Sports, Football

Four Bye Week Thoughts on BC Ahead of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh

Last week, Boston College football had a prime chance to clinch bowl eligibility. The Eagles welcomed in Florida State, a team that had just fired its head coach and didn’t announce its starting quarterback until just before game time.

Instead, BC watched as the Seminoles scored 21 unanswered points to take a lead, then the Eagles mounted a fourth-quarter comeback only to give up two touchdowns in a span of less than two minutes and fall, 38-31. 

That puts the Eagles back at .500, sitting at 5-5 with two road games left against No. 16 Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. The two are a combined 13-5 and a sixth win seems quite difficult for head coach Steve Addazio and BC, with ESPN’s FPI projecting a pair of defeats to end the campaign. With that in mind, here are four things that have stood out from the last few roller-coaster weeks and what they mean as the season winds to a close.

1) Defensive Breakdowns

Through 10 games, the Eagles have allowed 175 plays of 10-plus yards, the second-most in the country. The only team that’s allowed more chunk plays from scrimmage? Massachusetts, who is 1-9 , is giving up 53 points per game, and is notably a 40-point underdog to offense-deficient Northwestern. Time and time again, Bill Sheridan’s defense has cracked, as BC is one of just 12 teams that’s allowed 10 or more plays of 50-plus yards to opposing offenses. In the last three games—against No. 3 Clemson, Syracuse, and FSU—the Eagles have given up the following scores:

  • Clemson’s Diondre Overton, 63-yard touchdown reception
  • Syracuse’s Trishton Jackson, 85-yard touchdown reception
  • FSU’s Tamorrion Terry, 74-yard touchdown reception
  • FSU’s D.J. Matthews, 60-yard touchdown reception
  • FSU’s Jordan Travis 66-yard touchdown run

It doesn’t matter if BC is playing one of the nation’s best offenses or a pair of teams with porous offensive lines, it can’t prevent the big play. That has led to the Eagles ranking 125th in total defense, allowing 486.9 yards per game—which, despite switching from Jim Reid to Sheridan as coordinator, is a nearly 90-yard step back from last year. Yes, BC has a lot of new players in its defense, but it is struggling to an unprecedented degree.

2) Grosel’s Growth

One upside from the loss to the Seminoles was the play of quarterback Dennis Grosel, who has gotten his feet under him and is taking strides each week. He had a strong debut against Louisville when he was thrust into relief duty, throwing for three touchdowns, but he also completed just 9-of-24 passes. In the next two games against North Carolina State and Clemson, he was just 9-of-29 for 156 yards and zero scores, with the Eagles barely using him and leaning heavily on the running game.

In the two games since, though, Grosel has looked mighty impressive. BC has been able to call on his number through play-action, and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian has incorporated his familiarity with rolling out (from his high school days) to great success. After picking apart the Orange secondary for three touchdowns on just 10 pass attempts, Grosel did well with a bigger burden against FSU. 

While he threw an interception on the team’s second-to-last drive instead of either throwing it away or running out of bounds, Grosel otherwise played excellently. He finished 20-of-29 for a career-high 227 yards and two touchdowns. Both went to Kobay White, which was a good sign as the redshirt junior wideout now has three scores in the last two games after totaling just two in the previous eight. Grosel also displayed his ability to create yards on the ground, managing a pair of 20-plus-yard runs and the game-tying touchdown, making the Eagles’ offense even more potent.

3) Running Them Into the Ground

Much has been made of the duo of AJ Dillon and David Bailey this year, and for good reason. Nearly a combined 500 pounds, the bruising pair of running backs have been able to run over basically anyone (aside from Clemson) this season. The first cracks started to show on Saturday against FSU, with Bailey leaving at the start of the second half with an undisclosed injury while Dillon labored heavily for a career-high 40 attempts.

Dillon was clearly gassed by the end of the game, and understandably so. He averaged just 4.13 yards per carry and had little to show for it, as he wasn’t able to punch his way into the end zone. Unlike the Syracuse game, he didn’t have Bailey to help soften up the opposing defense, and Travis Levy—who BC used on back-to-back runs at one point—just doesn’t have the same effect. Dillon’s workload was an issue last year, and if Bailey is out beyond the bye week, that could set up poorly for the junior’s workload. It sure doesn’t help either that Notre Dame is ranked seventh in defensive efficiency and Pittsburgh isn’t too far behind at 12th.

4) Snakebitten

As is the case every college football season, BC has run into its share of injury issues. Bailey’s exit was the latest in a string of high-profile injuries that have hit the team in the past few weeks. The biggest loss was quarterback Anthony Brown in the Louisville game, obviously, but there’s been a plethora of issues recently. First, tight end Chris Garrison was ruled out for the season with a knee injury, and while that position group was poised to withstand an injury or two, it wasn’t prepared for what happened next.

Graduate transfer Danny Dalton has been injured for the bulk of the season, then Korab Idrizi was out with a leg injury as well and missed the Syracuse game. To make matters worse, against the Orange, Hunter Long—the team’s leading receiver—went down with a leg injury. Long and Idrizi returned against FSU, but weren’t at full strength, so the Eagles had to turn to Jake Burt as the go-to target and he had four catches for the first time this year.

BC also lost a pair of starters on the defensive side of the ball, with starting safety Mike Palmer suffering a lower leg injury and missing the FSU game. Then, true freshman Connor Grieco, who earned his first career start against Syracuse, broke his arm and is done for the year. All in all, the Eagles are a bit banged up heading into their second bye week of the season, so it’s coming at a good time as they try to get the tight end unit and secondary somewhat back to full strength.

Featured Image by Kait Devir / For The Heights

November 12, 2019