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Weekly Kickoff: Slip-sliding to Syracuse

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Clemson v Syracuse Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

What a difference a month makes.

Exactly one month ago today, BC beat Missouri at Alumni Stadium to improve to 4-0. Dennis Grosel did enough to help the offense put up 41 points, and the defense made enough key plays to make us think the Eagles were ready to mount a serious attack on the ACC Atlantic.

Ever since, the offense has been abysmal, with dreadful yards-per-play averages that have diminished week over week: 5.0 vs. Clemson, 4.2 vs. NC State, and 3.9 vs. Louisville.

That’s an ugly slip-slide toward the dark days of the Daz years, when the “throw game” was totally ineffective, and only superhuman performances by the likes of Andre Williams and AJ Dillon were able to overcome defenses totally selling out to stack the box and bring the heat against the run, knowing BC was incapable of throwing over the top.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that BC’s vertical threat downfield was essential in helping the running game establish itself in the early part of the season, and with that essentially eliminated, BC struggled to do much on the ground.

Thanks to this, BC has gone from receiving votes a month ago, to now traveling to Syracuse as three point underdogs against an Orange team that, in the preseason, would have been looked at as a likely BC W.

With the offense continuing to struggle, now we wait to see if one of three things can happen:

  1. Grosel improving his consistency on mid-range passes and/or hitting the occasional long ball. This would obviously be the preferred solution. But the longer the season goes on with it not happening, the harder it becomes to count on it.
  2. BC devising altered game plans that open up more space for the running game without relying on a deep threat. Maybe you have Grosel run more, maybe you introduce more trick plays - whatever it is, it’s clear that the offense as constructed around Jurkovec is not working now.
  3. A change at quarterback. Hafley didn’t rule out a change at QB in his postgame press conference, though it feels unlikely, with backup Daelen Menard only getting snaps in extreme mopup duty against NC State and not coming in at all during the Louisville game.

Hafley was asked about the other quarterbacks in his Sunday media call and offered some comments on them:

Though BC may want to keep its cards hidden before hitting the field on Saturday, reports from practice should probably indicate if one of the other QBs is getting more reps, so that will be a storyline to keep an eye on heading in to Saturday.

Regardless, it’s obviously going to take at least some improvement on offense to take the pressure off of a defense that had to make too many big plays and be on the field too long to salvage BC’s hopes of a win against Louisville.

As for BC’s opponent this weekend, Syracuse, things are looking slightly up for them after a horror start to the season that included a loss to Rutgers, a narrow win over Liberty, and a loss to Florida State.

Since that loss to FSU, Syracuse battled Wake into OT and lost; lost narrowly, 17-14 to Clemson; and this past weekend, won at Lane Stadium 41-36 over Virginia Tech. Saturday’s win came from two late scores, including a 45-yard touchdown pass from Garrett Shrader to Damien Alford in the final minute of the game.

With the exception of the Clemson game, Syracuse has looked pretty good on offense in its last few games. Can BC repeat what they did against Louisville and make enough big plays on defense to slow them down?

Either way, the focus this week will be the offense - projected to be the strength of the team, but currently struggling mightily. Nothing will change the storyline of this season unless they can establish some sort of a rhythm, and it needs to happen - and quick.