Sometimes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Sometimes, the whole is less than the sum of its parts. That second statement happens when parts don’t mesh well. Those parts may creak, they may clank, they may rub against each other and screech, and they may break down and destroy the whole. Sometimes, when those parts break, they give up 303 yards rushing. That was the issue the Boston College defense faced just two weeks ago as it tried to pick up the pieces after an embarrassing performance against the Pittsburgh Panthers.
No matter how formidable a rusher James Conner has turned out to be, the Eagles weren’t happy with their performance against Pitt’s mountain of a back. The past two weeks, they have emphasized the need to play better and to play together. Linebacker Josh Keyes has been essential to the massive turnaround for the Eagles’ defense, especially the front seven. Against USC and Maine, Keyes amassed 13 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks. Keyes doesn’t view his success as his own, however.
“Versus Pitt we didn’t really play as a team,” Keyes said. “We got flustered and started yelling at each other.” Keyes indicated that their next film session highlighted the fact that the defense was playing as individuals instead of as a unit. “We sat down on Sunday, and we saw all the mistakes, and we saw the part of the game we were missing was we weren’t playing well as a team,” he said.
Whatever defensive coordinator Don Brown has said and done since that film session has clearly left an impression on his players. When approaching Shea Field for football practice, there are two voices that can be heard clearly above the constant whistles and clattering of pads. One voice is that of head coach Steve Addazio. The other is that of the never-satisfied Brown, who has transformed this BC defense into a pressure-generating machine.
Brown might never admit that he’s been pleased with his defense’s performances these past two weeks, but it wouldn’t be crazy to assume he is. After all, the Eagles have surrendered just 36 rushing yards total over the last two weeks. As Reign Of Troy, a USC blog, put it, “Maine is going to finish their game at Boston College with 16 rushing yards. So maybe 20 wasn’t that bad.” This weekend’s opponent, Colorado State, will come with a whole different arsenal, however. CSU is currently 11th in the nation in passing yards per game, with 340 yards per game. If BC is able once again to suffocate its opponent’s ground game, Keyes and the others will be able to pin their ears back and run directly at CSU quarterback Garrett Grayson, forcing him into decisions that might delight Eagles fans (and parents).
Offensively, much has been made about Addazio’s seemingly endless supply of rushers. Between quarterback Tyler Murphy and running backs Myles Willis, Tyler Rouse, Jon Hilliman, Marcus Outlow, and rushing-prone wide receiver Sherman Alston, the Eagles have six (yes, six) rushers with more than 100 yards just a third of the way through the season. Murphy, Hilliman, and Willis lead the way, each with more than 200 yards. The offense, helmed by Murphy, has topped 500 yards in each of the Eagles’ three wins, and the read-option has the ability to befuddle defenses and empower BC to wear down its opponents throughout the game. The aerial attack is less than fear-inducing, but it is serviceable. The big bodies of Josh Bordner, Shakim Phillips, Charlie Callinan, and Dan Crimmins provide able targets for Murphy, whose accuracy is still shaky, and they allow the Eagles to gain leverage on outside runs against smaller defensive backs.
BC’s offense should have no problem keeping the CSU Rams on their heels all day on Saturday—a steady diet of six talented runners will eventually break down any opposing defense. Where they could face issue is on the defensive end, where the Rams will look to throw it all over the yard against the BC defensive backfield.
Keyes says the Eagles are ready to face whatever CSU brings to Alumni Stadium. “It’s a big game, a matchup game,” he said. “We’ve just got to go out there, and play very well and execute, and get that win, and go into the bye week at 4-1.” In the days leading up to the Eagles’ next game against NC State, however, expect to hear Don Brown’s dulcet tones emanating from Shea Field, no matter the outcome of this Saturday’s game.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor