PISCATAWAY, N.J. — On the seventh play from scrimmage, David Bailey took a handoff from the Rutgers 42-yard line and found daylight. The sophomore burst through a huge hole created by the left side of the offensive line, and walked into the end zone untouched. In just 1:48 of game time Boston College football had gone 79 yards, looking explosive on its way to an early 7-0 lead. For the second straight week, it appeared as if the Eagles would cruise against an opponent they were favored against.
For the second straight week, however, the story wasn’t that simple. In fact, it started to look eerily similar to BC’s nightmare blowout loss to Kansas in Week 3. After a clean start, the offense stagnated, with penalties and poor execution hampering BC’s attempts to find a rhythm. On the defensive side, missed tackles and coverage breakdowns continued to plague the Eagles. In the end, however, BC ensured that the tale of Week 4 would have a much happier ending, tightening up on defense and riding a physical rushing attack to a 30-16 win over the Scarlet Knights.
It didn’t take long for Rutgers to answer Bailey’s early touchdown. After going three-and-out on their first possession, the Scarlet Knights forced a BC punt. Following two consecutive runs from Isaih Pacheco, which netted just six yards, Artur Sitkowski dropped back and found a wide open Raheem Blackshear streaking over the middle. The Rutgers running back caught the ball in stride, before skipping past the attempted tackle of Mike Palmer and trotting into the end zone untouched. The 74-yard score knotted the score at seven with 6:54 to play in the first quarter, and seemed to dramatically flip the momentum.
The completion seemed to give Sitkowski, who was making his first start of the season, a healthy dose of confidence. The sophomore was accurate and poised, completing 23-of-33 passes for 304 yards and a completion to eight different receivers. He followed up the 74-yard touchdown strike by leading a 10 play, 55-yard drive that ended in a 23-yard Justin Davidovicz field goal and gave Rutgers a 10-7 advantage.
BC simply couldn’t stay out of its own way. That 55-yard drive was aided by a fourth-down unsportsmanlike conduct call on TJ Rayam that moved the chains for the Scarlet Knights. On the other end, back-to-back false starts in third-and-short situations made life much harder on the offense, while Anthony Brown misfired on throws to Travis Levy and Kobay White that would have extended drives.
Fortunately for the Eagles, the Scarlet Knights—despite two consecutive scoring drives—weren’t error free either. Rutgers finished the game with 11 total penalties and, when it forced a stop and had a chance to extend its lead in the second quarter, couldn’t hold on to the ball. After a holding penalty backed the Scarlet Knights into 2nd-and-15 on their own 15-yard line, Blackshear took a handoff but was swarmed by a host of BC defenders and then stripped by Brandon Barlow. Mehdi El Attrach recovered the fumble, effectively flipping the field, and the Eagles’ stalled offense capitalized.
Four plays later, Brown barrelled into the end zone on a quarterback sneak for his second rushing touchdown of the season, putting BC back on top, 14-10, and giving the Eagles a lead they would never relinquish.
Justin Davidovicz knocked a 28-yard field goal through the uprights to draw Rutgers closer with just 44 seconds remaining in the second quarter, leaving Brown and Co. just enough time to respond. And respond they did, with a mostly well-executed two-minute drill. Three consecutive completions—two to Hunter Long, and one to Ben Glines—moved the ball from the Eagles’ 35-yard line all the way down to the Scarlet Knights’ 15, and Aaron Boumerhi converted on a 38-yard field goal as time expired, sending BC to the locker room with a four-point advantage.
Sitkowski continued his efficient day after the break, yet, for the most part, the Eagles’ defense appeared more cohesive as a unit, clamping down on big plays and forcing Rutgers to dink and dunk the ball down the field. The effort was on display from the first possession of the third quarter. BC forced a three-and-out to start the third quarter, then immediately strung together a bruising 13-play, 82-yard drive. The march ended with eight consecutive rushing plays, and a one-yard Dillon touchdown run that increased the Eagles’ lead to 24-13 midway through the third quarter.
BC would repeat the feat after Davidovicz drilled a 50-yard try, again imposing its will over Rutgers with a dominant rushing attack. Starting with 13:05 to play in the game, Dillon—who finished with 154 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries—and the Eagles steadily marched down the field on an 18-play drive that covered 75 yards and once again ended with a Dillon touchdown, this time from four yards out. While the New London, Conn. native did most of the work, Brown also chipped in with his legs, stretching for a pair of first downs on designed quarterback runs.
“I thought Anthony Brown ran the ball real physical, real tough today, and our offensive line did a great job today,” Addazio commented after the game.
By the time Sitkowski got the ball back, there was just 6:25 left on the clock, and Rutgers trailed, 30-16. A 28-yard completion to Bo Melton that featured, once again, several missed tackles from Eagles’ defenders, briefly gave the Scarlet Knights a spark, but two plays later Sitkowski heaved up a jump ball while running to his left and Palmer came down with the interception, ending any hope Rutgers had of a frantic comeback.
BC ran out the clock from there, and left Piscataway, N.J., winners on a day where it certainly wasn’t its best. Brown was far from perfect, completing just 13-of-25 passes for 159 yards and sometimes missing open receivers.
“We need to throw the ball more consistently,” Addazio said when asked about Brown’s accuracy struggles. “I think that’s a fair statement.”
Like the previous week, the Eagles struggled to tackle—Palmer’s whiff on Blackshear’s touchdown was just one example—and displayed a startling lack of pass rush, failing to sack Sitkowski. The warning signs are still there for BC, even though the Eagles did successfully pass their first road test.
“This is a young football team, but a passionate football team,” Addazio said after the game. “It took a shot [against Kansas], and bounced right back.”
With a young defense and a sometimes inconsistent offense, BC will likely take more shots this season. What will determine its success, as Addazio said, is how it bounces back.
Featured Image by Bradley Smart / Sports Editor