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Random Sunday Musings

What was that we witnessed on Saturday at Clemson?

NCAA Football: Boston College at Clemson
AJ Dillon celebrates his first Eagle TD
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

It’s interesting. We all watch the game and then for the most part (generally in some form of drunken stupor), comment on what we just saw.

For the past few seasons, it’s generally been more negative than positive, but for the most part, the loyal following has an opinion and can express it pretty clearly.

Then I give you Saturday. Clemson 34 Boston College 7.

What is it we witnessed? Was it good with a bad ending? Was it bad all around? Was it a sign of what could be or a sign of what can’t be?

At the end of the third quarter, I turned to my wife and her two daughters who happened to be at the house, none of whom could care (remember, it’s not the Patriots) and said somewhat in shock and somewhat proudly, “the world..well outside the local market anyway, will all be tuning into this game now...this is pretty incredible”.

We all know what happened after that.

7-7 became 14-7 courtesy of a 10 play, 67 yard drive. But BC made them work for it and although the dam was showing a leak or two, the Eagles were still alive.

The Eagle offense though couldn’t get in gear and over the final 6 minutes of the game, the Tigers exploded to finish off the game at 20-Love and a comfy 34-7 win.

27-zip in the fourth quarter and the 7 all tie heading into that stanza, just a footnote to be forgotten in history.

So was the glass 34 full or were we just tricked into thinking that way?

I slept on it and with hindsight being more 20/20 and a fan base looking desperately for a silver lining, call it trick and unfortunately not treat.

Let’s start with the positive:

  • Boston College did not quit.

In my Coach’s Corner article this week, one of my keys to the game, which I ultimately removed, questioned how competitive this team would be. In the Notre Dame game, I saw signs that led me to question that. 27-0 in the fourth quarter including that 20-0 in the last six minutes might lead one to believe the same thing, but there is no question in my mind that the Eagles had their hearts, souls and bodies in this til the end. The outcome was what it was for a whole host of reasons, but that was not one of them.

Too often, we take the level of fight for granted and it shouldn’t be.

  • Special teams continue to be this team’s biggest plus. Whether it is kickoffs where Max Schulze-Geisthovel (can’t we just call him Max?), is 18th in the nation in kickoffs for touchbacks, Colton Lichtenberg, who was somewhat unlucky with his miss off the upright, but is still top 30 in the country in FG%, Michael Walker with kickoff and punt returns (I am predicting he busts one vs Central Michigan), Mike Knoll’s punting that as much as anything was a reason behind the Eagles extending the game as long as they did and even kick coverage, although not up to top 30 level, has still been solid.

BC continues not to beat themselves on special teams.

  • The linebackers took a step forward. Ty Schwab, Max Richardson (before he got hurt) and Kevin Bletzer were markedly better than their performance against Notre Dame. They blitzed effectively, yet very rarely lost gap control.
  • The secondary played their ass off. Clemson won the game running the ball, but heading into this one had been effective throwing the ball too. The entire defense worked together as a unit to pretty much smother the Tigers via the air.

Pressure was in Kelly Bryant’s face most of the day and that helped the coverage, but the secondary was alert, reacted extremely well to the ball and didn’t lose a receiver the entire day. Clemson hit one big pass, a 23 yard Bryant to Diondre Overton catch on the side line, but Isaac Yiadom was in great position to defend. Lukas Denis as he has been all season, was active and came up with a pick as did Yiadom. BC held the Tigers to a season low in pass yards and yards per attempt.

Just a really solid effort all around.

Unfortunately, there were more negatives than positives, which one would expect in a 27 point loss.

  • Most of you know I am no Addazio apologist. I called for him to be gone after the Clemson game a year ago, but this team is now most definitely playing with one hand tied behind its back. When announcers are allowed to talk about injuries hampering programs with top 10 recruiting classes, one with recruiting classes in the 60s and 70s for ranking, certainly can’t take a hit and this team has. The latest were LB Max Richardson and OT Aaron Monteiro. I am not sure about their status at this point, but this team simply doesn’t have enough ACC level depth to survive with all these injuries.

I really hope he stays away from talking about how injuries are impacting the team in his upcoming pressers and focuses on what he does have and move forward, but the injuries are a big problem.

  • BC has played a brutal schedule.

This is not an excuse, but according to the metrics I use for The Book, BC has played the most difficult schedule of any team in the country to date. Every single one of their opponents so far, is playing better than they were predicted to in the preseason. It has been a tough sled.

  • No one fears the Boston College passing game.

The Eagles actually hit two pass plays of over 30 yards yesterday (1 to Jeff Smith, 1 to Tommy Sweeney), but teams are willing to take that chance. Outside of Smith, the Eagles have very little speed on the perimeter to scare anyone.

Michael Walker has good speed, but has been plagued by drops and seen his snaps dwindle. BC did a nice job of using Jon Hilliman out of the backfield (4 catches for 24 yards), but as a team BC averaged just 4.4 yards per attempt, which puts them now at #126 in the country. Until the Eagles prove they can take the top off a defense, teams will load up on the run and this will continue.

BC is now the only team in the country without a play of any sort of more than 40 yards.

  • Which brings us to offensive design. I thought Steve Addazio was pretty bold and stuck to his guns about going uptempo, but ultimately, was it what cost him the game?

BC, which finished 11th in the nation in time of possession a year ago, at almost 33:30 per game, is currently 82nd at just under 29 minutes a game. Now BC is getting in their plays, but not yesterday. BC ran 66 offensive plays yesterday compared to Clemson’s 84 and left the defense on the field for almost 35 minutes. Clemson got 222 of their 482 yards of total offense in the last 18 minutes of the game, not coincidentally when the defense, lacking depth, got tired. The Tigers got just over 7.9 yards per play in those 18 minutes as compared with 4.2 yards the rest of the game.

The Eagles don’t have the depth defensively or quite frankly in the offensive line or have the explosive skill players to break down a team with tempo. It’s just not a good fit.

Everyone points to the bowl game against Maryland, but that was one half of one game, that has not been repeated.

  • Speaking of design. Why is it that no BC player is ever wide open?

It really doesn’t matter what level of football you watch, teams scheme by design or trickery to create mismatches and at least a few times a game make an explosive play because of it. BC almost uses it as a badge of courage not to scheme or trick. The idea we will just be tougher than you and that will carry the day just doesn’t work against a team of far more talented players...heck, it hasn’t worked against players of equal skill.

  • For all the positives about the defense, they still gave up 483 yards and 342 on the ground.

Better than the 515 Notre Dame got on the ground, but even if you take away the Travis Etienne 50 yard burst, it’s still 292. BC is now #127 in the country against the run. That’s not going to win football games.

I was pretty sure preseason that the Eagles would have a bit more trouble against the run as they wouldn’t be as stout right up the middle, but it’s been much worse than expected and put the injuries on top of that and you have a real mess. The middle of the line held up pretty well for the majority of the game, but later on, you could just see them being driven off the ball.

So what does this all mean?

I think we saw the about the best we can hope to see. A really good effort, but overwhelmed both talent and depth wise.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few wins out there including this week vs the Chippewas, but this team doesn’t have the horses to play the way this staff has them playing and beat perhaps even the lower echelon of ACC level teams.