Boston College football coach Jeff Hafley has decided who will start at quarterback in the Eagles’ game against Syracuse on Saturday, but he announced on Tuesday that he won’t reveal the decision until BC takes the field.
When he met with the media after practice on Wednesday, though, Hafley was optimistic about his offense.
“I thought we threw the ball well, [and] we caught the ball well,” Hafley said. “I went down there and watched some of the offense today too, and guys are working really hard.”
Hafley said that the quarterback decision was not based on the Eagles’ opponent, but instead on what gives them the best chance to win.
BC is one of just two teams in the ACC without a win in conference play and is set to take on Syracuse—with just one ACC win—in the Carrier Dome on Saturday. After preparing to take on Clemson in Death Valley by blaring the music during practice, Hafley and his team have been taking similar measures this week to prepare to play in another hostile environment.
“I’d be shocked if it wasn’t a packed house, right?” Hafley said. “So you’ve got to prepare the best we can and try to make it loud at practice, especially on third down.”
Third down has been a trouble spot for the Eagles in ACC play after having great success in non-conference play on third down. In BC’s first four games, the Eagles averaged a 54.9 percent third-down conversion rate. Since entering ACC competition, that number has dropped to a cumulative average of 43.6 percent, including 28.65 percent in conference play.
“I think we’ve got to coach it better,” Hafley said of third downs. “And then we’ve got to execute the plan better. [That] starts with the protection and the quarterback, and then we’ve got to catch the ball. I think there are plays to be made, and I think we worked hard this week to put our guys in good positions.”
BC will face the added challenge on third down of competing against a hard-nosed Orange front seven. Syracuse currently sits at ninth in the FBS in team sacks with 28 this season, good for a loss of 169 yards.
“Those backers are pressuring constantly, which gets them around the ball, which gets them a lot of tackles, which creates a lot of sacks,” Hafley said. “They play really three down guys. So you can call them outside backers or you can call them DEs, but they’re aggressive.”
On the offensive side of the ball, BC will face a mobile quarterback for the second week in a row. After holding Louisville’s notorious dual-threat quarterback Malik Cunningham to 103 yards through the air but allowing him to dash 133 yards on the ground for three touchdowns, the Eagles will have to make some adjustments before taking on dual-threat quarterback Garrett Shrader.
Shrader threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-34 passing in a 41–36 win over Virginia Tech last week, as well as running for 174 yards and three more touchdowns on the ground.
“We need to execute, we need to tackle, we need to run to the ball, and when we’re there, we’ve got to finish,” Hafley said about containing Shrader.
Syracuse has been on the losing end of three games decided by a field goal this season. That energy, Hafley said, will likely feed into the Orange’s gameplay against BC.
“They should be confident regardless,” Hafley said of Syracuse. “They’re playing at a high level. They believe in themselves, so I’m sure they’ll come out with a ton of energy.”
Featured Image courtesy of Dennis Nett / Syracuse Post-Standard