Monday, September 15, 2014

One dimensional and loving it

Gimmick offenses or offenses that can't run and pass don't win championships (see Georgia Tech or Mike Leach's various iterations). However, a unique offense can help a limited team win way above its talent level (like Navy seems to do). Longterm, Addazio talks of mixing Stanford's power with Urban Meyer's spread. How and when he gets there with his recruiting and scheme is unknown. But for now we are a nearly run only team and it definitely has its advantages.

Last year Addazio played to his roster and his strengths. He was not shy about giving Andre Williams the ball and sending him out there behind six offensive linemen and two tight ends. Predictably whenever BC lined up like that the other team would crowd the box to stop Andre. With a crowded box BC would see plenty of Williams' runs that resulted in no gains. However, once or twice a game Williams would break free and take off for a huge gain. While BC experimented a bit in the first two games with formations and featured runners, it is now clear we are still at our best going big and our best runner is Tyler Murphy. And Saturday night we saw the return of my favorite type of play -- the big run when the other team crowds the box. Take a look at this GIF from Bostinno. USC has nine guys close to the line and only their corners playing off. BC blocks well, two guys bite on the hand off to Hilliman, Murphy makes one guy miss and he's gone. Game over.

This is not ideal and some teams will adjust. But for now, playing a gimmick offense is BC's best way to be competitive. Addazio wants explosive plays but we only have a few explosive players. Giving them good blocking and one guy to beat will be explosive and fun to watch.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Second viewing thoughts and grade report: USC

Watching the game live was tense. It constantly felt like USC might light up the scoreboard with a big play. The second time around you realize how dominant this performance was. The final score doesn't even indicate how BC controlled the game from the 2nd quarter to the finish. There was a lot to like about the whole performance.

Offense: A-

As I tweeted, Tyler Murphy didn't complete a pass in the second half, yet BC extended our lead. He really didn't need to throw much. USC couldn't stop him and he made great decisions on the zone reads and options. His passes in general were more crisp although still not great. I also liked that he was quick to run when his first passing reads weren't there. He had some wide open players that he ignored but I think that will improve with film study. Overall though, this was the Murphy we needed: run first and keep the threat of the pass in his backpocket.

There had been some talk about Willis and Rouse's decline after the Pitt game. I think this game reinforced that both are still good and just needed better blocking. Hilliman made the most of his first extended time. The announcers talked up his potential as the big back, but he was more than just that. He showed great speed on the TDs and enough instinct to reach for the pylon. Wofford blocked well and it was noted by Blackledge.

The WRs were bad again as a group. While their opportunities continue to decrease, they are not helping themselves with the continued drops. Bordner, Crimmins, Alston and Callinan are dropped or missed catchable balls. But it wasn't all bad. Alston proved to be a real threat with the ball. He's listed as a WR, but I think he's going to be like our version of Percy Harvin and will probably get more handoffs than passes this year. Bordner blocked really well.

The Offensive Line played very well. Gallik led the way and other than a mix up on a late coming rusher, had a pretty steady night. He looked very good moving too. Kramer played well and had no big issues. The pass protection was much better. Silberman didn't look as lost and didn't have any noticeable issues.

I thought the play calling was very good. What I appreciated most is that many of the plays built off of previous ones. For example the option...and then they option with the end around to Alston...and then the fake end around to Alston. We also incorporated the dive into our zone reads, which is a wrinkle I haven't seen before (the Dive is more a staple of Navy and Georgia Tech). I would still like to see Murphy roll or bootleg more, but after last week's disaster in passing, this week was good. Day planned the game well and called it even better.

Defense: B

Kavalec had another solid game. He can shed blockers and is a solid tackler. Although he wasn't credited with a tackle, I thought Wujciak did a good job penetrating and disrupting their run game. I didn't think Mihalik played as well. He got pushed around a bit and lost contain a few times. On the other End Moore seemed to get blocked down too. Landry looked good and remains very active. Adebayo had a nice play. Gutapfel looked good.

