Sports, Football, Fall

Addazio Focuses on Defensive Growing Pains, Inconsistent Passing Ahead of Rutgers

Ahead of a non-conference matchup with Rutgers, Boston College football head coach Steve Addazio looked back to Friday’s stunning loss to Kansas and cited growing pains on defense and a lack of consistency in the passing game as his team’s biggest issues in the defeat.

Reflecting on the 48-24 defeat, Addazio, who finds himself on the hot seat after dropping a home game to a 21-point underdog, cautioned against overreaction and instead emphasized his team’s resilience. The Eagles (2-1) hit the road to face the Scarlet Knights (1-1) on Saturday at 12 p.m. in their first away game of the year.

“There’s a whole lot of football to be played,” the seventh-year head coach, said, per “That was game three of the season. You’re in this for the long haul.

“They’re not happy. None of us are happy. We’re going about the business of fixing it. Plain and simple, that’s where it is.”

BC’s defense, a point of concern in the offseason, was shredded for 567 yards by the Jayhawks, who snapped a 48-game losing streak in road games against Power Five opponents. The Eagles led early, 17-7, but Carter Stanley and Kansas’ offense would go on to score on seven straight possessions and hand Addazio and Co. a humbling defeat. 

“We have a bunch of young guys on defense right now, and we know that,” Addazio said after. “Sometimes there are peaks and valleys along the way. Without a doubt, there was a valley there on Friday night.”

BC’s defense, still without talented linebacker Isaiah McDuffie (who remains week-to-week), finds itself ranked 117th in rushing defense (214 yards allowed per game) and 90th in passing defense (243.7 yards per game). While the Eagles are tied for ninth in the country in tackles for loss and sixth in interceptions, they’ve largely failed to manufacture any pressure on quarterbacks and have been susceptible to the big play. BC has given up 51 plays of 10-plus yards through three weeks of the year, the eighth-highest total in college football.

Against Kansas, these flaws were especially evident. The Jayhawks had a pair of 100-yard rushers in Khalil Herbert (11 runs, 187 yards) and Pooka Williams Jr. (22 carries, 121 yards) and averaged almost eight yards per carry. Stanley, meanwhile, completed 74 percent of his passes and tied a career-high with three touchdowns.

“We got out of our gaps on defense,” Addazio said, when asked about potential fixes. “We blew some coverages, that wasn’t hard to see, and I know we didn’t tackle well. Those are the areas that we’ve targeted.”

The depth chart largely remained the same, save for a few changes on defense. Joey Luchetti and Richard Yeargin, who have been listed next to “OR” the duration of the year, swapped with Luchetti rising to the top. Kyiev Bennermon, who started at nose tackle against the Jayhawks, moved behind Tanner Karafa at defensive tackle, with TJ Rayam taking the starting nose tackle job and freshman Ireland Burke slotting behind him. Finally, Josh DeBerry, a true freshman, cracked the two-deep at the left cornerback position.

BC’s offense, meanwhile, has spent the week thus far working on the passing game. It had no problem running the ball against the Jayhawks in the early going—AJ Dillon had 128 of his 151 rushing yards in the first half en route to ACC Running Back of the Week honors—but soon fell behind on the scoreboard and had to turn to the air. Quarterback Anthony Brown struggled to sync up with his receivers, finishing just 18-of-36 for 195 yards and one touchdown, and Addazio pointed at the lack of consistency in the passing game as a particular point of focus.

“You watch the quarterback, and everything goes on his back,” Addazio said. “What sometimes isn’t seen is the route was broken off three yards short, or a receiver lost footing, or there’s a protection breakdown. Nobody sees that or talks about that. 

“That’s really all we’re talking about on offense right now. If I had to pinpoint one thing, I would have said consistency in our throw game would’ve helped us.”

One reason Addazio stressed the need for consistency in the passing game was because of the rushing defense the Eagles are going up against this week. Rutgers and head coach Chris Ash are coming off a 30-0 loss to No. 18 Iowa and rank just 66th in total defense, but Addazio had nothing but high praise for the Scarlet Knights—especially their ability to stop the run.

“I have a lot of respect for [Chris Ash] as a defensive coordinator and as a head coach, but by trade he’s a defensive coordinator,” Addazio said. “He’s a defensive guy and I think he does a good job with that defense.”

“They’re going to be one of the better defenses we face based on what I’m seeing on tape right now. We’re playing against a bonafide defensive front that is really darn good at stopping the run.”

Whether or not that defense or the one that allowed upwards of five yards per carry to the Hawkeyes will show up remains to be seen. One thing is certain, though: This is a must-win for both head coaches. BC is favored by a single touchdown, and both coaches find themselves in the Top 10 of the popular Coaches Hot Seat website. Back-to-back losses to Kansas and Rutgers could very well spell doom for Addazio, who spoke of being in the “middle of a process” on defense during Monday’s presser.

Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff

September 17, 2019

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