Boston College football looked far from a Top-25 team on Saturday afternoon, suffering a 30-13 loss at the hands of Purdue—the product of a flat performance and countless mistakes. Head coach Steve Addazio described his team’s display at the half as doing “some of dumbest things I’ve seen us do,” and it never got better.
The Eagles, favored by a touchdown, displayed none of the offensive prowess that merited them the No. 23 ranking after a 41-point night against Wake Forest. A.J. Dillon was held to just 59 yards on 19 carries and didn’t play after the first snap of the fourth quarter, retreating to the bench where he eventually sat, staring vacantly, as time expired.
Quarterback Anthony Brown, after throwing for five touchdowns in an impressive outing against the Demon Deacons, was at his worst, displaying the same up-and-down tendency he struggled with in 2017. Brown threw four interceptions and completed just 48 percent of his passes. He was pressured throughout the day and made poor choices, unprepared for when the line broke down.
In a stark contrast to Brown and BC’s offensive struggles—as a unit, the Eagles faced an average of 9.1 yards on third downs—the host Boilermakers looked like a well-oiled machine. Quarterback David Blough picked the Eagles’ defense apart, despite weathering constant pressure from the front seven, and proved once again that mobile quarterbacks cause BC headaches. Missed tackles, penalties, and poor coverage struck time and time again. Then, on defense, Purdue didn’t just contain the Eagles offense—it made them look downright awful. Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler met his match in Boilermakers defensive coordinator Nick Holt, who made Loeffler’s play-calling look feeble and repetitious.
All in all, BC couldn’t block, tackle, run, pass, or have anything resembling an effective game plan. Last year, Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm rightly earned attention for turning his program around to gain bowl eligibility. This year started inauspiciously with three losses, albeit by slim margins, but Brohm was simply the better coach on Saturday. His offense capitalized when it needed to most, the defense shut down two of the more exciting players in the country in the early going, and he left Eagles fans dazed. Some might even ask what BC’s ceiling would be if Brohm, who just earned Purdue its first ranked win since 2011, had the reins.
The Eagles had nine days to prepare for this game. Nine! Yet from the very beginning, it was clear that BC was sticking to the exact same offensive script it’d used to great success against Wake Forest. The problem, clearly, was that the Boilermakers knew exactly what the Eagles were going to try. Addazio has described the relationship between Brown’s and Dillon’s performances as symbiotic, one that’s mutually beneficial depending on which one the defense keys on. On Saturday, it was revealed that Brown desperately needs his running back to be thriving in order for him to find success—and that if he starts to break down like he did against Purdue, the Eagles will fall back on the woeful offense that was so painful to watch at the start of last year.
How predictable was BC? Take a look at its first couple drives, the touchdown excluded. The Eagles went three-and-out in impressively similar ways each time. The first two drives that ended in punts featured Dillon running on first and second downs for short gains, then Brown either throwing an incomplete pass or taking a sack. Even when the Eagles attempted to mix it up, they got the same results. Throws on first down? Barely traveled five yards through the air, and were either marked as losses or slim gains. The Boilermakers were able to load up the box on first and second downs, then get after the quarterback on third, and it was devastatingly effective.
A caveat is that BC was likely expecting a different Purdue team, but it doesn’t excuse the performance. If you watched tape of the Boilermakers shootout loss to Missouri, you watched the defense get picked apart, succumbing to missed assignments and struggling to communicate in the back end. On Saturday, Purdue did everything right, giving a blueprint to opposing teams on how to contain Dillon and Co. It started with pressure up front and, unfortunately for the Eagles, senior captain and center Jon Baker—who didn’t play last week—was overmatched for much of the game.
The offensive line, supposedly the most stable unit on the depth chart, was woeful. From the beginning, Brown realized he was going to be in for a long day at the office, as he was sacked on consecutive drives in the first half. He was eventually brought down four times throughout the day and had four passes broken up at the line of scrimmage, the product of a pocket collapsing in on him. The safety blanket he enjoyed against the Demon Deacons, where he was able to let things develop and step into long throws, was gone—and it was evident that the long throws weren’t going to be there. With Dillon struggling to get anything on the edges, watching BC fail to break the 100-yard mark until the fourth quarter wasn’t much of a surprise.
After allowing a 12-play, six-minute touchdown drive on the first Purdue series of the game, the Eagles’ defense started the second quarter with plenty of energy—it’d forced a punt the second drive and already had two sacks of quarterback David Blough. Then, a simple missed tackle sent that crashing down. Debating whether Rondale Moore’s knee was actually down or not is a tough topic, but the fact remains that Moore caught a pass maybe 10 yards downfield and Will Harris, a captain and leader of the secondary, failed to bring him down—and cost his team a 70-yard touchdown. Harris went for the big hit and came up empty, glancing off Moore, who gained an edge and sprinted for the score.
These missed tackles and mistakes would pile up. Harris would jump a route and pick off Blough, only to see it called back for Zach Allen going offsides. Taj-Amir Torres would miss a tackle on the Boilermakers third touchdown of the day—Moore caught the ball five yards from the end zone, and Torres lunged but was left grasping as the wideout waltzed in.
Cornerback Brandon Sebastian was targeted by Blough a few times, and he was beat deep twice. The first time, he was able to punch the ball out to force a fumble that Harris recovered, but the fact remained that he wasn’t able to contain the wide receiver in front of him. He wasn’t as lucky the second time, as a stop-and-go move from Terry Wright froze the sophomore defensive back, allowing Blough to lead his receiver easily into the end zone for a 36-yard score.
BC was able to get consistent pressure on Blough, but another flaw in its defense was exposed—it really, really struggles with mobile quarterbacks. Wyatt Ray and Allen are a two-headed monster in terms of bringing pressure off both edges, and while Blough was sacked five times, he also created plenty of plays by himself. He scampered for five yards to convert a third-down conversion, and kept several plays alive for extended periods of time with his feet.
Overall, giving up 30 points is never a great thing, but the Eagles’ defense did play well for chunks of time. Still, defensive coordinator Jim Reid’s unit only forced one three-and-out—undoubtedly a product of its snap volume, something that can be attributed to the offense’s inability to move the chains. BC recorded a pair of turnovers, but the offense gave it back both times. There was no semblance of complementary football, and it left viewers wondering why on earth this team had a No. 23 ranking next to its name.
Featured Image by Michael Conroy / AP Photo