Motivated by Purdue Loss, Eagles Prepare for Upset-Minded Temple

In just one week, Boston College football lost its first game of the 2018 campaign, slid outside the top 15 in scoring and total offense, and dropped out of the AP Poll—not just the Top 25, but also the receiving votes section of the weekly ballot. To say the least, the Eagles aren’t happy.

“We have got an angry football team right now,” head coach Steve Addazio told reporters during his Monday weekly press conference. “And that’s a good thing. It should be.”

The sixth-year Eagles coach wasn’t making any excuses for himself. Addazio was adamant that no team can expect to come out on top after turning the ball over four times and committing seven penalties on the road against a Big Ten opponent. He pointed out that there were a handful of opportunities for BC to put points on the board and even improve to 4-0, before blaming himself for the Eagles’ inability to capitalize on said chances.

Addazio wasn’t the only one off his game, though. A.J. Dillon carried the ball 19 times for just 59 yards—his fewest yards in a game since taking over as the lead back at Louisville last season. Carrying the ball a mere 3.1 yards per clip, the sophomore struggled to establish any sort of rhythm on the ground.

Uncharacteristically, Dillon frequently bounced outside the tackles, making a beeline for the edge. Time and time again, the Heisman hopeful was wrapped up at or behind the line of scrimmage. Addazio mentioned that, like the rest of his teammates, Dillon loves to hit the big play, but ultimately conceded that any player—even someone as special as the 6-foot, 245-pound running back—has to work with what their given. Quite simply, volatile playmaking is a double-edged sword.

“It is something that can be a blessing and a curse,” he said. “It is my job to make sure we are playing within the structure of everything.”

Without a run game, Anthony Brown didn’t have nearly the same pocket that he enjoyed the previous three weeks. Often under duress, the redshirt sophomore quarterback was sacked four times and threw four interceptions—three of which came on successive drives. All of a sudden, Brown—who entered Ross-Ade Stadium with the highest passer efficiency rating in the FBS—looked like the underclassman that he is.

But the Cliffwood, N.J. native is battle-tested. In fact, he’s just weeks removed from throwing a career-high five touchdown passes merely nine months after tearing his ACL—an injury that forced Brown to sit out the final three games of the 2017 season. According to Addazio, the weekend’s performance is nothing more than a source of motivation for his quarterback.

“I would tell you [Brown] would fall in the pissed-off category,” he said. “He’s ticked off, as any competitor would be. Anthony will be just fine. Anthony will be just fine. He’s still a young player—we forget that.”  

Addazio emphasized that there’s no need to push the panic button or rethink the entire offense. For him, execution comes down to consistency, and the first step to restoring that offensive firepower is beating Temple on Saturday, a team that he knows quite well.

After all, he served as the head coach of the Owls from 2011-12 and led the program to its first bowl victory in 32 years. Not only that, but he also coached the team as it transitioned from the Mid-American Conference to the Big East—a jump that eventually resulted in the program’s move to the American Athletic, a change that has essentially put Temple football on the map.

Throughout the press conference, Addazio harped on the school’s catch phrase “Temple TUFF” and explained how the program is extremely dangerous, especially having just defeated both Maryland—then a fringe Top 25 team—and Tulsa.

Since Week One, the Owls have flipped a switch. After failing to eclipse the 300-yard mark on offense during its season-opening loss to FCS Villanova, Temple has averaged 31.7 points per game over the course of the past three contests. Although the Owls have experimented with two guys behind center, Anthony Russo is expected to start on Saturday, perhaps due to an undisclosed Frank Nutile injury. The redshirt sophomore is highly inexperienced, but has shown flashes of potential, especially while engineering a 21-point upset win over the Terrapins. Where he’s gone wrong is the turnover department.

Russo has only thrown 49 passes this season, and three of them have been picked off. Luckily for him, his defense has no problem getting the ball right back—Temple currently ranks sixth in the country in takeaways with 2.7 per game. Against Tulsa, the Owls forced four fumbles, two of which were recovered, and three interceptions. Temple’s defense plays both fast and fearless, and Addazio is well aware of how lethal a unit like that can be, particularly in a non-conference matchup.

He made it clear that BC will have to be patient with the ball in its hands. Addazio talked about how he was disappointed that he wasn’t able to get Brown going in the early stages of the Eagles’ Week Four matchup against Purdue. This time around, he hinted at potentially incorporating a few sprint-outs or play-action rollouts to help the redshirt sophomore find his mark. Addazio explained that BC’s offense is centered around picking up first downs. Last week, the Eagles had an average of 9.1 yards to cover on third down and only recorded three third-down conversions all afternoon. Whether the Eagles can cut that number down this weekend will likely determine if they can right the ship on Parents’ Weekend.

Toward the end of the press conference, Addazio’s ties to Temple grew evident. He discussed how he watches all of the Owls’ games—even their Week One loss to Villanova—and why he believes the program is trending in the right direction. Eventually, though, he stopped himself short and declared that, this week, his feelings toward Temple are different.

At the moment, the Owls are the opponent, debatably one of the biggest that he has ever faced—not in relation to rank or prestige—but in terms of magnitude. Depending on how BC responds to last week’s embarrassment, Saturday’s game could very well measure just how far Addazio has come as a head coach.

Featured Image by Patrick Semansky / AP Photo 

September 25, 2018

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