Last season, Boston College football ranked among the nation’s top 25 in both plays and penalties per game. On Saturday, the team participated in its first scrimmage of training camp: The tempo was there—the discipline, however, was not, according to BCEagles.com.
BC recorded 69 offensive snaps inside the Fish Field House—about eight shy of its 2017 game average—but committed 10 penalties, far too many in head coach Steve Addazio’s eyes. After all, just a year ago, the Eagles were flagged a mere 3.6 times per game, second only to Minnesota. When BC’s at its best, it moves the ball methodically down the field. With a bevy of penalties, establishing that kind of rhythm is nearly impossible.
Still, backup quarterbacks Matt McDonald and E.J. Perry, who split first-team reps in place of a recovering Anthony Brown, made do offensively—well, eventually.
On the first drive of the day, 2017 Walter Camp All-American safety Lukas Denis tipped a pass in the secondary, and Max Richardson hauled it in for an interception to flip the field. Denis, who nabbed seven passes of his own last season, is simply picking up right where he left off this past winter. As a whole, BC is coming off a year in which it intercepted 18 passes—the 12th-most in the FBS.
Luckily for the Eagles’ offense, it was only a matter of time before things clicked. In large part thanks to a McDonald-Hunter Long connection, BC advanced the ball into enemy territory before watching Colton Lichtenberg drill a 44-yard field goal. The conversion is quite notable, considering the senior hit just 2-of-7 field goals from 40 yards out last season. That said, it’s important to remember that Lichtenberg sunk his final eight kicks of last year’s camp and went 6-of-6 to start the 2017 season before missing eight of his remaining 14 field goal attempts.
Following the score, the Eagles’ defense came up with a couple of pivotal third-down stops. First, redshirt sophomore Bryce Morais tackled a ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage on a 3rd-and-1. A couple series after that, the offense drove to the red zone, but ultimately stalled and turned the ball over on downs when a pass was batted down at the line. Linebacker Connor Strachan, who missed last season with a season-ending knee injury, believes that the defense’s play stems from competition within the unit itself.
“If Lukas [Denis] gets a pick, I’m going for one, or you see Wyatt [Ray] or Zach [Allen] come off the edge and get a sack, you’re trying to get one too,” the graduate student told BCEagles.com. “With all these guys making plays, it just brings everyone else up. The standard for what’s acceptable on defense now is higher.”
McDonald, who starred in this year’s Jay McGillis Memorial Spring Game, used not only his arm, but also his legs to make things happen. After a break in play, the redshirt freshman extended a drive by scrambling out of the pocket. Then, moments later, he dialed up a deep pass for Jeff Smith for the team’s longest gain of the day. Near the end of the scrimmage, McDonald orchestrated another touchdown drive, this time hooking up with Ben Glines and Tommy Sweeney along the way.
“I have complete trust in the receivers—they have complete trust in me,” the signal caller said. “Our timing’s all down, so a lot of times I can throw the ball before they’re even out of their break.”
On 4th-and-Goal, McDonald didn’t even have to pull the trigger. Instead, he snuck in for the score. All day, the Eagles were relatively productive around the goal line. In fact, at one point, Travis Levy, following a blocking John Phillips, rummaged his way into the end zone for a touchdown. Other players like A.J. Dillon, Michael Walker, and Long also put up six.
Addazio was impressed with a handful of individual performances, ranging from Grant Carlson’s punting to McDonald’s accuracy, but was hung up on the number of flags on the field.
“There were a lot of great things that took place today, a lot of great individual efforts, but it was a great Saturday to learn that penalties will even things out in a hurry,” the sixth-year BC coach said. “This was great today that this showed up so you can address it and fix it.”
Addazio and the Eagles have two more scrimmages to shore up odds and ends, but Saturday served as a reminder that there are position battles beyond the first team and that the 2018 season really is just around the corner.
Featured Image by Tiger Tao / Heights Staff