Top Story, Football

Aggressive Play-Calling Paves the Way for Dominant Win Over Miami

Miami entered Friday night’s game against Boston College football with the second-ranked total defense in all of college football. The Hurricanes—renowned for their big-play ability and “turnover chain”—had tallied 17 takeaways and 81 tackles for loss, 10 more than any other team in the country through the first eight weeks of play. Not only that, but head coach Mark Richt’s crew clocked in at second in the country against the pass and 12th in the FBS against the run.

Apparently, the Eagles didn’t get the message.

Using a variety of gadget plays, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler picked apart the Miami defense on the Eagles’ opening two drives. Anthony Brown spread the ball to an assortment of receivers, and A.J. Dillon—making his return to the lineup after missing the previous two games with a left ankle injury—rumbled through the trenches. By the end of the quarter, the Eagles had logged 209 yards of total offense. To put that in perspective, Miami had only been allowing 237 yards per game all year.

Eventually, BC’s productivity dipped, but it didn’t matter. The Eagles’ defense was there to pick up the slack, forcing a pair of third-quarter interceptions. Throughout the entirety of the primetime matchup—the fifth-annual Welles Crowther Red Bandanna Game—head coach Steve Addazio’s team looked far superior to its Coastal Division counterpart, ultimately handing the Hurricanes a 27-14 loss, Miami’s (5-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast) second-straight defeat.

While Ben Glines and David Bailey filled the void in the backfield the previous few weeks, the Eagles (6-2, 3-1) are simply a different team with Dillon carrying the rock—that was evident the moment he stepped on the field Friday night. On BC’s first play from scrimmage, Brown handed the ball off to the sophomore back, and he promptly burst through the trenches for a 25-yard gain. With a bit more acceleration, he could have been gone.

“I looked over at Coach [Brian] White and shook my head,” Dillon—admittingly not at 100 percent—told reporters after the game. “I should have just trusted my speed, I was thinking about the ankle on the first run.”

Nonetheless, the chunk of yards served as a confidence boost and, more importantly, jumpstarted the Eagles’ best drive of the season. Soon enough, Brown turned to the air, hooking up with Tommy Sweeney for a 14-yard pickup. Two plays later, the redshirt sophomore dumped the ball off to another one of his tight ends, Korab Idrizi. Then, after pump faking a pass to Jeff Smith out on the flat, Brown went back to Sweeney in the middle of the field, infiltrating Hurricane territory in the process. Seconds later, Loeffler pulled the first trick play of the game out of his hat: a 27-yard double pass.

Brown snapped the ball, took a two-step drop, and fired it to Smith, who was positioned a few yards behind the line of scrimmage. After catching the pass, the former quarterback hit Brown on a wheel route. As soon as the Cliffwood, N.J. native hauled in the reception, he turned on the jets, following his blockers and juking past a few Miami defenders, effectively energizing the crowd, specifically the loudest student section BC’s had all season.

The chicanery marked Brown’s third career reception—all of which have come with Smith throwing the ball.

“It’s not that hard,” the redshirt sophomore quarterback said. “He puts it in the right place.”

Fittingly, it was Smith who capped off the drive—this time as a receiver, bringing a nine-yard pass on a slant route for his fourth receiving touchdown of the year. The 10-play, 88-yard series was a sign of what was to come: fearless and aggressive play-calling.

Just when it looked like BC had all the momentum, DeeJay Dallas returned the ensuing kickoff 52 yards, setting the stage for a Hurricanes scoring drive. In due time, Miami responded with a touchdown of its own. Following an 11-yard scramble, Malik Rosier lofted a 13-yard pass to the back of the end zone. Standing at 6-foot-4 Darrell Langham elevated and pried the jump ball away from 5-foot-10 cornerback Hamp Cheevers. On his way down, Langham planted his right foot in the paint for six.

The Eagles were unfazed—on the next BC drive, Loeffler gambled at midfield, once again resting all of his trust in Smith. Brown faked a handoff to Travis Levy and instead gave the ball to a streaking Smith on the endaround. After sprinting toward the right sideline, the senior stopped, set his feet and aired out a 31-yard pass to a backpedaling Levy. Because of the previous trick play, Hurricanes cornerback Trajan Bandy keyed in on Brown, leaving Levy open down the left side of the field.

Near the goal line, Brown surveyed his options off the play fake—nothing was there, so, without hesitation, he tucked the rock and bolted to the left side of the end zone for an easy five-yard touchdown.

BC didn’t take its foot off the gas. After forcing Miami’s second punt of the game, the Eagles orchestrated their longest drive of the season: a 21-play, 79 yard series, one that spanned seven minutes and four seconds. Ultimately, BC had to settle for a 21-yard Colton Lichtenberg field goal, but the damage had been done. The Eagles had a 10-point lead and left Miami with about a half a quarter to respond before intermission.

Still, that was more than enough time for Rosier to drive downfield, using a multitude of shotgun runs and short passes, namely slant routes. But when the Hurricanes reached the end zone, Dallas was the one behind center, taking a direct snap 10 yards for Miami’s second and final touchdown of the night.

Neither team could execute the two-minute drill, and BC entered the break with a 17-14 lead and 128-yard advantage in total offense. In the second half, though, it was the Eagles defense that stole the spotlight.

BC picked off Rosier twice in the third quarter, in large part thanks to the pressure that the defensive line put on the veteran gunslinger. First, Cheevers came up with his fifth interception of the year—tied for the most in the FBS—after playing a game of hot potato with Wyatt Ray, D.J. Scaife Jr., and Mike Harley. Then, on the very next Hurricanes drive, Rosier went back to the slant on 3rd-and-7, but Taj-Amir Torres jumped the route, picking off his second pass of 2018. The turnovers resulted in a 23-yard field goal and a 14-yard Dillon touchdown, extending BC’s lead to 13 with a quarter and a half left to play.

A few drives later, however, Brown threw his first interception since the Eagles’ blowout loss at Purdue. Miami nearly capitalized, but failed to convert on fourth down in the red zone. Torres broke up a pass intended for Langham—one similar to the wideout’s first-quarter touchdown reception—all but putting the inter-division game to bed.

Miami turned the ball over on downs twice more, and BC ran out the clock. The goal posts came down and for the third time in the Red Bandanna Game’s five-year existence, students stormed the field, celebrating another upset victory.

“We’re 6-2, bowl eligible right now for the fifth time in six years,” Addazio said. “The best part about it is nothing was mentioned down in the locker room about it. … As a team, we didn’t mention it—I think that’s significant to where we are right now.”  

For the first time since 2009, the Eagles have recorded six wins prior to November. And for the first time in a long time, BC’s season is more than just about being bowl eligible.

Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Staff

Photos by Jonathan Ye / Heights Staff

October 26, 2018