The day after Christmas was a good day for BC Eagles fans that haven’t had a lot to celebrate in the last 24 months. It was a great day for the BC players as well as they were rewarded with a much deserved bowl win after a season that was filled with peaks and valleys.
For a half of football it was a great day for Addazio and his offensive staff after the offense rolled up 29 points on 238 yards of offense---which is almost as many yards as the team averaged per game during the season--- at a very respectable 5.8 yards per play clip. How did they pull it off?
Well the players had a big part in it, but Addazio was also a whole lot less predictable than usual. Obviously the change to a no huddle offense was something that caught Maryland totally off guard and was effective early on. The most obvious example of a singular play call was the trick play touchdown pass when receiver Jeff Smith hit Patrick Towles for a score in the 2nd quarter. Another subtle example was the Eagles passing on 7-of-17 first down attempts (41% to 59% ratio) which was light years ahead of the team’s season average of passing on first down only 24.9% of the time.
Even the way that Addazio handled certain situations was completely different than he has in the past. The sequence at the end of the first half was borderline shocking and a whole lot of refreshing all rolled into one. With just under a minute remaining, Maryland punted and the ball bounced off of BC blocker Gabe McClary and was up for grabs. Punt returner Tyler Rouse was able to jump on the loose ball and BC retained possession at its own 30-yard line with 47 seconds to play. After that turnover scare you figured Addazio would run out the half and take a ten point lead into the locker room. Instead, the BC offense went 4-wide in 11 personnel and Patrick Towles fired a strike to Charlie Callinan at midfield. On the next play Towles hit Michael Walker down the right sideline for a 49-yard touchdown to send the Eagles up by 16. Quite honestly I don’t know that the Eagles would’ve won that game without that touchdown.
With the offense clicking better than it has all year you would’ve figured that Addazio would leave his foot on the accelerator and run over the Terps’ in the 2nd half. Instead, Addazio went back to his old conservative style that has been driving BC fans nutty over the last four seasons. The result was the Eagles hanging on for a victory in a game that should’ve been an old fashion beatdown.
The first two possessions of the second half were the old Run-Run-Pass-Punt routine that has been all too familiar the last two seasons. The first down play calling between run and pass that was at least somewhat even in the first half went to a 1960’s-like 2 pass attempts on 12 first down plays or a 16.6%/83.4% pass-to-rush ration on first down. The only points scored in the second half by the Eagles were on a defensive touchdown as the offense produced only 110 yards of offense in the half.
Then of course came the end of the game when the BC offense was given the ball not once but twice with a chance to run the game clock out. The situation was eerily similar to the opening game against Georgia Tech when the Eagles had the lead and the ball with a chance to run out the clock with a couple of first downs. Would Addazio learn from the way he mismanaged that game? On the first series that started with 3:48 to go, Addazio stuck with his stubborn ways and lined up his jumbo personnel against nine-in-the-box and ran it two straight downs. On 3rd-and-7 you figured that Addazio would call some sort of rollout for Towles and give him a run/pass option out of it. Instead, the Eagles lined up in a jumbo package and Hilliman ran it into the A-gap and fumbled the ball. Maryland recovered at the 5-yard line and was forced into a field goal after a remarkable stand by the BC defense.
After that sequence the Eagles got the ball back at the 30-yard line with 2:52 to play and a six point lead. Surely this time Addazio would give his offense a chance to make a play and pick up a first down or two, right? Addazio at least got "bold" and lined up in 12 personnel instead of the jumbo set against eight-in-the box on first down but the offense only mustered two yards. After that lack of success Addazio went back to the jumbo package to pick up four yards on 2nd down. On 3rd-and-4 Addazio again went back to the jumbo package even with Maryland playing all eleven defenders in the box. Hilliman ran into a wall of defenders and loss a yard and BC was forced to punt.
Everyone knows the ending by now and the BC defense was able to hold off Maryland on its final drive. However, if not for the stand by the BC defense this would be a much different storyline today. It was certainly encouraging that Addazio coached the first half like a college coach in the 21st century and out his players in a position to win the game. Where did that style go in the 2nd half though? Addazio’s conservative style literally allowed a team to come back from a 23 point deficit and have a chance to win the game. You’d like to think that the Georgia Tech and Maryland end of game situations will teach Addazio a lesson going forward. Would you bet on it though?