football quarterback Anthony Brown won the starting job in training camp and immediately flashed his mobility and arm strength. For a run-heavy offense, the Cliffwood, N.J. native was a breath of fresh air. That said, he was anything but consistent. In his 10 starts, the redshirt freshman failed to string together a pair of a games where he completed over 50 percent of his pass attempts. His rating fluctuated week after week, even after A.J. Dillon exploded onto the scene as one of the nation’s best running backs.
There were even more concerns surrounding the gunslinger following the Eagles’ late-season matchup against North Carolina State. Brown, who was battling a shoulder injury in the early portion of the season, tore his ACL in the first half, cutting his rookie season three games short. All offseason, pundits and analysts alike speculated whether or not the underclassman would return as the program’s quarterback of the future.
During Saturday’s season opener against Massachusetts, there was no indecision—not from the media or Brown—the 6-foot-2 signal caller, knee brace and all, confidently orchestrated six touchdown drives, throwing for a career-high 297 yards and four touchdowns in just one half of play. There was no question he was the best quarterback on the field, and it was abundantly clear that the Eagles were the far superior team. BC racked up 622 yards of total offense—455 of which it piled up in the first two frames—en route to a 55-21 rout of the Minutemen.
The game might have been over before the teams even took the field for the opening kickoff. Captains Will Harris and Jon Baker walked out to the 50-yard line and won the coin toss. Without hesitation, they elected to receive—BC knew what it was doing.
Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler started the 2018 campaign the same way he ended last season: by feeding his former ACC Rookie of the Year. Dillon carried the ball four times on the drive for an impressive, but rather predictable, 37 yards. Yet, it was what he did in the passing game that caught people’s eyes. Inside the Minutemen (1-1) red zone, Anthony Brown rolled out of play-action and hit Dillon in the flat. The 6-foot, 245-pound back caught the ball with ease and made a bee-line for the end zone, diving for the pylon to log his first career catch and touchdown reception.
BC stalled on the next possession, but the three and out was nothing more than a fluke. Led by Brown, the Eagles put together three-straight touchdown drives, starting with a seven-play, 73-yard series.
On the heels of five run plays, a pass interference call, and a false start, Brown took a two-step drop and dialed up a pass to Kobay White down the left sideline. The redshirt sophomore leapt in the air and snatched the perfectly placed ball, picking up 25 yards on the completion. On the very next play, Brown went back to his classmate—this time, he was all alone. White hauled in the pass and trotted into the end zone for a 34-yard score.
Brown’s two-touchdown first quarter almost took head coach Steve Addazio—who cautiously limited the redshirt sophomore’s snap count throughout training camp—by surprise.
“As he looked more comfortable, we took more shots,” the sixth-year Eagles coach said. “Going into the game, to me it was all about let [Dillon] win the game, and let’s bring Anthony along. But as we got into the game, we didn’t need to do that.”
That’s not to say Addazio abandoned the run. To start the second quarter, Dillon plowed his way through the UMass defensive line, setting up a 29-yard play-action pass to Ray Marten. By the time BC reached the goal line, it turned to Davon Jones to finish the job. It only took the linebacker—who entered college as a running back—two tries to punch it in.
The next drive was more of the same. Dillon, who rushed for 98 yards in the first half, muscled past a number of Minutemen to keep the chains moving. Loeffler mixed things up by having Jeff Smith run the jet sweep, in addition to successive crossing patterns, keeping the UMass defense on edge, as the Eagles pushed the ball downfield. Just like the previous series, Jones trotted out to the field for the team’s goal-line package and pummeled into the end zone for his second score of the game. To put that in perspective, the junior only recorded two rushing touchdowns during his two years as a running back.
Eventually, BC’s scoring spree came to a halt—albeit for 76 seconds of game time—but the Minutemen failed to capitalize on the situation. UMass’ offense struggled, from start to finish, converting just three of its 12 third-down conversions. There was really only one moment in the first half that had people believing that the Minutemen could actually hang with the dark horse of the ACC.
Midway through the opening quarter, Ross Comis—who alternated series with starting quarterback Andrew Ford at certain points of the game—hooked up with Andy Isabella down the right sideline for a huge 49-yard completion. Moments later, running back Marquis Young dashed into the end zone to cap a 72-yard scoring drive that took all of 83 seconds. The four-play series took the air out of Alumni Stadium and tied the game at seven points apiece. But rather than riding with the hot hand, head coach Mark Whipple went back to Ford, who ended the day with two interceptions and a meager 78 yards to his name.
Regardless if it was Comis or Ford, the UMass quarterbacks had very little time in the pocket—perhaps a rude awakening following the Minutemen’s massacre of Duquesne last week. When all was said and done, BC finished the game with six sacks.
After the Eagles punted for just the second time all day, the defense immediately forced a three and out, placing the ball in the hands of Brown and BC’s offense. The unit made the most of the opportunity, resuming its multi-touchdown blowout. The redshirt sophomore quarterback kept on executing play-action to near perfection, finding his tight ends in the heart of the field. The moment of truth came in UMass territory: Brown faked the handoff and trailed to his right, eying Marten on the seam—confident in his body, he delivered a strike to his tight end from his back foot while taking a hit from a Minutemen linebacker. Marten caught the pass and sprinted to the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown.
BC’s biggest hiccups all came on special teams. Two of them occurred within a span of a couple minutes. A botched extra point and a blown coverage on the ensuing kickoff cost the Eagles a point and potentially more. Luckily for them, Hamp Cheevers forced and recovered a fumble on their own goal line, setting the stage for BC’s most impressive series of the game: a 10-play, 97-yard drive that culminated in Brown lofting a 27-yard dime into the arms of a diving White.
“I beat the corner and he put it right on the inside,” the redshirt sophomore wide receiver told reporters after the game. “So, the corner—he kind of made the play, but by the time he got there it was too late because the ball was just dropped right in my hands. I didn’t have to do much.”
UMass was down, 41-7, with less than a minute to go in the second quarter. Just when it looked like the Minutemen were going to wave the white flag and run out the clock, Ford forced a pass downfield—one that was ultimately deflected into the arms of a charging Lukas Denis. The safety, who intercepted seven balls last season, took the pass 59 yards all the way to the house, recording his first touchdown of his collegiate career as time expired.
BC didn’t play Brown or Dillon during the second half and decided to give the second-teamers a chance to lead the offense. Taking after the guy ahead of him on the depth chart, backup quarterback E.J. Perry led the Eagles downfield and watched freshman running back David Bailey steamroll into the end zone for six.
UMass whittled its 48-point deficit down by a pair of touchdowns before the end of the game, even playing third-string quarterback Michael Curtis in the final stages of regulation. But the damage was done. The Eagles’ 55 points marked the first time that the team has met or eclipsed the 50-spot in a season opener since it shut out Northeastern, 54-0, in 2009.
“This was one win,” Addazio said. “We can put it in the win column, we can learn from it, we can grow from it, and the most important thing is, we better improve from it cause we’re staring down the gauntlet of a lot of tough games ahead of us.”
But before BC experiences the rigors of conference play, it has another in-state opponent left to take care of. And after Saturday’s offensive explosion, there’s no telling what kind of spectacle the Eagles will put on when the Patriot League’s Holy Cross comes to town.
Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor
Photos by Kaitlin Meeks and Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor and Heights Staff