As mentioned at length already, this game was a tale of two teams. On one side of the ball you had the defense, a group that is playing at an elite level and will keep BC in every game this season. But on the other you have the offense, which looked lost at worst, and predictable at best. Now mix all of that up with a special teams miscue and you have an unnecessarily tight football game. Let's take a look at what worked and what didn't in yesterday's win.
John Johnson- I think it's about time we stop talking about the secondary as playing well only because of the front of them, and give them credit as being a good unit on their own. Johnson's interception of Hare was all on him, it was a good throw, but a better coverage route run by Johnson who looked like a wide receiver as he made his read on the ball. That was an amazing interception on a great play. Bravo to John Johnson, who could be looking at some player of the week honors.
William Harris- Another big game from the true freshman who was in the right spot at the right time at the very end of the game. I think what is most impressive about Harris is that he has been out there as a true freshman playing beautifully against two very solid offenses in NIU and FSU. He slides right in at nickle, but can cover the outside as well, looked really good yesterday.
Scheming On Drew Hare: Much of the talk this week was that NIU had a high powered passing offense, but yesterday we saw none of that. In his first two games of the season Hare threw for 380 and 369 yards (against UNLV and Murray St), but yesterday we saw what Ohio State saw. A quarterback that struggled against good defenses. Credit to Don Brown and Steve Addazio for putting together pressure and coverage schemes that had Hare looking lost throughout the game. He threw for 81 yards and never looked like much of a threat, and spent most of it ducking BC attackers who were coming at him from all angles. It was truly fun to watch.
Jon Hilliman: The sophomore running back found his groove against on Saturday. He looked much more explosive, and physical and his rushing touchdown had traces of Andre Williams in it. Also made a hell of a play running down the NIU defender who picked off Troy Flutie. Clearly BC's offense is going to live and die by the run, so Hilliman's health is going to be a major factor moving forward, if he is healthy he could be the key to BC's success. Not sure what the injury was, but let's keep our fingers that Hilliman will be ready to go against Duke on Saturday.
Colton Lichtenberg: Kicked what proved to be the game winning field goal. Looks poised and ready to be BC's go to kicker, and is only a freshman. Curious to know what his range looks like because the way BC's offense is looking they are going to need a place kicker who can boot it.
Mehdi Abdesmad: Kevin Kavalec was sidelined with a head injury, and boy did Mehdi step up in his absence. Up and down the field he looked like the explosive end that we always hoped he would be. He was in the backfield constantly during the game, registering 3 tackles, but the pressures on the quarterback was the big story.
Sherm Alston: Still not perfect on punt returns but did much better yesterday. It seemed like BC's average field position was much improved from last week, which made a difference for an offense that sputtered.
The Quarterback Shuffle: Going into this game head coach Steve Addazio said that he was going to rotate Troy Flutie and Jeff Smith and try and ride the hot hand. That made sense given that he wasn't sure which QB would work best in the offense in real gametime speed. He started with Troy Flutie, who struggled then went to Jeff Smith who sort of moved the ball (negated by some horrible holding calls), and then after that it was anyone's guess. The QB's were pulled in the middle of drives, pulled even after they had some success, and then Troy Flutie vanished near the end of the game. There seemed to be no flow to the QB decisions, and I'm sure it confused the offense who had to either go with a more traditional style of offense with Flutie, and then change it up to an option offense with Smith. Hopefully as the year progresses Addazio will get a better read on which QB puts BC in the best position to win and sticks with that QB.
Playcalling: I had issues for most of the game with the offensive play calling, as I feel like Steve Addazio and Todd Fitch are more concerned with preventing mistakes than making plays. Yes this team is young, and they are inexperienced, but at some points you have to attack. There were two specific drives that were particularly tough to watch. The first, like always was the set of downs before the half. BC had the ball at the 37 yard line, with Troy Flutie lined up. He hits Bobby Swigert for a quick first down, around mid field. They call another play, which was another strike to Swigert for a short gain. Then some really questionable clock management kicked in as Addazio doesn't call time out and BC wastes about thirty seconds trying to get a play off, which results in an incomplete pass. Then with the clock stopped, to get the right play called, Addazio calls timeout, which leads to a run for no gain by Tyler Rouse. End of half. Just a messy set of plays, coupled with questionable clock management.
The second issue I had was with the play calling around the goal line that led to the final BC field goal. The Eagles had the ball on the seven yard on first down. What do they call? Three straight runs with Tyler Rouse. They gain a net of ZERO yards on the three plays. I get going somewhat conservative on these plays given that you don't want to just give the ball back to NIU with no points to show, but they had to try something there. Put Jeff Smith in there and let him run an outside read option. Let Flutie go back to pass, have him go through two reads, if the play isn't there throw it through the end zone. Something, better than Rouse run, Rouse run, Rouse run.
Wide Receiver Routes: One of my biggest gripes with the passing game is that the wide receivers are running routes that run a low percentage for success, especially given the struggles of the offensive line and rawness of the QB's. It seems like BC is sending Charlie Callinan, Elijah Robinson and Thadd Smith streaking down the field on every play. That is just dooming the passing game to failure. They need to get the WR's doing short and intermediate routes, which will help the QB get rid of the ball quicker and the get the pressure off the offensive line. We saw examples of this yesterday, Bobby Swigert made a nice catch up the middle, and Sherm Alston caught a shorter pass and moved it further with his feet. That is how Fitch should scheme for the wide receivers, make a quick route catch and gain that extra yardage after.
Offensive Line Play: To be fair they were definitely improved over what they showed against FSU. On quite a few drives they started to open some holes for Jon Hilliman, and near the end of the game they were starting to assert themselves against a worn out NIU offensive front. But again they still weren't up to par. Jeff Smith had two nice runs negated by holding calls, and you would hope that the typical tough and gritty BC front line would have been able to man handle NIU's, but that never happened. Also, #77 please keep your helmet on.
Injuries Up The Wazoo: This was probably the most alarming part of the game. Before the game we saw that defensive end Kevin Kavalec wasn't going to play. Louie Addazio went out early in the game with a lower body injury. Coach Addazio said that after the game Tyler Rouse was the only healthy running back left on the roster. That's scary news for BC is that they need depth at that position. Not sure what happened to Marcus Outlow or Myles Willis, but will BC need to burn the redshirt of running back Jordan Gowins? Will be worth watching going forward.
Tyler Rouse Back In The Game? Eagle in Atlanta covered this pretty thoroughly yesterday, but Rouse's return was pretty disconcerting. He left the game after getting clocked, with what looked to be concussion like symptoms. He was woozy, and looked like his day should have been. He had to have been cleared as he returned to the field (as ATL clarified it's not the coaches that clear them). With all the negative stories surrounding concussion and the after effects, you just hope that Rouse was ok.