Wednesday, November 26, 2014

No Thanks

Reader Matt sent an email regarding Notre Dame's annual Thanksgiving trips to California (rotating between Stanford and USC). I had also been thinking about BC's Thanksgiving games. While we won't copy the Irish's west coast swings, I do think the Irish are on to something. I don't think BC should ever play home games Thanksgiving weekend.

The biggest problem with Thanksgiving weekend is that most students are gone. I know campus is still open and they are welcome to return, but changing flights or rides is always easier said than done. This is a problem every school faces, but for state schools, the majority of the student population is still close. BC -- like Notre Dame -- has students from everywhere. Even if the school made an effort to get students back early for Thanksgiving, it is just not going to happen. To a lesser extent, the holiday also keeps some of our fans from outside Boston from making the trip back. They are shopping or traveling or with family.

We've played away games on Thanksgiving night, but I don't think we can ever host one on Thanksgiving Day. Part of it would be competing with the local high school game rivalries and the inevitable challenge from our Newton neighbors. But even a unique game on Thanksgiving or the occasional Black Friday game doesn't gain much for BC. We have our best attendance on Saturdays. When things are outside the norm, our non-local fans again become an issue.

The ACC rivalry with Syracuse is now locked in stone. We will finish our season with the Orange every year, with games rotating between Syracuse and Chestnut Hill. This is our best hope of overcoming the Thanksgiving challenge. If this becomes a heated rivalry, maybe, just maybe, students, non-local fans and even some bandwagon fans will want to get back for the game. Until then just be glad when we finish the season in Syracuse. It is just one less game where our stadium looks empty on TV.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

1984 team returns and other links

BC will honor Doug Flutie, Gerard Phelan and other members of the 1984 team during the Syracuse game. The game is about the Seniors, but I hope returning stars help attendance.

The Women's Ice Hockey team continued their undefeated streak by defeating Yale Tuesday.

This article on the lack of popularity BC Sports in Boston made the rounds Tuesday. At this point I am beyond caring. BC needs to market better, but winning big is the only way our bandwagon will ever get attention of the local pro sports fans.

A Syracuse blog took a look back on Addazio's relationship with Syracuse and what could have been with their hiring history.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

This week matters

BC needs to win this week. A good coach wins this week. I don't need to rehash our history. No one needs a reminder of facing a struggling Syracuse team late in the season. Addazio's first two years have been better than I expected. But the job is not done. Here is why this game is a must win.

1. It ensures a winning season. Win or lose, BC goes bowling. But bowl games count in the W-L record. A 6-7 season would be losing and a setback. History won't remember the close losses. The narrative will be the losing season. If BC wins this weekend, the worse BC can finish is 7-6. That's not necessarily exciting but it supports the building narrative.

2. It shows that Addazio hasn't lost the team. In college sports, there is a sense of momentum. The guys are young and need direction. This team is on a losing streak. Addazio needs to restore confidence and restore belief. If the guys come out sluggish, it will be on the staff.

3. We are a heavy favorite at home. Our home record this year is disappointing. Some of that is due to who we played at home. But Syracuse is coming in reeling. Good teams have run on them. We should establish the run and put them away. Good teams and good programs win at home, especially as a favorite.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Second viewing thoughts and grades: Florida State

Emotionally most losses are easy to watch back. I am usually spent and over things by the time I hit play on my DVR remote. This was different. This game reinforced how close things were. We should have won this game. I am not blaming anyone. The team lost it together, but there were enough plays in all three phases that would have made a difference. If just one of those plays (a field goal, wrapping up Winston, a fumbled exchange) goes our way, we probably win.

Offense: B-

QBs reads are not exclusive to passing. I felt Murphy's reads on the zone option were just okay. He handed off a few times when the DE was crashing and/or unblocked. I also felt he should have kept it a few times when he was left with big holes. His passing was decent. The adjustment on the TD to Phillips was very good.

As a group, the running backs were great. Hilliman ran hard and looked like Montel Harris where he always fell forward another two yards when tackled. Outlow was also really explosive. His run when BC was pinned on the final drive was great. It was an example of making something out of nothing. Willis ran well. Rouse didn't do much, but had a great heads up play on the bad snap. Wofford was good blocking in the power I plus he caught a few.

The OLine was solid too. Although he didn't get called out on TV, I thought Vardaro had the best game. The leftside was really strong. Betancourt played well too. The announcers talked up Kramer and he probably had one of his better games. Gallik was solid and did a decent job with the slick ball.

I haven't mentioned Louie Addazio much this year, but he blocked really well. Bordner played well and provided the key block on Murphy's TD run. Darmstatter made a nice grab. Alston was good and I am glad he finally got the shovel pass inside.

