Saturday, September 20, 2014

BC gets win despite sloppy start

It was almost cliche watching BC make a few mistakes that allowed Maine to hang around into the second quarter. Fortunately we finally established the run and the defense tightened up and BC ran away with the game 40-10. At this point I am just glad our young team picked up another win. This will give the coaches plenty to focus on.

I will have second viewing thoughts and grades up late Sunday.

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In-game comments post: Maine

Don't take this game lightly! Maine beat a FBS team last year (ok, it was only UMass). But this will be a good test for our team's focus and maturity. Are they ready to compete every week? Can they handle the comedown off of the USC win? Let's hope so. Leave your thoughts and comments on the game below.

You can also follow me on Twitter.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

What Not to Wear

With the welcome news that BC will not use the Red Bandana uniforms again this season, the BC Twitterers and BC blogosphere went into overdrive about BC's current and future uniforms. Brian recapped the cross talk and outlined a basic plan I agree with, however, he didn't spend as much time on the "fashion don'ts" as I would have liked. Because if there is one person that BC should be taking fashion tips from, it is a blogger dad in his late 30s who wears about three different things and doesn't have to talk to recruits.

Rule No. 1: No more white pants
It is not even an after Labor Day rule. There is no historical justification for it and I closely associate it with the Gene DeFilippo era. Except for a designated special uniform day, our home pants should always be gold. No exception. On the road, I prefer the gold pants for historic reasons, but will accept the maroon pants (see Rule No. 3).

Rule No. 2: No white stripe helmet
I am okay with the stained glass effect (on a maroon stripe). I liked the wounded warrior helmets. I thought the red bandana helmets were appropriately subtle. I don't mind a solid gold helmet as a throwback. But all variations to the BC helmet should be under clearly defined specialty days. No random usage of the white stripe a.k.a. the 49ers helmet.
One could argue about the fun or early victories associated with the white pants. But the white stripe will always scream Spaz football to me. Do we want that kind of association? I know the history of the maroon stripe is not that old, but it is clean, classic and closely associated with BC Football. Embrace it and use it in most of our games.

Rule No. 3: No in-season variations to the road uniform scheme
My preference for all BC road games is a white jersey and gold pants. I can live with maroon pants. I never want to see the white pants again. But whatever BC does, I just want consistency. Pick a road uniform combo and stick with it for multiple seasons. When people flip on the channel, they should see the uniform and think "that's BC." Use the home games for the gimmicks. On the road you set a tone for the opponents and opposing fans. Establish a look and then go win a bunch of road games.


Tweets of the Week


Game Watches: Maine

It will be hard to match last week's excitement, but hanging with a few BC friends always makes a game more fun. Here are the regional Game Watches. If your Chapter's is not listed, post the information in the comments section.

Atlanta Game Watch
The McCunney House
4210 N Mountain Rd NE
Marietta, GA 30066

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

BC-Maine preview

This is probably the perfect opponent to follow USC. Even with Mr. Motivation as Head Coach, a comedown is only natural. But if the team starts slow, we have enough talent and size that controlling this game should not be an issue. Like every FCS matchup, you just hope for a nice win and to avoid any injuries or issues.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game) 
The Boston City Council keeps moving forward with their new rules for college athletics. Because Marty Walsh has yet to see the Bill, this is all still grandstanding, but at what point does BC need to get involved to curtail this nonsense? Exploitation and college athletics go hand in hand and that needs to change. However, these local legislators don't have a clue and are not the ones to fix it. I hope it doesn't go much further because then BC and any team we play in Boston will be impacted.

Three Simple Keys
1. Win without trying anything unique. There are plenty of twists BC can use in our offense, especially now that every team will key on the run. Don't use any of those this week. Just beat Maine with a simple vanilla package. 
2. Work out the kinks in the kicking game. I don't want to settle for field goals, but I do hope that whoever is kicking PATs and FGs starts making them.
3. Take control early. Think of how Villanova surprised BC last year or how the drives against UMass stalled out this year. That shouldn't happen this week. BC needs to set the tone early and control throughout.

Gambling Notes
-- Addazio is 6-2 at Alumni
-- Maine was 1-1 vs FBS last season
-- Addazio is 3-0 vs FCS teams
The is no point spread on the major betting sites.

The first three games of the series were played in Maine. Since then all the games have been played in Chestnut Hill.

Scoreboard Watching
Even before the Winston half-game suspension, the FSU-Clemson showdown was critical to our division. How the 'Noles play without Winston will be a decent barometer of how good they are and how good Clemson is.

I hope to see...
The backup Offensive Line play for long stretches. Not only will this mean BC is in control of the game, it will also be a chance for BC to test next year's starters in live game conditions.

BC is in trouble if...
Murphy gets hurt. I don't think losing Murphy would mean we lose the game, but it would be disastrous for the remainder of the season.