Daniels made plenty of tackles, but I think he was responsible for a few different USC RBs coming out of the backfield uncovered. I cannot be sure but looking back he seems like the fall guy (I don't think Brown would ask the DEs to wait and cover). Keyes looked much better than last week. I don't know why the tackling was so different but he was like a new player. Of the young guys, Lezzer looked good and so did Strizak.

As a group I thought the DBs played well. They made most of their tackles, were very active and played well in coverage. Asprilla had one of his better games. He was good in one on one coverage and made plenty of tackles in support of the run. Bryce Jones also had a good game. Milano was a nice surprise and a sure tackler. Sylvia made a mistake in Special Teams (see below) but was solid otherwise.

We gave up 317 passing yards but it didn't feel like that and I assume that was by design. Brown left Kessler confused and exploited many of USC's blocking issues. Most of the passing yards came in short passes where we gave the Trojans space. It was a mix of bend but don't break and pressure. Brown did a good job of mixing things up and was able to generate a lot of the pressure with only four rushers. But the tackling improved and so did the run D and for that Brown deserves credit.

Special Teams: B

The missed PAT and missed FG didn't matter but should be a concern to coaches (and fans).

Howell's punts were nice and the punt coverage was good. The kick coverage wasn't as good. Sylvia got out of his lane on their big return. However, the squibs worked well and our coverage improved with it.

Willis was solid on his kick returns. Alston made good decisions on his punt returns.

The hands team didn't have to do much, but at least they were ready and didn't screw it up.

Overall: A+

This was not a perfect game, but I will ignore that because of the momentous win. Beating USC is nice, but the biggest reason for recognizing Addazio is the difference between last week and this one. BC corrected most of their major errors and regrouped after a frustrating loss. That is a sign of a good coach and a good staff. I know I am oversimplifying again but the core result is clear. This coach and staff have the attention and belief of their players and are making them better each week.

As for game management, I am glad Addazio pushed for scoring late in the first half. It made the difference. The kick on 3rd down was a little funky, but as he explained to Holly Rowe, they were trying to see if they could catch USC off guard and 19 seconds wasn't enough to do much. You'd like things to be a little more crisp in those situations, but the fact Addazio has an aggressive mindset is important. When we were nursing the lead, I also thought he used his second half timeouts well. Saving them is ideal, but making sure that we don't make killer mistakes is more important.

Addazio always seems to be riding a fine line with expectations. This win raised them. I am not worried about how we handle Maine next week, but the rest of the schedule will be tough. He passed the regrouping challenge. Now he needs to get this team to execute every week.

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Christian lands Turner

Football wasn't the only BC sport with big news on Saturday. A.J. Turner -- one of the elite players in New England -- committed to BC and Jim Christian. Turner plays for New Hampton but is originally from Michigan. The 6'6 wing's ranking varies by each recruiting service, but all have him among their top 150 players. He also holds offers from Michigan State, Stanford and Florida State. 

Christian now has a good mix of guards and perimeter players in his 2015 class. The focus now turns to inside players and big men to fill out the recruiting class.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Trampling the Trojans

When I wrote about what BC needed to do in order to get back in a bowl, I said we had to steal a game from one of the big boys on our schedule. We didn't steal anything Saturday night. We beat USC by overpowering them and running the ball down their throat. Steve Addazio and his staff did a great job in their first year adjusting to the roster they inherited. This season's roster is a mix of young kids and some surprising transfers and they just beat a Top 10 team at Alumni. Calling the win huge would be an understatement. Right now it is clearly Addazio's signature win and hopefully the first of many.

There is still a long season ahead and this team still has clear limitations, but this win does two things. It gives the players confidence and it gives the staff a blueprint of how they can play with any team in the country. BC Football is fun again and playing to win makes all the difference.

I will have my grades and second viewing thoughts up late Sunday and maybe another post before celebrating the game and the win.

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In-game comments post: USC

The oddsmakers don't like our chances and last year's game wasn't fun. But under the lights at Alumni could mean a whole different vibe. Let's make it a good one. Leave your thoughts and comments below.

