Yesterday Boston College snapped their nine game losing streak, soundly beating the UMass Minutemen at Gillette Stadium. What did BC do well, and where did they struggle? Let’s take a look.
Jeff Smith: Thought it was pretty clear that he may be a legit wide receiver after the Georgia Tech game, now I’m sure of it. Two massive receiving touchdowns for the converted quarterback. He’s got the speed, which Addazio lauded throughout the summer, but what has surprised me are his hands, which seem as good as anyone else on the team. I wished BC went to him more often, because there were a handful of passing plays where he was wide open, but Patrick Towles didn’t look his way.
The Entire Front Seven: Could I call out an individual player here? Sure. But this group as a unit was about as dominant as you can get. They held UMass to -23 rushing yards and sacked Russ Comis eight times. Up and down you can appreciate their play, Zach Allen had a great game, Connor Strachan was all over the place again, I’m not sure that anyone on UMass could stop Truman Gutapfel. Just an overall impressive game by this entire group.
The Offensive Line: Another big game from this group. No sacks for the defense. Now the offensive stats wouldn’t lead you to believe that they were dominant, but watching it live it showed what these guys had to deal with. Because Addazio was mostly conservative in his approach, again, UMass was stacking the box with as many as 10 guys against the run (at one point they even had the safety cheating in as well). Until Addazio decides to open up the passing attack more, this is going to be the reality for this group.
Mike Knoll: Yes he missed an extra point. But I thought he looked about as confident for a field goal kicker as we have had since Nate Freese. Even when Lichtenberg is healthy, Addazio needs to leave Knoll out there. With the new holder, this may be the group to ride into the rest of the season.
Patrick Towles: If I had a middle section entitled “meh” this is where I would put Towles’ game. He looked great on his passes to Jeff Smith and some of his throws to Charlie Callinan and Michael Walker, it was just he had two major flaws. One, that interception was real bad. He really tried to wing that in to a window that just wasn’t there, and if he read his progressions more, Jeff Smith was open on the outside. Secondly, and this is my bigger problem, was that his internal clock on when to throw the ball was super short (see the turnover on downs run). It felt like he didn’t even look at his first progression before he decided to tuck it and run. Now some of those may have been designed runs, but it didn’t seem like they all were. He needs to trust his offensive line to hold a little longer and he’ll see some openings in the defense.
The ultra conservative game plan: Look we all saw it, BC took 26 minutes to get onto the board, and for many in the stands it was starting to look bleak. Then Towles hits Jeff Smith for a long touchdown and hey BC is on top, then he hits him again and it feels like the game is out of reach. But in between there was a whole lot of half back draws into an overcrowded box. Hat tip to Addazio for refusing to bend from his plan, as he just continued to run that play, over and over again. Even when he knew that BC had a weakness they could exploit (no one could really cover Jeff Smith), he just stuck with running it. But BC won, and I’m sure he’s happy about that.
The UMass Public Address Announcer: I don’t know when Jeff Smith switched to #6 but it clearly confused the PA Announcer who didn’t seem to know who he was, twice announcing Sherm Alston with the touchdown catch. Sherm Alston transferred out of the program this winter.
Punt Returns: True Tyler Rouse had a a great return thrown in there, but for the most part he was fair catching everything, and there were definitely times where he had room to catch it and make a move. This is put here not as a dig at Rouse, who I still believe is great in this position, but just a fear that we are going to return to the days of Sherm Alston where they are going to be super cautious about making returns.