Bottom Line
There is always a risk to taking an opponent lightly (just ask USC). But I don't see it this week. It would be one thing if this were even a great Maine team, but this is a Black Bear squad coming off a loss. I think like the UMass game, BC's lines should dominate enough that the contest is never really in doubt. Maybe Maine gets a late garbage TD, but otherwise it is BC all day.
Final Score: BC 35, Maine 10

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Bandbox off Beacon Street

I think it is time to appreciate Alumni Stadium for what it is: the surprising House of Horrors for visiting college football teams. It happened again Saturday night when USC players kept mentioning the stadium in their post-game comments. In this Oral History of the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, the greatest team in college football history admits that there is something flukey about playing at Alumni.

Davenport: It's cold, I don't know if it's the Boston chowder that we eat at the hotel, but we're always just sluggish when we come out.
Randy Shannon (defensive coordinator): It was just ... Boston. Even when I (coached) with Dennis Erickson, it was always the same. For some rhyme or reason, we couldn't figure it out.
Coker: What I really think it was, was perception. We didn't perceive Boston College as being a Florida State or Florida or Penn State or one of those types of schools. Right or wrong, that was the perception.
Curtis Johnson: You never stay near the stadium. The bus ride in, it looks like -- this isn't a knock on their stadium, because it's a great stadium -- but it doesn't appear what you would expect it to be as far as a major college football stadium. It's not like you're going into Florida State. You just don't see it as being, that kind of stadium.

All the key ingredients are there. Teams don't take us seriously. The setting and environment are different from other venues. The weather can be an issue too. Obviously the better BC is, the tougher the game at Alumni can be, but even when we are not as good, something about the Stadium can make a difference.

A few of my pet theories are the proximity of the stands to the benches. In other stadiums the team benches are sometimes 20 yards away and 12 feet down from the nearest seat. At Alumni, the benches are closer to five yards away and fans can lean over the railings and practically touch players. If a favored team is frustrated, I am sure the tension is ratcheted up with BC fans breathing down your neck.

Then there is impact Alumni's design has on the opponents. We know Alumni is closed on both ends with a low upperdeck. This can make the 44,500 seats feel much closer than they actually are. The all aluminum seating also creates louder than expected noise.

In the Miami article TOB champions the weather issue as well. Depending on the opponent and the time of year, New England weather can be a factor in any game at Alumni. Traditionally our September games can be surprisingly hot, our October games are often wet and November games are cold. Sure our players also have to deal with the elements, but when you're on the road and in a dogfight, bad weather doesn't raise spirits.

The USC players talked about the travel. Obviously that is another issue that varies by opponent, but being a long trip never hurts our cause as the home team.

To ever get a national homefield reputation like Blacksburg or Boise, we will need to rattle off some long home win streaks or upset a bunch of ranked teams. But until then, I am happy that our little stadium keeps surprising our opponents.

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Bates tries to build on Saturday's excitement and other links

Brad Bates used his latest "Letter from the AD's Desk" to sell people on coming to the final five home games. It is not a bad idea. Everyone's in a great mood about BC sports and the word of mouth from those who attended the game was great. Not every game will be as special and I think there are many factors in a home attendance issues, but a big one that has been overcome is our competitiveness. BC no longer has a sad sack as coach, so I think some of our fans can start to get excited about the games instead of feeling like they are wasting their time. Bates's focus was on the memories of Saturday night, but his office did add a new face this week. Bates hired Marcus Blossom as Associate Athletics Director for Business and Administration. On the surface this is not a major hire, but it is important for Bates. Even two years into his tenure many of the Athletic Department staff are holdovers. Bates did not clean house when he took over. The fact that so many stayed speaks to Bates' ability to win them over but also their love for working at BC. I expect we will finally see some top-level changes once Bates announces the Master Plan.

The story of Henry Hill fixing BC Basketball games will lead off the latest series of 30 for 30 films.

Brian St. Pierre St. John's team is off to a good start.

Here are the Game Notes and Depth Chart for the Maine Game.

Soccer lost to Harvard.

This article on Barry Gallup's role within BC Football is from last week, but still worth your time to read.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Handling the Crowther relationship with care

This is awesome and I could watch it all day. Addazio does a great job of building to his point and handing it off to the Crowthers. From there Mr. and Mrs. Crowther are charming, sincere and touching as always. They've handled themselves with such class since the moment they were thrust into the spotlight. It was the perfect ending to a week of honor and remembrance of their son.

My concern is news that BC will incorporate the Red Bandanna motif into their uniforms for the remainder of the season. We don't know how or to what extent, but the whole thing gives me pause (like Brian). Welles deserves honor and celebration. Saturday night was perfect. However, if you do something all the time, it makes things less special. And I worry that it also becomes a little exploitative and commercial. Will some on the team be inspired each time they see the Red Bandanna? Of course. But others might start to take it for granted.

I had the similar concerns about exploitation and people missing the point during the Ice Bucket Challenge. And I was probably wrong then. Whatever fears I had of people's motivations, clearly the good aspects of the Challenge far exceeded any social media narcissism that took place. Maybe I am wrong here. Maybe incorporating the Red Bandanna into the uniforms will be done with subtlety and respect. Or maybe I shouldn't worry, because the Crowthers have handled this whole process so well, I am sure they would let BC know when things didn't feel right.

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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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