I left talk for the Bordner pass in the overall section. Feel free to skip down there, if you don't want to talk about the other plays. I liked Day's approach. It was run heavy and started with between the tackles and used more counters and sweeps once we had softened them up. My biggest challenge wasn't with the runs. It was not calling enough runs for Murphy. Or giving him some rollout options where his choice is run pass. He's our best player and I feel like he should have had a few more carries.

Defense: B-

Wujciak played really well. He helped collapse the line and slowed things down between the tackles. He is really coming into his own this season. Kavalec and Mihalik were quiet, especially when compared to some of their games earlier in the season. Gutapfel looked good. Adebayo and Landry played fewer snaps and they were fine but not impactful.

It was a weird game for Keyes. I said he would be the key to the pass rush, but they didn't use him like that. He played a lot more coverage while Daniels and Strizak blitzed. He was decent in that role. When he did blitz he drew a holding call. Daniels was okay overall and stopping the run, but couldn't get to Winston. Strizak looked good, but also didn't close as much as we needed on the blitz. Duggan had a limited role.

Brown was really good. The INT was a bit about being in the right place at the right time, but overall he was very active and made a lot of important tackles. Asprilla played well, especially in coverage. Simmons was good. Moore got a little lucky in coverage, but sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.

Don Brown told the announcers that he has to blitz to get pressure. I understand and agree. He did mix it up a bit by using Keyes less (almost like a decoy). It created some pressure on Winston. Just not enough. But once again with the game on the line, the opposing offense moved the ball down the field. It's frustrating, but in this game, it didn't feel like a coaching or scheme issue. It felt like a talent one.

Special Teams: B

Howell's punting was good. His kickoffs were good too. His field goal miss was frustrating, but not terrible. It looked better than some of the other misses we've had this year. The conditions were not great either (just look at what happened to the nation's best kicker Aguayo). Knoll's kick was fine.

Willis had a decent kick return. Alston didn't get to do much on the punt returns. His one return was short and uneventful.

The kick and punt coverage was fine. Considering where it has been and going against Florida State, that was an improvement.

Overall: B-

Let's address the second Bordner pass. This seems like it will be the lasting memory of the game for some and a black mark against Day and/or Addazio. First, any gimmick in that situation is ultimately Daz's call. They clearly worked on it and Addazio is a former play caller. If he didn't like the call he vetoes it. Others feel like the play was too risky given what was on the line. Also, they don't understand the logic of a trick play when BC was successfully moving the ball on the ground. My justification is that we ran it on first down and third down with little success. Running on second could have been a challenge too. Ultimately what happened was an incomplete pass on second down. Would you be upset if Murphy had just thrown an conventional incomplete instead? I didn't love the call and thought the execution was iffy, but it still resulted in Murphy nearly catching the ball. If he brings that in, Daz and Day are heroes.

Overall I thought Addazio managed the game well. We stayed with our plan even as we fall behind. The team was motivated and mostly performed well. You might quibble with waiting on the timeouts during the final Florida State drive but we never stopped them. There is no good time to use a timeout if the other team keeps converting. The use and mix of kickers is less a strategy/management issue and more of a recruiting one. At this point Daz is just trying to mask the problem and use whoever makes sense in the given moment.

It was far from a perfect game or a perfect coaching performance. But Addazio continues to do most of the right things in these sorts of games. Eventually we will start to win more of them.

The bigger issue is we now are in the middle of the predictable losing streak. We need to soundly defeat Syracuse next week to prove the staff's ability to manage a season.

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Addazio has the right attitude

It is still too early to tell if Addazio is the guy to break us through our glass ceiling, but at least he gets it. I don't like other people to speak for me, but this time the coach said it perfectly.

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So close yet so far

Instead of writing our own story we helped the Seminoles repeat their story. The defending champions did just enough to win after getting a scare from an underdog. There were a lot of plays that would have made the difference.  I'm frustrated but still proud of the effort.

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

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In-game comments post: Florida State

BC has nothing to lose. Well, almost nothing. If we don't come to play, we lose the chance to end the nation's longest win streak and pull off the biggest BC upset since 1993. I think we can do it. Let's hope the guys in the locker room come ready to play! Leave your comments and thoughts below.

You can also follow me on Twitter.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Moral victory Holiday Tournament

The Puerto Rico Tip-off isn't some historic basketball event. It's a made for TV event like most of the others. However, I feel pretty good about how BC came out of this one. Thursday we won. Friday we lost to West Virginia, but lost in a close game and showed that we can hang with a pressing team. The refs botched this game for both teams, so the flow was off, nearly everyone got in foul trouble and it really made for ugly stretches. BC had its chances late, but turnovers and missed FTs were too much to overcome. I remain encouraged. Or at least more encouraged than I was after UMass. This team has more fight than they showed last week. Once healthy, I think we will be pretty versatile. Here are some other thoughts:

-- We actually played help D! Who knew it was possible? When WVU was in half court sets before the foul trouble, we actually controlled and limited shots.
-- Magarity is the key to breaking the press. He made some decent passes and seems to have a good understanding of where to go with it.
-- I worry about Hanlan's minutes...but he was strong at the end. Dudley used to play nearly 40 minutes a game. So did Troy Bell. I trust Olivier and Christian to figure out what works for them.

