Boston College football is going bowling.
The Eagles returned to Fenway Park for the first time since 2015 for a matchup against the University of Connecticut. Despite a slow start and tricky weather conditions, BC powered past the Huskies for a 39-16 win, clinching bowl eligibility for the fourth time in five years.
Even though they earned the victory, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the Eagles (6-5, 3-4 Atlantic Coast). UConn (3-8, 2-5 American) actually jumped out to an early lead, but BC quickly recovered and never looked back.
In the first quarter, the Huskies looked like the better football team on both sides of the ball. After winning the opening coin toss, they engineered a drive downfield, sending BC’s defense reeling. On first down at the UConn 18-yard line, quarterback David Pindell connected with Arkeel Newsome for a 50-yard gain, taking the Huskies into BC territory (and field goal range). BC’s defense tightened up and denied UConn a touchdown, but Michael Tarbutt drilled a 50-yard field goal to give the Huskies an early 3-0 lead.
The Eagles failed to do anything with their two first-quarter possessions. During their first drive, A.J. Dillon and Thadd Smith each got a handoff, with only three yards between the two. Darius Wade then completed a short pass to Jeff Smith for only three yards, resulting in fourth down and a Mike Knoll punt.
On their next drive, the Eagles marched downfield, but ultimately had nothing to show for it. Dillon, who finished with 200 rushing yards, broke free for a 48-yard gain on second down, taking BC deep into UConn territory. But the Eagles failed to capitalize on their field position, and Colton Lichtenberg came out for a field goal attempt. His field goal was blocked by Luke Carrezola, however, keeping BC scoreless in the first quarter of play.
After the frustratingly slow start, the Eagles broke the game open in the second quarter. Dillon rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown in the second quarter, while Wade tossed 53 yards and added another score with a completion to Chris Garrison. The defense, meanwhile, adjusted well and prevented the Huskies from finding the scoreboard again. They even gave UConn a taste of its own medicine by blocking Tarbutt’s second field goal attempt of the game. By halftime, the Eagles had completely erased UConn’s lead and held a 14-3 advantage of their own. In the second half, they blew it wide open en route to the 39-16 win.
“We played sloppy early on both sides of the ball,” head coach Steve Addazio said after the game. “And then I thought we anchored ourselves back down again.”
Pound the Rock
With redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Brown out for the season with a knee injury, it was up to Wade to command the offense against the Huskies. And while he did look sharp with several long throws downfield, for the most part the Eagles completely relied on the ground game to steadily chip away at UConn.
Both Dillon and Jonathan Hilliman broke free of UConn defenders to earn long runs in the game, and both averaged more than eight yards per carry. Dillon finished with 200 yards, two touchdowns, and 8.3 yards per carry. Hilliman, meanwhile, finished with 107 yards, two touchdowns, and 10.7 yards per carry. Together, they combined for 307 of BC’s 385 total yards of offense.
In the second quarter, with the Eagles leading 7-3, Dillon scored his first touchdown of the game on a 53-yard run to the end zone. What made it particularly impressive was the way he kept his legs churning while multiple UConn defenders tried to bring him down. In the end, Dillon forced his way into the end zone to double BC’s lead in spite of the Huskies trying to bring him down.
Hilliman’s first score of the game came on the opening possession of the third quarter. On second down, he received the handoff from Wade, found a hole up the middle, dodged a UConn defender, and took it 38 yards to the house.
Although the Eagles ultimately scored six touchdowns on their way to a blowout victory, they struggled to convert on their point after attempts. In fact, Lichtenberg missed half of his opportunities, going 3-6 on PATs. In each miss, he kicked it wide right.
It should be noted that there was driving rain and that the turf wasn’t spectacular. And, of course, it didn’t matter in the end, because BC overpowered UConn in a dominant victory. But had it been a closer game, the missed PATs could have made a big impact, especially when combined with Lichtenberg’s blocked field goal attempt. As the Eagles head into rivalry week against Syracuse University, they will need to make sure that PATs and field goals won’t be a problem in the Carrier Dome.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor