Sports, Football

Notebook: Eagles Bulldozed By Louisville

A lot can change in a month. On Sept. 25, Boston College football fans stormed the field as BC moved to 4–0 with a dramatic overtime win over Missouri and seemed on track to mount a successful ACC campaign despite the loss of Phil Jurkovec. A loss to Clemson was sloppy yet still spoke to the Eagles’ potential, but the wheels have fully fallen off over the past two weeks. BC looked unprepared on both sides of the ball to face NC State, and it was more of the same against Louisville on Saturday. The Cardinals racked up 331 yards on the ground, and head coach Jeff Hafley was forced to admit postgame that his staff may have to evaluate other options at quarterback. The Eagles dropped their third straight game for the first time since 2018 by a final score of 28–14. Here are three takeaways from the game:

Full Speed Ahead

The Eagles’ defense appeared unprepared to handle the Cardinals’ speed from the get-go, and though it performed slightly better in the second half against a dynamic offense, the low-scoring total mainly came from good turnover fortune, as BC held Louisville to just one touchdown in the second half. BC was outclassed in both scheme and talent, as Malik Cunningham and Louisville’s speedy backs ran circles around the defensive line and gashed through the secondary. 

BC is far from the first team that Cunningham has run all over during his career, but the dominance of backs Jalen Mitchell and Trevion Cooley made Cunningham look even better—and made BC’s defense look even worse. Playing against what is usually a generous Virginia defense last week, neither back managed to record over 3.5 yards per carry. Even in the duo’s best game of the year against Wake Forest, they did not manage to get close to the play that they flexed against the BC. 

Louisville boasts a strong offense on the whole, but the Eagles’ lackluster performance made Louisville’s run game look much like it did with famed dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Eagles’ defensive line got no push, the linebackers showed they did not have the speed to get to the edge, and BC’s safeties missed vital tackles left and right, giving up explosive plays.

Offensive Line Still Waiting to Match Potential … In Year Four

After a couple of weeks filled with uneven pass blocking, constant false start penalties, and poor snaps, BC’s offensive line needed a big week against a weak Louisville defense to reset its supposed status as one of the best units in the ACC. It quickly became clear, however, that BC’s experienced offensive line has not lived up to its potential once again.

Just two minutes into the game, Louisville linebacker Yasir Abdullah blew untouched past Tyler Vrabel and brought down quarterback Dennis Grosel with a crushing hit to force the Eagles into punt formation. In the same quarter, one of Alec Lindstrom’s snaps nearly sailed over Grosel’s head, eerily reminiscent of the multiple faulty snaps that cost BC the game against Clemson.

The offensive line did a solid job in the run game and created some huge holes, but the pass blocking struggles that the Eagles showed early continued throughout and only amplified as Louisville sent waves of pressure and dared Grosel to throw deep. Jack Conley replaced Vrabel in the second quarter, as Vrabel continues to fight the injuries that have kept him out at points over the last two weeks. Officials immediately called Conley for a false start before he allowed a sack on the next play. The penalty was one of three false starts on the day against the offensive line. 

Shot in the Foot

The Eagles were down by 14 when offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. switched to a pass-dominant offense. It seemed like BC was going to need to score much more than that margin to keep up with a flying Louisville attack, but it appeared as though BC switched off the run game far too early. BC tore through Louisville on the ground on its touchdown drive in the first quarter, and though it was never that easy for BC again, the Eagles continued to have success running in the first half. 

After two quarters spinning their wheels through the air, the Eagles finally returned to the run in the fourth quarter and immediately found success again. On their first drive of the fourth quarter, the Eagles ripped off runs of 12, 17, 7, 6, and 9 yards. Though the success on the ground petered off toward the end of the drive, and BC did not come away with any points, the rush attack looked infinitely better than the flailing of the passing game. BC was down by 14 in the second quarter and acted as if it was down by twice that as the offense forced itself into a self-defeating game plan.

Featured Image Courtesy of Timothy D. Easley / AP Photo

October 24, 2021

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