Boston College’s 23-20 victory over Northern Illinois has received mixed-to-positive reviews, which sounds about right. There was plenty to be excited about and plenty to criticize from BC’s uneven opener.
What left me with a positive feeling was the two things that uncharacteristically won BC the game on Friday night: end of half clock management, and placekicking.
Admit it: when Northern Illinois took possession of the ball with 2:05 remaining in the first half and a 10-6 lead, you thought NIU would drive down the field and score at least three points.
Allowing late scores right before halftime has been a recurring theme under Steve Addazio, and it’s especially hurt when taking into consideration the fact that BC has come from behind at halftime to win just once in Addazio’s tenure.
When NIU came out with the “middle schmiddle” gameplan and ran the ball up the middle, I was happy enough to just see the clock drain and feel comfortable in the knowledge that BC would only be down by 4 going into the half. But then... AGGRO DAZ took over, calling timeout after NIU's four yard run on first down.
At that point, I was still worried calling timeout would backfire and give NIU more of a chance to score, but two more stops and two more timeouts gave BC the ball back.
BC got the ball back at the 50 yard line and 1:34 to play, and instead of playing conservatively, BC clearly tried to throw their way into the endzone, with Anthony Brown firing six straight pass attempts culminating in his first career touchdown pass to Michael Walker with 30 seconds left in the quarter.
The entire sequence was uncharacteristic enough to be staggering - BC moved the ball 50 yards in 64 seconds? - and it ended up being the difference between winning and losing.
Kicking has also lost games for BC repeatedly in recent years. So how shocking and uplifting was it to win a kicker’s duel?
Colton Lichtenberg hit three field goals, while Northern Illinois’ Christian Hagan missed his crucial game-tying attempt, giving Boston College the win.
I honestly can’t remember the last time BC won as a result of its kicker outgunning the opponents’, and seeing Lichtenberg reliably put through three medium-distance field goals (and two extra points, no less) was encouraging.
These two things have been achilles heels for BC during Steve Addazio’s entire tenure. If the Eagles can make both strengths this year, it will go a long way toward determining how much success they can have in 2017.