In Greek mythology, Hercules and his plucky nephew Iolaus kill the Lernean Hydra—a massive serpent with nine regrowing heads—by bashing and burning eight of its domes and then slicing off the ninth. Hercules then buries the severed head and covers it with a big rock, because, hey, you can never be too careful with gigantic multi-headed water snakes.
On Friday night, Pittsburgh came into Alumni Stadium and ripped the teeth out of Boston College’s running back hydra, leaving it alive to play another day but rendered docile and impotent for four quarters. To make matters worse for the Eagles, while Iolaus was busy cauterizing BC’s backs, Pitt’s resident Hercules, James Conner, picked up the rock and ran it for 214 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries. Falling in line with one of football’s cruel ironies, Steve Addazio’s team was unable to stop the run or get the run going, and that paradox led directly to BC’s 30-20 loss to Pitt and 0-1 record in the ACC.
Over the course of 60 minutes, sophomore running backs Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse combined for 13 carries and 28 yards. Jon Hilliman, BC’s man-giant freshman back, added another 11 yards on three carries, and Sherman Alston, a rookie wide out, picked up 13 yards on a jet sweep. BC quarterback Tyler Murphy ran for 92 yards on 16 attempts, but 51 of those yards came on BC’s third play of the game. That’s 142 total rushing yards from five rushers—Conner ran for 130 in the first half alone.
“We knew going into this game we had to stop the run—we didn’t do it, it didn’t happen,” Addazio said after the game.
“I knew he would be good,” he continued. “None of us had any delusions. He was gonna run inside, he’s a strong runner, he’s big—he’s a heck of a back. We had to tackle, and we had plenty of opportunities. I mean schematically, not all the time, but a lot of the time, we were in positions to make those plays. We didn’t make the tackles.”
Like an enraged, punch-drunk rhinoceros, Pitt’s 6-foot-2, 250-pound brick wall of a running back ran north on BC all night, pounding his way through BC’s defensive line and bouncing off tackles for extra yards in the secondary. Coming off of a four-touchdown performance against Delaware last week, Conner’s racked up 367 rushing yards in two games—46 percent of his season total as a freshman last year. Pulling off a damn good Andre Williams impression, Conner shed arm tackles all night and was nearly always tackled by a committee of Eagles.
“He’s a good back, played good,” said BC captain Dominique Williams. “But tackling-wise, I really have no comment.”
For the most part, everything capable of going wrong for the Eagles went DEFCON 1.
With the exception of a few quality plays and Shakim Phillips’ 48-yard touchdown, BC’s passing game resembled a stagnated pond in August, sans the frogs, algae, and the peaceful sense of nature that comes with being near a pond. Dropped passes and an Eli Manning-esque, off-the-receiver pick killed any momentum the Eagles were able to string together—other than Phillips, no BC receiver accumulated more than 25 yards. Murphy finished the night 10 for 28 with 134 yards and a touchdown.
Special teams proved a similar nightmare for the Eagles—Alex Howell went 0-1 on field goal attempts and Addazio elected to punt on Pitt’s 34-yard line rather than try Howell again from distance. Kicking was Addazio’s sure thing last season, but it’s quickly ballooned into one of his biggest headaches and liabilities of his 2014 team.
Compounding BC’s loss, Sean Duggan, a senior captain and linebacker, suffered a leg injury and limped off the field before collapsing on the sideline moments later. He was later seen on crutches, and his current status is unknown.
BC’s home opener was a thorough whipping, through and through—while the Eagles kept the final score within 10, they were outplayed for almost the entire game. Pitt figured out BC’s game in one quarter, and it’s not about to get any easier for Addazio & Co.—a ranked USC team comes to town for a prime-time battle on Saturday.
To right the ship, BC desperately needs to get the running game going again. At the moment, though, it looks like BC’s biggest silver lining is that the Trojans won’t be bringing any Greek demigods to Chestnut Hill.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor