In college football, coaches constantly stress the need to "put teams away." It's the ability to bury a team when your team has the lead in the second half of a football game. It's the need to put points on the board, preferably when ahead, with the ability to go out and coast home. It's a lot easier to play with a lead, and it's a lot nicer to pull a quarterback with a three score lead in the fourth quarter than have to sweat out a victory.
Going back over the Boston College football schedule, there are a couple of things I noticed. Chief on that list? The Eagles are surprisingly bad on offense in the second half of the game. Through seven games against FBS opponents, Boston College scored points on only 12 drives in the third or fourth quarter. Of those drives, more than half were less than four minutes long. Three came against UMass, the team with arguably the worst defense on the BC schedule, and three came against USC, the game in which BC played its absolute best. The game against Maine is excluded because they're an FCS team.
We all refer to BC as a second half team, but the evidence is lacking in that area. The Eagles have 15 scoring drives in the first half against FBS level opponents this year. 10 of those drives came against teams other than UMass or USC.
Earlier in the year, we talked about how BC got stronger as the game went on, about how we would view them as a second half team that got progressively better with coaching. Scoring-wise, that's not entirely true.
The defense, meanwhile, averages to overall consistency, having allowed 12 first half scoring drives and 11 second half scoring drives. But looking within the numbers, seven of those first half scoring drives came against two opponents (Pitt and USC), while six of the second half scoring drives came against either Colorado State (the Eagles' only real "collapse" loss of the year) or UMass/Wake Forest (teams BC shut out in the first half).
What does all of this translate to? Well it means the offense, for starters, has to maybe hold off on the wrinkles until the second half. They ran the Sherm Alston play against USC late in the first half, at the time when they needed it most. It was the wrinkle BC needed at the exact moment when they needed it, and it got the USC defense on its heels right before they were getting ready to make adjustments. Had USC gone into the locker room with an idea on how to stop the option, they would've been able to adjust. The Alston run rattled the Trojans' psyche, and it completely shook them up before the half.
If BC's offense is going to unleash a look on Saturday, it might be worth holding off a little bit until they get a good feel for the Virginia Tech defense. Brian Marcolini from The Key Play told me how the Hokies typically funnel the run towards the linebackers, which means BC needs to get a feel for where that funnel is going to go. Once they do, they'll be able to throw some wrinkles into the play calling, change things up, and go into attack mode.
The defense, meanwhile, has to be able to play consistent football. Of the scoring drives in the second half they've allowed, six were on drive of three minutes or more. All three of Colorado State's drives were long and sustained. Wake Forest went for a four minute stroll through the football field before putting up their first points of the game. While giving up points isn't necessarily bad, the BC defense has to get better of getting off the field consistently against teams.
This will be an interesting case study against a Virginia Tech team that's been consistent this year, albeit consistently mediocre. The Hokies have 11 second half scoring drives to their offense's credit. Eight of those were on drives of three minutes or more with three over eight minutes long. Down one in the fourth quarter, the Hokies drove 75 yards against Georgia Tech for a touchdown, putting themselves in position to win the game.
Quite honestly, Boston College can't have that happen. They have to be able to rise to a situation and play the differences. On second and one inside the Virginia Tech 30 yard line in the second quarter, maybe that's when you employ the soft coverage and concede a first down. On third and four inside the BC red zone in the fourth quarter up by a touchdown, you sell out after the quarterback and force a bad play. Whatever it is that BC does (and that maybe isn't what they're supposed to do), they absolutely have to be able to execute with consistency.
Can BC do that on Saturday? I don't know. I hope they can. But if they aren't consistent, Virginia Tech will score. No consistency, no victory. It's that simple come this weekend.