You can also follow me on Twitter.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Tweets of the Week


Game Watches: USC

It is Saturday night. BC's on national TV. We're playing USC? You know you're watching. Might as well watch with some BC fans!

Chicago Game Watch
Nic and Dino's Tripoli Tap
1147 W Armitage (Armitage Brown/Purple Line L)

Dallas Game Watch
Corner Bar
4830 McKinney Ave

Denver Game Watch
The Whittier Pub
2000 E 28th Ave

Houston Game Watch
The Beer Company
J. Black’s - 110 S Heights Blvd

Las Vegas Game Watch
Steiner’s Nevada Style Pub
8410 West Cheyenne Ave
Las Vegas, NV

Los Angeles Game Watch
Brü Haus
11831 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, Calif.

New York City Game Watches
Joshua Tree
513 3rd Avenue (between 34th and 35th Street)
New York, N.Y.

American Whiskey
30th Street between 7th and 8th Ave

Brazen Fox
13th and 3rd

Phoenix Game Watch
Gallagher's Sports Grill
7575 N. 16th Street

San Diego Game Watch
The Beer Company
602 Broadway St.
San Diego

San Francisco Game Watch
Shanghai Kelly's
2064 Polk St.
San Francisco

Tampa Game Watch
Beef O’Brady’s in South Tampa (4516 S. Dale Mabry Hwy)

Washington, D.C. Game Watch
Irish Whiskey Public House
1207 19th Street Northwest
Washington, D.C.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

BC-USC preview

Things don't get easier this week. Prior to the season, no one expected BC to pull off this upset. Any stragglers on the BC bandwagon probably got off after last week's loss. Because of the brand of our opponent and their ranking, the game remains important, but it is not the measuring stick that the Pitt game was. That is why I hope BC comes out trying everything. They have nothing to lose and that is often the best time to win.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game) I already covered the fund raising reminder in BC Magazine, but didn't mention the feature article on Addazio. Because it is coming from BC's official arm, I always find these sorts of articles intriguing for what they do and don't write. It surprised me a bit to read Addazio talk about getting fired at Notre Dame despite graduating 100% of their players. It was one of those typical college coach lines about priorities and the realities of the job. I didn't think it was whiny but it was the first time I recall Addazio complaining about the decision. Addazio has been very good about embracing BC for what it is and not complaining via backchannels about what it isn't. He's only human, but I hope he keeps the attitude and positivity and doesn't start whining about how college football isn't fair. At BC you have to graduate players and win. That's not too much to ask.

Three Simple Keys
1. Someone other than Murphy needs to have a great game. Even if he had played better last week, Murphy cannot carry the team by himself. He needs another playmaker to have explosive plays and score touchdowns.
2. Better tackling. Last week was some of the worse tackling I've seen from a BC team in about ten years. That cannot happen again.
3. Disrupt Kessler. He was nearly perfect against us last year. We've got to give him different looks this year. Some pressure would be nice too.

Gambling Notes
-- Sarkisian is 3-6 vs non-conference BCS teams
-- USC is 4-0 all time against BC
-- Addazio is 0-4 vs ranked teams
The current line is BC+17

USC and Stanford are the only Pac 12 schools to play at Alumni.

Scoreboard Watching
I will be paying attention to East Carolina vs Virginia Tech. The Hokies impressed me by winning at Ohio State. But Beamer's teams have a habit of losing focus against teams they should beat. If they come out and thrash ECU, it might be a sign that this Hokie team is different.

I hope to see...
Passes to the Running Backs. We hardly did it with Andre Williams, but it was a staple of the various offenses we are borrowing from (Oregon, Florida). In theory they are high percentage and it will be a good way to get Murphy's confidence up and will give some of our playmakers -- like Willis -- some space to make plays.

BC is in trouble if...
We continue to drop passes. Murphy took most of the heat for the Pitt loss, but those drops were as bad, if not worse. I know Addazio will have a quick hook on the older guys who make mistakes. I have no problem with that. Let the young guys play, especially if they can catch.

