In their second and final tune-up game of the season, Boston College defeated the Golden Flashes of Kent State by a score of 26-13.
Despite a less than impressive performance, the Eagles have to consider themselves lucky to escape with a victory...after all, we all saw what happened to Virginia Tech today.
With losses all around the ACC, today was a fantastic opportunity for this young Boston College squad. An impressive victory would have shown their division rivals that the Eagles were a team to be taken seriously.
Instead, the Eagles turned in a sloppy performance that raised many questions about the future of this team.
One of the most alarming problems with today's game was the play of the offensive line. Despite an immense size advantage, the Eagles struggled to block this scrappy Kent State line. In turn, Montel Harris labored for 80 yards on 28 carries. (a 2.9 ypc average with a long run of 9 yards).
Upon the snap of the ball, the Kent State defenders got down and pushed back the supposedly immovable Boston College offensive line. Of course, this meant there were no running lanes for Harris who was forced to lower his head and attempt to push the pile.
The coaching staff compounded this problem with their unimaginative play calling. Even with their complete lack of success running up the gut, the Eagles failed to change their game plan. There were no reverses. No toss plays. No pitches. Just a tediously repetitive strategy that failed to achieve results.
Then of course there was the performance of AARP member Dave Shinskie. On the surface, his performance was more than serviceable -- 18 for 27 for 213 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. However, one again these statistics seem misleading.
On the first TD pass, Shinskie threw into double coverage, but was fortunate that the cornerback never looked back for the ball and ended up over running the play. The second touchdown was a decent pass, but it was Clyde Lee's phenomenal effort that resulted in six points for the Eagles.
Overall, Shinskie looked nervous. Instead of keeping his head on a swivel and scanning the field for receivers, he typically locked in on a single receiver. This type of effort will not be sufficient to challenge the elite teams from the ACC.
“We work on that constantly in practice. Coach Day harps on us that all we want is a chance as receivers. Being a playmaker and making a play is all we want. Every day in practice we’ve gotten better and better. We throw deep balls just working on it and today it paid off.”
Those are the words of freshman receiver Bobby Dwigert who hauled in the game's first touchdown on a twenty three yard pass. With Dwigert, Clyde Lee and Johnathan Coleman, the BC receivers looked much better than expected. Despite a lack of experience, the three receivers combined for 150 yards and two touchdowns on twelve receptions.
With freshman Shakim Phillips still nursing a hamstring injury and Colin Larmond out for the year, the Eagles needed playmakers to emerge. Today was definitely a step in the right direction.
Once again, the defense brought their A-game. The Eagles held Kent State to a grand total of three yards rushing and forced five turnovers (three interceptions, two forced fumbles on special teams). The first of those interceptions was made by defensive end Alex Albright, who played an exceptional game.
Coach Spaziani was generous in his praise of senior leader after the game. "I can’t say enough about Alex. There’s a young man who’s had numerous injuries since he’s been here. He’s had operations that you get chills when you go. That’s what he did to play football. He missed this week. He only practiced Thursday. It’s very, very tough for an individual to excel, let alone a team but that’s the kind of guy Alex is and it’s why they elected him captain."
What was the most exciting moment of the game? Had to be Mark Herzlich's flying tackle during the second quarter of Saturday's game. The crowd erupted after the senior linebacker did his best superman impression in taking down the ball carrier.
While the emotional leader of this team isn't back to full strength quite yet, this play was very encouraging. Herzlich looked to be more involved in the defense and was on the field for a total of 36 snaps. With a bye week upcoming, Herzlich has more time to improve his conditioning and return to the intimidating force this team has so sorely missed.
Herzlich may be the headliner for this linebacking core, but all three of the starting 'backers have impressed this season. Kevin Pierre-Louis, a true freshman, played another fantastic game.
Despite lacking ideal size, he showed off great speed, form tackling and a superb ability to create pressure up the middle. Luke Kuechly added another great game from the middle linebacker position registering ten tackles. With a healthy Herzlich, these three will continue to vie for the title of best linebacking trio in the nation.
And now for some of the rumbling around Alumni Stadium. I overhead a conversation about Ifaneyi Momah, where a group universally agreed that he was a future NFL player. With no burst off the line and questionable hands, Momah is a one trick pony.
If the saying, "you can't teach height" had never been coined, nobody would think twice about Momah's pro prospects. In fact, Momah is just like a painting by Monet. Looks great from far way, but up close it's an absolute train wreck.
It seems that there is always some problem with BC's special teams. This week we saw freshman kicker Nate Freese go a perfect 4 for 4 on field goals while tacking on two extra points. Ryan Quigley was stellar again, averaging 45.5 yards on four punts, while pinning two inside the twenty yard line. We even recovered two fumbles on punt returns (even if they were muffed rather than forced).
Unfortunately, DeLeon Gause does not look like the answer on punt returns. Gause dropped one punt and looked uncomfortable fielding three others. On the day, Gause had four punt returns for a total of eighteen yards while averaging a measly 15.7 yards on three kick returns.
Perhaps a player with better hands is the solution -- Billy Flutie or Clyde Lee seem like suitable candidates.
All in all, this day was a disappointment. It was a chance to build confidence and pad stats against inferior competition. Instead of a blowout, we witnessed a surprisingly close battle that was up for grabs for much of the game.
The defense was stellar, but the lackluster offensive performance stirs up significant doubts going into the bye week. If the Eagles hope to make another run at the ACC title game, the coaches will need to utilize innovative play calling to hide the obvious deficiencies in their passing attack. That said, things could be a lot worse.
Just ask the folks down in Blacksburg.