Notebook: Dillon, Backup Quarterbacks Shine in Blowout

Accosted while walking home by an elderly woman and asked the final score of Saturday afternoon’s Boston College football win over nearby rival Holy Cross, I responded Eagles 62, Crusaders 14. A furrowed brow was her answer, and she checked if BC’s total was 26. No, I clarified, Steve Addazio’s historically offensively weak team had indeed cleared the 60-point mark with ease.

“You must be joking,” she finished, before briskly walking off. That seems to sum up the game quite well, as the Eagles have cleared 50 points in each of their first two games for the first time in school history.

A.J. Dillon only played the first three series but still managed to pile up 149 rushing yards and three touchdowns, Anthony Brown left after the fourth possession, and the Eagles defense prevented Holy Cross from managing a single offensive score in the thorough win.

It wasn’t necessarily the best game to analyze BC’s progression. Questions still remain, particularly those pertaining to how the Eagles’ early-season dominance will translate with tougher conference opponents lurking. Here’s a few takeaways from the win, as well as things to look at moving forward.

It is not fair for A.J. Dillon to play an FCS opponent.

This was clear from the very first play of the game. Dillon took a handoff around the left edge, beat a flailing Josh Hicks with ease, and raced 54 yards before being brought down from behind. Five carries and two touchdowns later, he was talking with Addazio on the sideline about coming out, and that was that. It was a simple conversation—keeping Dillon in was unnecessary, as they led 21-0 with him carrying the brunt of it.

“[Dillon] was laughing, he knows,” Addazio said of the brief sideline chat. “He knows I need him to have 300 as we roll forward, so he understood it. He probably could have ran for quite a few yards today.”

It’s understood that his role will pick up in the coming weeks, but having played just three quarters and already looking in peak form, Eagles fans can only be optimistic for bigger games moving forward.

The backup quarterbacks looked more than serviceable.

Brown threw just two passes, completing both, before his day was done. That meant an extended look at E.J. Perry and Matt McDonald, a duo that impressed at times throughout the preseason. On Saturday, Perry led seven drives, McDonald five, and the two combined to engineer five scoring drives. Both threw a pair of touchdowns and posted near flawless quarterback ratings, displaying a level of poise that is often unseen by one, let alone three, Eagles quarterbacks.

Perry’s first drive was noticeable, as after Brown was sacked to force a three-and-out, he came on and went 58 yards in just 10 plays. It was capped by a 17-yard touchdown pass to Ben Glines, wrapping up a three-minute push that bookended the first and second quarters. He’d go on to execute 67-yard and 48-yard touchdown drives, the latter the product of a big play—he hit C.J. Lewis in stride for a 33-yard score.

That was it for the sophomore, who handed the keys over to McDonald, and the third stringer was equally strong. Despite not showing the same athleticism—Perry scampered for a first down at one point—McDonald needed just two drives to settle in and get going. He found Hunter Long streaking past the secondary for a 35-yard touchdown on just his third throw of the game. Next, after two more dump off passes, he connected with Noah Jordan-Williams down the right sideline for a 65-yard score. All in all, the duo played excellently in relief, something that inspires confidence should Brown replicate last year and go down with an injury.

The secondary is as explosive, if not more, as last season.

Rightfully so, much was made about losing Kamrin Moore and Isaac Yiadom to the NFL after last year, but the early returns on the secondary have been promising. Stalwarts in Lukas Denis and Will Harris are back, but Hamp Cheevers has emerged as the epitome of a cornerback that can make the big play. In Week One, it was a forced fumble and recovery near the goal line that stifled a UMass scoring drive. This week, it was a seemingly effortless 81-yard interception return.

Cheevers, filling the void at the cornerback position, saw the pass coming a mile away and simply jumped in front of the receiver near the sideline and streaked to the end zone. The other question toward Cheevers & Co. was whether they had sufficient depth should one go down, and there was at least some positives for the group in that area—backup Mehdi El Attrach came away with the first interception of his career in the third quarter.

Special teams may never be where they need to be.

Harsh, sure. Accurate? Maybe. The unit as a whole has so many ups and downs it’s almost remarkable. Chalk some of it up to early season jitters or to rotating players around in a blowout, but the fact remains that the group isn’t doing well. In Week One, the struggles were plenty—kick returns allowed and failed snaps on punts and field goals.

On Saturday, not one, but two, punts were blocked and returned for Holy Cross touchdowns—the only points the Crusaders would score all day. Poor Grant Carlson, who’s performed admirably with big shoes to fill after Mike Knoll’s departure, was greeted rudely in each instance by several Holy Cross players flying through. Kicker John Tessitore, filling in for Colton Lichtenberg, banged an extra point off the left upright. Even kicker Danny Longman, who took over kickoff duties, sent one out of bounds. Then there’s return man Michael Walker, who managed to lose two yards on a punt return, looping in circles without gaining anything.

Addazio attributed the struggles to shuffling players around, but it was still a tough showing on an otherwise strong day for the team, and something that must be ironed out before the going gets tough. Even if the third punt team never sees the light of day, they still need to be in better form should something unexpected go wrong. At the quarterback position, Eagles fans can rest easy with two players gaining plenty of experience. On special teams, though, those roles seem much less settled.

Featured Image by Taylor Perison / Heights Staff

September 9, 2018