Bottom Line
This is preview is probably more heart than head, but I believe we can win. I think USC will take us lightly and will get more fight than they ever expected. I think even 3/4ths full, Alumni can be a tough place to play. I think we work out some of the kinks on offense and put up enough points to hold off a USC team that gets more field goals than touchdowns.
Final Score: BC 28, USC 20

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

BC unveils Red Bandanna uniforms

BC tweeted out a sneak preview of the Red Bandanna themed uniforms and gear the team will wear during the USC game. I am always leery of how BC incorporates Crowther's signature and story into the sports team, but I do think this looks cool. I haven't talked or emailed the Crowther family on this, but I assume they gave their blessing. I know players and Under Armour love doing this. Let's hope they remain reverent about the source and inspiration for the Red Bandanna.

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BC sends a message about Sports fundraising in BC Magazine

I know it seems like BC Sports is always at a turning point, but I think it is true with regards to fundraising. If you don't believe me, you just need to look at the full page breakdown in the latest issue of BC Magazine. In the graphic BC shows our rank among ACC schools in Annual Athletic Gifts and Total Donors and then shows the corresponding ranking in the Learfield Directors Cups given to the school with the most overall successful Athletic Department (implying there is a strong correlation). This ranking was done before the most recent ACC expansion, so BC is listed as 10th in Annual Gifts and 11th in Total Donors and 11th in the Learfield Cup. North Carolina was first among ACC schools in the Cup ranking but only 9th in Gifts and 4th in Donors. Wake was 12th in all categories.

You can argue over the correlation between giving and on field success, but it doesn't matter what we think or what the statistics prove. What matters is that the people in the Athletic Department and the Development Office think there is a strong correlation. And BC's ability to raise funds for sports is going to determine what sort of facilities we have and how many sports we support.

The Master Plan was supposed to have been released last year. It is done but not being widely shared. The reason is fund raising. BC and Bates need to raise enough money for certain aspects of the Plan to make the whole campaign viable. They cannot announce "here is our plan" and then raise a fraction of its cost. Not only would the projects fail, but BC would be crushed by our competitors on the recruiting trail. But the fact that it has taken this long to raise enough money during a quiet period is not a good sign. Bates and his team need to get this project further along.

The type of funds you need to support a Master Plan are not going to come from a one-page ad in BC Magazine. Big gifts (six and seven figures) are solicited over months and in face-to-face meetings. But the magazine does set the narrative to the wider community. BC wants to step up its sports giving and if we don't we will suffer on the field.

I don't give to the Flynn Fund and no one from BC has shared the Master Plan with me directly. I support the project but will continue to direct my small gift to the BC Fund and let the school decide how to use the money. I have faith that BC Sports will come through and ultimately build the Master Plan. That will save football, but I wonder about all the other non-revenue sports. If we want baseball or want to relaunch Lacrosse, many donors will have to step up in a significant way. BC knows this and that is why they are using valuable communication space to send that message.

UPDATE: Of course BC doesn't have the graphic online at the Magazine site. Here is a picture I took with my phone.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

More schedule stuff, more hoops recruiting, more links

Tuesday's news felt a lot like Monday's...

Football agreed to a two-game series with Northern Illinois. BC will host next year and the return date is still to be determined, but likely in 2017. Playing a MAC school is always tricky because winning gets you nothing but the risk of losing is real. I don't mind the NIU matchup. We should beat them both years. We needed a game for next year and if we ever play the return date, the Chicagoland area is not a bad place to visit for recruiting and Alumni purposes. The reason I say "if" on the return is that future schedules mean less and less. Look at what happened with our Army games or Ohio State games. Every conference mandate has a ripple effect. I don't know if we will even need Northern Illinois in two years. All we can count on is the 2015 game.

Jim Christian added a second player to his 2015 recruiting class. North Carolina point guard Jerome Robinson committed Tuesday. Robinson is not an elite prospect, but he is a late bloomer and shows good promise. With two guys on board, there is probably room for two more true freshmen and then a few transfers.

BC will honor Welles Crowther this weekend. I don't know if it will inspire the team or overcome USC (like the writer hopes) but it is the right thing to do.

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