Although the score was give or take what I had imagined, the way Boston College’s 23-20 win at Northern Illinois unfolded, was anything but.
A litany of bullet points around a game that BC absolutely needed to get if a bowl game is to be the end destination of the 2017 season.
- It may sound cliche, but a win is a win no matter how it looks, particularly when you consider the alternative. In my younger days, style and substance often went a little too hand in hand, but winning isn’t easy at any time,so enjoy it regardless of how it played out.
- I instantly became a Kobay White fan. White is unlike any receiver I can remember BC ever having in its arsenal and certainly appears to be a star in the making. His strength allows him the ability to catch balls in traffic reminds me a lot of former Florida State and NFL star Anquan Boldin.
- BC was willing to play depth defensively. Perhaps, considering the way the game went and that some of the key breakdowns were directly attributed to the substitutions in the game, maybe it wasn’t a great idea, but it does tell you that the coaching staff believes it has depth to roll and keep players fresh.
- Those I thought would play key roles, didn’t. The offensive line, Tommy Sweeney, Jon Hilliman and AJ Dillon, Connor Strachan, Zach Allen and Harold Landry, were all essentially neutralized. Yet the Eagle still won the game. It is pretty much a given that these guys have to be bigger contributors as the season progresses, but it does show again some level of depth in the program.
- The offensive approach was certainly faster and more aggressive. 92 offensive plays, which is among the most of any team in the country through week one, although the per play average gained is among the worst. I vividly remember BC playing West Virginia in Rich Rodriguez’ first game running tempo and how horrid the Mountaineers looked, but the Eagles showed very little of those problems, but there were still plenty of missed assignments as well as questions about whether the tempo could have more heavily leaned on the run game against what should have been an over matched opponent and with a new QB running the show.
- It was nice to see Addazio roll the dice and take those chances, particularly the 4th and 4 call that was converted on the pass to Kobay White. It does take some guts to abandon what you are comfortable with and turn the keys over fully and Addazio did look squeamish at times, but he stuck with it to the end. Something needed to be done though as despite Addazio’s background as an offensive coach, nothing has jelled over the past several seasons.
- The defense is sliding. I’ve mentioned in the past that momentum continues for a while when changes are made, so it wasn’t shocking that BC was still among the nation’s leaders in 2016, but it wasn’t quite as good as 2015 and last night was definitely another step backwards. In three games in 2016 against non Power Five teams, BC gave up 103 yards per game, last night 367 yards per game. In 2015, six of the eight top tacklers were linebackers or defensive linemen. Last season six of the top seven tacklers were. Last night four of the top seven were secondary players. In 2015, the BC defense was good against everyone with Don Brown here. In 2016, the defense was great against bad and bad against good. In 2017, we’ve started with mediocre against fair. It will be interesting to see how this progresses as the season moves along.
- The whole Anthony Brown/Darius Wade debate is fascinating. Apparently, when push came to shove, it wasn’t that close, as Wade never got a sniff of the field. I feel badly for Wade, but the writing for this was on the wall a year ago when the staff felt it necessary to bring in Patrick Towles, when Wade was in line to take the job. I do hope he sticks it out, because in modern day college football, there is more than a fair chance that he will be needed at some point in time, but this appears to be 100% Brown’s team moving forward.
- That said, Brown did pretty well. I am not ready to anoint him the savior, but there is certainly a foundation to build on. The coaches clearly showed confidence in him allowing him to throw it 42 times. He did complete nearly 62% of his passes, but for only 4.5 yards per attempt, which would put him well below number 100 in the country based on 2016 stats and even well below Patrick Towles who averaged 6.3 yards per attempt. CFBStats.com, which I refer to often, doesn’t list him among the top 100 QBs who have played so far this year. He didn’t make the catastrophic mistake, but he did miss identifying several wide open receivers and his ball placement was inconsistent at best. He clearly is passer first, runner distant second.
- Speaking of the run game, where was it? BC ran for 148 yards and a woeful 2.96 per carry average. This year promised to be an improvement from 2016 when the Eagles were #116 in the country in yards per carry at just 3.42, but against a team BC figured to dominate physically in the trenches, they couldn’t do so and that has to be a concern.
- Which brings us to how physical and competitive is this team? It is extremely early to read too much into it, but the Eagles will play most of their games this year against teams they will be equal to or inferior to physically. Friday night that was not the case and yet they could not exert that will. No sacks defensively, the aforementioned 2.96 ypc on the ground, only two tackles for loss while giving up twelve. Mistakes, particularly in game one will happen, but those numbers are symptomatic of bigger woes, which need to be addressed before the Eagles go even one more week. This team needs to establish an attitude, one would believe and listening to Addazio and all the so called experts, that attitude would be physical and aggressive, but that was not what we saw Friday night.
- So what is this team? Hard to say. It is just one game and at least by most people’s prognostications, the game went as expected, with two teams both in the lower half of the national rankings doing about what they were supposed to do. It is not unheard of, but still pretty uncommon for predictions to be radically off. Of course, there is one team here or there that either falls or rises drastically, but for the most part, teams slot at least near where they are predicted and the vast majority of the preseason poll had the Eagles 6th or 7th in the ACC Atlantic and around that 65th to 70th overall in the country.