For three quarters, Boston College football seemed determined to take down the reigning National Champions on the road. But with the game tied at 7-7 in the fourth, Clemson came alive and carved up the Eagles with the same tool Notre Dame used last week: chunk runs. The Tigers gained 342 yards on the ground in their 34-7 win over BC on Saturday, icing another game where head coach Steve Addazio’s crew showed promise yet could not sustain it.
“You can see the potential of this football team right now,” Addazio said after the game. “My worry is just the sheer number of players.”
A team that had entered Death Valley with a limp emerged even more hampered by injury. On Saturday, the Eagles lost linebacker Max Richardson and left tackle Aaron Monteiro, two brutal hits to their two thinnest position groups. They were already without receiver Charlie Callinan and linebacker Connor Strachan for indefinite lengths of time, as well as offensive linemen Elijah Johnson and Jon Baker. And to make matters worse, Addazio also pulled Anthony Brown for the last couple drives of the game due because of “issues” that he suggested didn’t have to do with his on-field performance.
It’ll likely be a chaotic week of practice as BC attempts to regroup. Luckily, a home matchup with Central Michigan awaits next weekend. Still, the Eagles have plenty to analyze and improve on from their hard-fought loss to the nation’s No. 2 team.
Once again, BC went up against a dual-threat quarterback and suffered a similar fate. Jim Reid’s defense limited Clemson to 140 passing yards, but junior signal caller Kelly Bryant burned the Eagles when it mattered most, usually using his legs. Bryant kept the ball 22 times, gaining 117 yards and finding the end zone twice.
First it was Northern Illinois’ Ryan Graham who gained 99 rushing yards in the season opener. Then it was John Wolford, the veteran Wake quarterback, who rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown before Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush broke rushing records the following week in the Holy War.
Yet, despite witnessing the successes of opposing quarterbacks on the ground, BC hasn’t tried to emulate its enemies. Brown, an athletic freshman with clear running potential, boasts a career-long rush of just nine yards. Each week, his rushing totals have decreased, from 10 yards to seven to the negatives against the Irish and Tigers, and his attempts have also taken a hit. Meanwhile, the aerial attack hasn’t always been stellar. Brown finished 14-for-30 with 133 yards—a stat line that, while not impressive, could have been masked by solid rushing totals like Wimbush & Co. did themselves against the Eagles.
Whether for the sake of health or simplicity, it appears the coaching staff wants to make Brown a pocket passer this season. But a quick look at his high school highlight tape shows that he has a chance to be much more than that.
On an afternoon where points were at a premium, BC saw two key drives killed by bonehead errors. The second drive of the game featured a 37-yard catch-and-run from Brown to tight end Tommy Sweeney, who brought the ball into Clemson territory. A.J. Dillon immediately answered the big gain with a strong five-yard run, and the Eagles were marching. Until, that is, a botched snap created a third-and-long, the drive stalled, and BC’s momentum vanished as Knoll kicked one of his nine punts against the Tigers.
Then, with the Eagles driving again before the half in a two-minute drill, another mental mistake spoiled their chances of tying the game. Jeff Smith caught a pair of passes for first downs, but two incomplete passes around midfield brought up a crucial third down.
Addazio took a timeout to talk things over with his offense, but moments later, he’s seen running out onto the field in a fit of anger directed toward the officials. It’s unclear what exactly was being disputed, but nonetheless, the referee slapped Addazio with a 15-yard penalty that turned a difficult 3rd-and-10 into an impossible 3rd-and-25.
Against a vicious Clemson front seven, A.J. Dillon again proved he can be the reliable back of the future for the Eagles. Dillon led the backfield with 18 rushes for 57 yards and his first career touchdown. His 3.4 yards per carry average doesn’t jump off the page, but it’s the way the freshman back ran the ball that stands out.
Dillon didn’t back down against a notoriously hard-hitting Tiger run defense, one that contained the uncontainable Lamar Jackson last week. The 6-foot, 245-pound athlete kept his legs churning and shed tacklers, even when the running lanes were few and far between. On his touchdown run, he pushed the pile forward and fought his way into the end zone, carrying defenders with him. It’s hard to ask for more from a true freshman against the defending national champions.
Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor