Throughout the 2015 season, the Boston College Eagles may have staked the claim to having one of the most underwhelming offensive attacks in the NCAA. While this hallmark doomed them to a disappointing 3-9 record, their stellar, first-ranked defense was what kept them from pure meagerness week in and week out.
Despite the fact that the 2016 season began with a crushing blow at the hands of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Ireland, the 1-2 Eagles had continued their defensive ferocity consistent throughout the first pair of games in 2016. Under first-year defensive coordinator Jim Reid, Boston College remained a monstrosity on the opposing side of the football in their 26-7 victory over the UMass Minutemen on September 10th, and they entered Blacksburg, Va. boasting the third-ranked defense in the nation allowing just 180 yards per game.
However, that standing was obliterated once the kickoff ensued against the Virginia Tech Hokies last Saturday. Quarterback Jarod Evans toasted the Eagles defense for one fewer passing touchdown (five) than Boston College had offensive first downs, connecting with four different receivers in the end zone while leading his squad to a towering 49-0 victory. The Eagles yielded a stunning 476 yards in the walloping, with 223 coming via the running game while allowing the Hokies to score a touchdown on each of their five red zone opportunities.
"I think we probably got a little ahead of ourselves, which made us look like we’re nowhere," head coach Steve Addazio told the media on Monday during his weekly press conference. "That can have a counter-effect on you sometimes. I felt like we played slow Saturday, slower, a little bit tentative. A little bit, ‘What’s coming at us?’ both sides of the ball, special teams. Some of that is the venue and some of that is our inexperience. I think those are things that we’re going to consciously work at."
The Eagles seemed taken aback by Virginia Tech's speedy, pro-style offensive approach, with Evans floating passes directly over the outstretched arms of cornerbacks Gabriel McClary and Kamrin Moore repeatedly. Boston College typically feasts on turnovers to garner a positive marker in the time-of-possession battle, as they did in the victory over the Minutemen. In the triumph, the Eagles forced three turnovers while holding possession of the football for 34 minutes of action, dominating UMass in both facets of the contest.
However, Virginia Tech flipped the script on the usually vulture-like Eagles, turning the ball over on just a single occasion while dominating in time-of-possession with a telling 35:15 of ball control. Boston College's defensive will seemed to disintegrate as the blowout worsened as well, with the distraught troops allowing backup quarterback Brandon Motley to virtually strut in for a 26-yard rushing touchdown on a 3rd-and-11 with just over 10 minutes remaining. However, while failing to hold the Hokies from enjoying lengthy drives certainly contributed to Virginia Tech's offense having a seemingly constant presence on the field on Saturday, the mediocrity of the Eagles offense played a significant role in their inability to keep the defense on the sidelines.
"The percentage of moving the ball from inside your 20, the stats on that are incredibly poor," said Addazio. "It’s a loser deal. Then we’re punting and putting the defense on a short field. So the defense is playing on a short field, and the offense is playing on a long field. Those are not good things. And I think lack of productivity offensively left our defense on the field too long."
Fifth-year transfer quarterback Patrick Towles, who has begun the season completing just 47.8 percent of his passes with just two touchdowns compared to a trio of interceptions, was downright incompetent as a field general in the defeat. He completed just nine of his 28 passes for 80 paltry yards and a pick, forcing the Eagles to set a school record with a harrowing 13 punts on the afternoon. Boston College scuffled mightily on the ground as well, rushing 28 times for a downright miserable 44 yards, as starting running back Jon Hilliman gained just a pair of yards on 10 carries just two weeks after rushing for 102 yards and a score on 17 touches against a rugged Georgia Tech front seven.
Heading into the Eagles home opener against the 2-0 Wagner Seahawks on Saturday afternoon in Chestnut Hill, the offensive focus will need to be on establishing the running attack early in order to create play-action opportunities for Towles and a favorable time-of-possession performance for Boston College. Towles proved himself incapable of moving the ball in the face of a raucous Virginia Tech crowd this past weekend, failing to put the Eagles over the 100-yard mark until nearly 45 minutes of gameplay had elapsed, so a return to familiar surroundings against a lesser opponent should provide him with some confidence as the No. 5 ranked Clemson Tigers sit on the horizon two weeks from Friday night.