BC Needs Bye Week to Improve
By David Wheatley
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Three games into the season, Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani's seat is as hot as it has ever been.
It was the second frustrating loss for Boston College in their first three games. This time, the Eagles fell 22-13 to the Northwestern Wildcats Saturday in Evanston. Like their season opener against Miami, this was a winnable game for the Eagles. A couple of miscues by the Eagles cost them a chance at a road win. Three games into the season, BC head coach Frank Spaziani's seat is as hot as it has ever been. The good news is that the Eagles now head into a bye week, which gives them an opportunity to address the areas that have plagued them in the first three games. The bad news is that waiting for BC on the other side of the bye week are the Clemson Tigers, who are currently ranked as one of the top 10 teams in the country. Here are five areas that the Eagles must address if they are going to have any chance at upsetting Clemson on September 29th.
1. Pass Defense. Heading into the season opener, the Eagles were pretty banged up and inexperienced in the secondary. In fact, the Eagles were so banged up that they had to move a safety to the boundary corner to start the season. As a result of their inexperience, the Eagles' secondary decided not to play bump and run coverage, and instead drop back in coverage, so it would be harder to get beaten on a deep ball. In the Eagles' first and third games of the year, both Miami and Northwestern exposed this strategy. In both of those games, their opponents nickled and dimed the Eagles. In doing so, they kept the BC defense on the field for a long time. There is really no easy solution for this problem. Against Clemson, it would be advisable for the Eagles to keep the same strategy, since Clemson boasts two of the premier deep threats in the country in Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. But in the long term, the Eagles need to figure out how to address this problem.
2. Running Game. The Eagles are really missing Montel Harris now. Against Northwestern, the Eagles managed just 25 yards on 21 carries. While much of the blame has to go on the RB trio of Deuce Finch, Tahj Kimble and Andre Williams, some of the blame has to go on the offensive line. While the OL has done a good job at protecting QB Chase Rettig in the passing game, they have struggled in blocking for the run. Against Northwestern, the Eagles showed a very predictable personnel grouping. Due to injuries at the tight end position, BC had to convert two offensive lineman - Liam Porter and Dave Bowen - to tight end. Since making the switch to tight end, Porter and Bowen have seldom been targeted in the passing game. Against Northwestern, it was very evident that when Porter and Bowen were on the field, the Eagles were most likely going to run the ball. It appeared the Northwestern caught on to this early, and that is why they were so effective at stopping the BC running game. After the poor showing vs. Northwestern, Spaziani emphasized the importance of establishing the run: "We have to run the ball. We can’t have that kind of effort. That has to improve for a lot of reasons in our offense. The obvious one is you have to be able to run the ball, you can’t be one dimensional." Spaziani also made it clear that he still has faith in his running backs: “They’re good kids and they’ve got talent. This doesn’t change my mind,” he said. “They haven’t performed up to their capabilities.”
3. Ball Security. The Eagles have been plagued by ball security throughout their first three games. Fumbles have been a killer for BC, and are part of the reason why the Eagles are 1-2. A Finch fumble at the Northwestern five yard line in the third quarter proved to be a very costly mistake, as the Eagles were driving with a chance to take the lead. The Eagles also dropped several well thrown balls by Rettig, some of which ended up forcing the Eagles to punt.
4. Third Down Defense. The Eagles defense was very poor at stopping Northwestern on third down. The Wildcats converted 12 of 19 third down opportunities against BC on Saturday. Northwestern was able to effectively run the ball in short yardage situations. The Eagles' deep secondary coverage also accounted for Northwestern's success on third down, as the Wildcats were able pick up first downs on pass plays such as screens. To their credit, BC's red zone defense was excellent, forcing Northwestern to kick four field goals.
5. Get Healthy. The Eagles have been without several key skills players on offense. Wide receivers Bobby Swigert and Colin Larmond are out with injuries, as is tight end Chris Pantale. Getting those three players back catching passes could be very helpful to Chase Rettig, who has already shown great improvement in his junior season. In regards to Clemson on the 29th, Spaziani said, “I think Swigert has a chance of participating on some level. I’m not exactly sure." He also said that the likelyhood of Pantale playing vs. Clemson was “very doubtful.” The Eagles have also been without an important defensive player in cornerback Albert Louis-Jean. Louis-Jean is unlikely to return to the field until October.