Sports, Football

Notebook: Rushing Attack, Resilient Defense Powers BC in Blowout

The bye week came at the right time for Boston College football. Reeling from two consecutive losses to Wake Forest and Louisville, the Eagles took full advantage of the week off to prepare for North Carolina State on Saturday, as BC thoroughly dispatched the Wolfpack, 45-24. BC opened up a commanding 24-3 lead in the first half, and kept its foot on the offensive pedal for the rest of the contest to score more points against the Wolfpack than any other team has this season. In what was Dennis Grosel’s first start in place of the injured Anthony Brown, it was a great all-around showing for Steve Addazio’s team. Here are five observations from the dominant victory on Sunday.

1) Two-Headed Monster

N.C. State entered Saturday leading the ACC in rushing defense, allowing just 2.4 yards per carry and 66.7 yards per game. On Saturday, though, the tandem of AJ Dillon and David Bailey shredded the big front seven of the Wolfpack for a combined 404 yards on the ground. Dillon bullied defenders all afternoon long, rushing 34 times for 223 yards while adding three scores. With the performance, the sensational junior stands just 74 yards and two touchdowns shy of the respective all-time rushing records at BC. Dillon’s big day was nearly matched by his backfield mate, Bailey. 

The sophomore, known for his bruising style, showed impressive second level speed and tackle-breaking ability on Saturday, finding his way into the end zone on two highlight-reel touchdown runs of 54 and 48 yards. Bailey displayed great balance on his feet, staying upright when multiple defenders tried to take him down on both runs. 

2) Grosel Game Manages to Success

In the first start of Grosel’s collegiate career, Addazio did not need to ask much of his signal caller. With the great success the run game was having, BC dialed up 60 rush attempts compared to just 15 passes. However, with nerves being common in a quarterback’s first start, Grosel did his job, and he did it well. He looked poised in the pocket, and much of his 6-of-15 stat line can be attributed to a strong performance from N.C. State’s secondary, as BC’s receivers struggled to create separation.

When called upon, Grosel made plays with his arm and his legs. A great play design opened the way for a 51-yard completion to Hunter Long on a screen pass, and Grosel’s best play of the game came on a 3rd-and-10 from his own two yard line early in the third quarter. Grosel went through his progressions, and could not find an open receiver, so he opted to scramble. He ran toward the right sideline, sidestepped a defender, and got the first down. Moving the chains proved to be critical, as BC would end up embarking on a 16-play, 98-yard touchdown drive that deflated N.C. State in extending BC’s lead to 28.

3) Defensive Effort and Goal Line Stands

Although the Wolfpack defense turned heads in its first six games this season, BC had found itself on the other side of the coin. The 476 yards the Eagles were allowing per game ranked dead last in the ACC, but an inspired performance on Saturday flipped the script. BC set the tone early, forcing two quick three-and-outs, registering a defensive touchdown with Jason Maitre’s eight-yard interception return, and posting a goal line stand.

Much of the Eagles’ defensive struggles this year can be attributed to missed tackling, a part of their game which looked much improved on Saturday. With the exception of a few plays, BC tackled soundly, with two or three defenders finding their way to gang-tackle ball carriers, and defensive backs effectively bringing down N.C. State players in the open field.

While the outcome of the game was still in doubt, BC’s defense tightened up significantly around the goal line. With the Eagles leading by a touchdown in the second quarter, and N.C. State faced with 4th-and-Goal at the two-yard line, BC’s secondary held firm and did not leave Wolfpack quarterback Bailey Hockman with a chance to convert. The pass rush was effective all game. Thanks to two sacks and some nifty blitz packages, the Wolfpack were forced to call more quick passes given the success of the Eagles’ defensive line.

4) Max Richardson

Richardson entered Saturday quietly leading the ACC in tackles with 63, and he kept up the pace on Saturday—and he was apparent in more ways than one. BC’s weakside linebacker was all over the field on Saturday, notching 10 tackles, including three for loss and one sack. His play recognition was phenomenal, and he was effective as a run stuffer, a pass rusher, and in coverage. N.C. State found it difficult to complete passes over the middle of the field, and Richardson added to his stat line with a pass breakup as well. 

“If [the coaches] call up the right plays and we do our job at a high level with the technique they teach us, it’s really a beautiful thing; it’s like a machine,” Richardson said.

On what turned out to be a pivotal play for defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan’s unit, deep in N.C. State’s own territory, the Eagles’ defense was machine-like as Maitre undercut the route of a Wolfpack receiver and took it into the end zone for a pick-six. This play was made possible by Richardson getting pressure on Hockman, forcing him to throw the ball off his back foot without enough velocity to reach his receiver before Maitre jumped in front. Richardson continues to stand out for this defensive unit in the box score, as well as outside of it.

5) Penalties

There weren’t many negative aspects on display in the Eagles’ statement win on Saturday, but one area of improvement can be had in the penalty department. BC was flagged 12 times for 164 yards on Saturday. Five of these were illegal kicks out of bounds by kickoff specialist Danny Longman. BC typically likes to directionally kick the ball toward the left side of the end zone to allow as little room for a return as possible, but it leaves Longman without a lot of room for error along the sideline, and it staked the Wolfpack to good starting field position on these occurrences. 

A couple of the four additional false start penalties pushed the Eagles back in critical short-yard situations that kept BC from putting up even more points. It’s not a huge issue, but positive progress in this area could make a difference in a closer contest.

Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor

October 20, 2019