Boston College returned to a winning form this past Saturday. In their first game outside of the state of Massachusetts, and first ACC Atlantic contest, BC beat the North Carolina State Wolfpack 30-14. The trip south, and the second half weather delay, couldn’t slow down the Eagles, who once again dominated the ground game.
The first three BC possessions all resulted in touchdowns. BC saw three of their biggest offensive playmakers–Hilliman, Murphy, and Alston–each run in a touchdown in the opening three drives. Murphy broke loose for a 47-yard touchdown on a designed QB run, and Alston scored on a beautifully designed reverse flip play. By the end of the game, BC had run for 310 yards and four rush touchdowns.
After the initial two NC State drives that saw them drive down the field with ease for touchdowns, the Wolfpack offense was overpowered by the BC run defense. NC State wasn’t able to score in the final three quarters, and only had 43 rush yards on the day. The BC defense looked like the dominant group we’ve seen at times this year.
BC entered the second half with a 21-14 lead, but had to kick the ball off to an NC State team that had shown they could score. Incredibly, defensive lineman Brian Mihalik intercepted a ball on only the second play of the half, and instantly put the Eagles in a first and goal situation. The Eagles wouldn’t run a play for quite some time though, as the third quarter was delayed due to lightning.
When the game finally restarted, the offense wasn’t able to move the ball and settled for a field goal. The BC defense played a fantastic second half though, allowing only 62 yards in the final two quarters. Linebacker Josh Keyes continued his dominance in the pass rush game when he registered a fumble inducing sack on NC State QB Jacoby Brissett.
The Eagle offense was far from high flying in the second half, but the third quarter field goal and a 75-yard drive capped off by a 26-yard Murphy touchdown run were more than enough for a comfortable win. The dominant run defense was once again a major reason BC was able to outperform their opponents.
Tyler Murphy actually looked competent in throwing the ball this week, managing to hit 12/19 targets for 102 yards. He would’ve had another 50 or so yards and a sure touchdown, but Josh Bordner dropped a well thrown ball. The emergence of a pass game is going to be essential for the Eagles, because as we have seen in losses, the run game simply isn’t enough when the defense isn’t playing well.
Luckily for BC this week, the defense was stellar in causing turnovers, stopping the run, and forcing the Wolfpack to be one-dimensional. After a disastrous tackling effort against Colorado State, BC was able to be the defensive powerhouse that they were in their previous wins. It’s evident that the pass defense has some issues, but if the opponents can never get a ground game going then BC can scheme to defend the pass better. This is the style that BC executed perfectly yesterday, and will need to continue to do in this stretch of ACC games.
The BC ground game continues to be a four-headed monster. Jon Hilliman is a workhorse freshman back; he now has 7 TD’s and over 100 carriers for 454 yards. Hilliman has seemingly secured the starting job, but Myles Willis and Sherman Alston, another freshman, have still continued to be effective and useful backs. Then of course there is the QB.
Murphy is unlike any other quarterback in college football this year. He has 711 rush yards, 8 rushing touchdowns, and has registered 5 games with a QBR over 80. What’s most amazing about this is that he still struggles to throw balls downfield. Most mobile college quarterbacks are gunslingers that can threaten with their arms, but for Murphy, most of his completions are less than ten yards downfield. For him to be able to continue to dominate in wins just proves that his running ability is something special.
For BC to continue to win in the ACC, they need to have a few things happen each week. Most importantly, they need to dominate the line of scrimmage on defense and not allow teams to effectively rush. Second, Murphy needs to not throw any interceptions, or produce any option related fumbles. Lastly, the Eagles need to at least have the threat of passing for yards and points, which will make their run game exponentially better. Obviously a lot of this falls on Murphy’s shoulders, but that’s why the defensive effort is so important.
BC is two wins away from being bowl eligible, and there are certainly a few winnable games left on the schedule. However, a very good Clemson team and the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles still remain. BC will need to put together efforts like they did against USC to win those games, but as we have seen, that is possible. If BC can play the style that they want to, this team has a higher ceiling than many Superfans are used to.
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