On Sunday afternoon, Boston College football cracked the AP Poll for the first time since Nov. 30, 2008—in other words, 3,578 days. Back then, T.I. and Rihanna’s “Live Your Life” occupied the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, and movies like Madagascar 2 and Twilight were just hitting the theaters.
It’s been a while. That 2008 season was also the last time the Eagles reached the ACC Championship. Needless to say, BC’s 3-0 start—its first since 2007—and No. 23 ranking created a buzz around campus this week. Not in the locker room, though.
“I really haven’t even wasted one second thinking about it,” head coach Steve Addazio told reporters during Monday’s weekly press conference. “In fact, to me it’s just one more distraction. Listen, it’s great for your fan base, okay? It recognizes the fact that you’ve made improvements. … But really what I want to recognize is having a chance to be 4-0 around 4 o’clock Saturday afternoon—or [the ranking] doesn’t mean anything.”
In order to remain undefeated, the Eagles will have to get back on the road and defeat Purdue, a team that’s lost two-straight games on last-second field goals. Deceptively competitive, the Boilermakers are equipped with weapons, at least on the offensive side of the ball.
For the second-straight year, head coach Jeff Brohm has rolled out one of the more formidable passing attacks in the country. It all starts at the quarterback position. Whereas some Power Five teams can’t even find one high-performing signal caller, Purdue has two: Elijah Sindelar and David Blough.
Sindelar tossed at least 20 passes in eight games last season, and Blough—now a fifth-year senior—matched that mark in four contests. Sindelar, who took the job from Blough prior to the 2017 campaign, caught the injury bug midway through last season and reportedly played the final stretch of the season with a torn ACL, including the Boilermakers’ Foster Farms Bowl victory over Arizona—a game in which he threw for 396 yards and four touchdowns. Entering the 2018 season, Sindelar was the clear starter, but once again injuries threw Blough back into the line of fire. Now, there’s no telling when, if ever, he’ll take a seat.
Last week, Blough torched the Missouri secondary, racking up 572 yards and three scores through the air, breaking Purdue’s single-game passing record—a mark that was set by none other than Super Bowl XLIV Champion Drew Brees. He’s got all the weapons he needs: a pair of tight ends in Brycen Hopkins and Cole Herdman that open up the seam, a couple of reliable wideouts in Rondale Moore and Jared Sparks that stretch the field, as well as a few running backs—namely Markell Jones—that serve as safety valves.
Defensively, the Boilermakers are significantly less experienced. Only one of their top six tacklers on the defensive line from a year ago returned. To make matters worse, three of the top four leading tacklers at the linebacker position from the 2017 season are also gone. Rebuilding a front seven is no easy task, as evidenced by Purdue’s early season struggles.
The Boilermakers are currently in the bottom third in the country in total defense, having allowed an average of 475 yards per game—99.2 more than last season—over the course of the first three weeks of play. Against Missouri alone, Purdue gave up 608 yards. Unfortunately for Brohm and Co., the Boilermakers are hosting another offensive juggernaut this weekend that could very well spoil Homecoming.
After three 40-plus point performances, BC ranks seventh in the nation in both scoring and total offense—a complete 180 from the start of last season. The Eagles are logging 561.5 yards per game, in large part thanks to the rise of quarterback Anthony Brown.
“He played one season, and he didn’t even finish it,” Addazio said. “Essentially, he’s still finishing his first season right now. So, his best days are still ahead of him. But he is a talented guy—that showed, that showed on Thursday night.”
The redshirt sophomore gunslinger stole the show in Winston-Salem, N.C., picking apart the Wake Forest defense with ease. When all was said and done, Brown finished with five touchdowns and 304 yards, both career highs. All it took was a few plays for him to guide the Eagles to the end zone. BC was scoring fast—perhaps too fast.
All of the Eagles’ touchdown drives spanned three and a half minutes or less of game time, meaning that the defense was often stuck on the field, dealing with a taxing Demon Deacon run-pass-option scheme. Guys like Connor Strachan, Zach Allen, and Wyatt Ray eclipsed the 100-snap mark and, although they refused to come out of the game, were certainly feeling the effects of an up-tempo offense. Addazio emphasized that come Saturday, keeping the offense on the field and retaining possession will be a priority.
Turnover-wise, the Eagles have really only had issues on special teams. In the past two weeks, BC has had three blocked punts returned for touchdowns. Addazio was adamant that the stat isn’t reflective of the unit as a whole. Above all else, he maintained that punter Grant Carlson cannot afford to make a bad situation worse. According to the sixth-year Eagles coach, anything is better than spotting opponents free points.
BC can’t afford to shoot itself in the foot on the road again, especially against a Purdue team yearning for its first win of the season.
“They’ve lost three games by a total of eight points,” Addazio said. “Reminds me a little bit of us a year ago. Very close games. It’s a developing football team that’s scary.”
Luckily for Addazio, if Purdue is anything like the 2017 Eagles, he has a few weeks before the Boilermakers piece it all together.
Featured Image by Woody Marshall / AP Photo