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BC 35, VT 28: A Look At What Wasn’t Quite Right With BC Football’s Second Half Play Calling

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Boston College Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

This post requires a couple caveats.

First, no one is looking for perfection. Okay, some in #TheCommentsSection (we love you all) are looking for perfection, but most of us are on board with the fact that we’re not Clemson, and honestly, it’s week one. There will be things to work on.

Second, this was a legit win against a solid ACC team that is supposed to have a good year that set the tone for the entire trajectory of the season. The fact that the second half was one big doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a big win, a really good win, and a generally well-played win — one that we should be pretty pleased with.

Now, having said that, the main complaint out of everyone surrounds the fact that after BC’s exhilarating air-raid offense in the first half, the Eagles largely abandoned the Throw Game™ in favor of sticking to running the ball and seemingly trying to sit on the two score lead. And to that complaint, I’m generally on board.

Our new football writer Niraj put together a great deep-dive yesterday with some good points about this topic in defense of the play calling. For one, the run game wasn’t completely ineffective in the second half. BC did put together a great drive late with nine straight rushes from Dillon and Bailey that resulted in a touchdown — seven points that we needed every bit of. And yes, if you take out that run-heavy touchdown drive (a pass followed by nine runs) and the final six plays that finished off the game (three of which being kneels that count as runs), you do have a ratio that looks similar to what we saw in the first half.

But BC did run those plays. And a huge chunk of those rushes were fruitless, as evidenced by the fact that BC ran 13 fewer plays in the second half compared to the first. The fact is, a red-hot Anthony Brown didn’t have the opportunity to put more of a mark on the game in the second half of a contest where he was torching DBs through the air.

But here’s the biggest problem with the play calling in the second half — it wasn’t so much that BC was calling rushes (after all, just to refresh everyone’s memory... we have one of the biggest offensive studs in the country standing in the backfield), but that it felt like BC was simultaneously trying to sit on the 14 point lead by rushing the ball while also running the hurry up.

Commenter bc1863 said it really well in the comments of the game recap and I want to give him some credit here for articulating much of what I was thinking:

I don’t understand though when you are up by 14 and you want to control the ball and clock but you turtle, and worse, you run a hurry up offense that ends up giving the ball to Dillon for a dive play. I seriously don’t get how all those things you want to accomplish result in that game plan. One entire possession in the second half up by 14 was 28 seconds. That’s ridiculous. If that’s your strategy — like it or not, calling 2-3 dives to Dillon — why not do it while taking 29 seconds off the clock each play? I am not saying he should turtle, but if that’s your plan, why do you do it in a hurry up?

I agree with the secondary point here as well that 14 points is too close of a game to start thinking about killing clock. BC really needs to get the ball into the hands of Kobay White and Zay Flowers to try and extend the lead when that aspect of your game has been working so well for you. But, as was stated, if you’re going to switch to a ground and pound game plan with that 14 point lead in the second half, you should at least be killing clock while you do so. Otherwise, all you’re doing is totally gassing your defense if you’re unsuccessful.

This was almost certainly a big reason why the D was getting roasted late by VTech in the first place, notwithstanding a couple game-saving picks. A drive with a completed pass and 9 rushes should not take only 3 and a half minutes when you’re well into the fourth quarter with a lead. And that was the successful drive!

Now, there are a few really good takeaways from this situation despite the angsty final two quarters. First and foremost, Anthony Brown seems to not only have taken a big step forward in the offseason, but the man also has some legit weapons to throw to. Second, BC showed that they can win a game where AJ Dillon is kept in check (I assure you he will not be held to 3.5 YPC often), and in a close game, we’ve got the air attack to pull ahead or pull even. And finally, while the defense was clearly tired there in the second half, they’ve got guys with big play ability to turn momentum at a moment’s notice.

The Eagles now have a week to vanilla things up against Richmond before getting back to the FBS games, but the weapons are there. I know there are skeptics in the fan base on Steve Addazio’s use of his weapons, but at this point at a minimum it looks like he’s got plenty to play with.