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Tweets of the Week


Game Watches: Florida State

We need all the positive energy and good vibes we can get this weekend. Join your fellow believers (and BC fans) at your local Game Watch.

Chicago Game Watches
Nic and Dino's Tripoli Tap
1147 W Armitage Ave

Finley Dunne's
3458 N Lincoln Ave

Dallas Game Watch
Corner Bar
4830 McKinney Ave

Denver Game Watch
Whittier Pub
2000 East 28th Ave

Houston Game Watch
110 S Heights Blvd

Los Angeles Game Watch
Sonny McLeans
2615 Wilshire Blvd

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

Brazen Fox NYC
106 3rd Avenue (at 13th Street)
New York, N.Y.

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
4516 S. Dale Mabry Highway

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

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Basketball gets solid win against New Mexico

My expectations for the Puerto Rico tournament were very low. I think they were even low for Jim Christian (since he inherited this commitment from Donahue). However the team played well in their opener against New Mexico. Like UMass, they took a lead in the first half. The difference was in the second half they hung on and Hanlan closed it out in the final minutes. Here are some other thoughts:

-- This was the type of game Hanlan should play every night. Aside from missing his free throws, he was very productive. My only other complaint is that he should dish a little more when Clifford gets in a mismatch on the pick and roll.
-- The team was still too sloppy. We have to cut down on the turnovers.
-- I am still trying to get a feel for the minutes. I was surprised that Magarity didn't get more time. I am surprised Clifford played so much (especially with a game tomorrow).
-- I like Brown's role and his D. I don't like his 3-point shooting. Hopefully those shots go to Jackson when he gets back.

Friday the team gets another test Friday against West Virginia. Let's keep it rolling.

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BC-Florida State preview

Pass the Kool-Aid! Let's go buy some lottery tickets! BC's winning this weekend! Now I talk myself into a BC win every week, but this week I actually do think we are going to pull off a monumental upset. Is part of it me predicting Florida State's own luck might run out? Yes. Playing close games over and over is playing with fire in college football. Last year they dominated people. This year they are letting opponents hang around. That will cost them a game soon. But I also think the matchup is good for BC. It won't be easy. It never is. But if we play our game, this might be the biggest BC win in seven years. 

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
I've written about this before, but I like sports for the escapism. Whenever the real world comes into the arena -- usually through tragedy -- I get uncomfortable. Because that intrusion is usually a reminder that the games don't really matter. None of this really matters. It is just sports. With the shooting in Tallahassee happening days before the game, it is another reminder that this doesn't really matter. I am sure the deaths will impact things to a certain extent -- the crowds' emotions, the players' concentrations. I will think about the people who died. But by Saturday night I will probably be more worked up by what happened on the field. I am not proud of that. I am just being honest.

Three Simple Keys
1. Stay with the run. Did you watch the FSU-Miami game? The Seminoles crowded the line to stop the run. They begged Miami to pass. I think they will do the same with us. However, I don't want to pass. Just keep running into the wall. Go jumbo. Use the sweeps. Do whatever, but rarely pass. Staying with the run controls the clock, the tempo and will result in a few BC scores.
2. Get Winston down. I am still frustrated that we let him get away a few times last year. He's not 100% right now. We need to bring pressure and we need to wrap him up.
3. Contain on the edges. Many of FSU's big runs the past few weeks have come outside the tackles. We need our guys to be disciplined and close off those lanes.

Gambling Notes
-- FSU is 3-7 against the spread
-- BC is 4-0 on the road this year
-- BC has not lost by more than 19 this year
The current line is BC+19

We've never played Florida State this late in the season. This is the first time that we will be their last regular season ACC game of the year.

Scoreboard Watching
Our only remaining opponent after this is Syracuse. I am hoping Pitt crushes them, just so they are totally checked out next week.

I hope to see...
A clean Special Teams game. I don't expect to win the game with a Special Teams' play. I just don't want to lose because of a shanked kicked or a long return.

BC is in trouble if...
Murphy doesn't keep it at least half the time on the options. He's our best runner and we need him keeping it...even if FSU is waiting on him to keep it. I trust him to make a few guys miss.

Bottom Line
BC doesn't need to play the perfect game to win. We just need to play our game. It is critical that BC sets the tone and establishes our style of play. Trying to pass on them is a mistake. Playing back in coverage is a mistake. Just be ourselves. I think BC takes an early lead, builds off a few FSU mistakes and hangs on in the end.
Final Score:  BC 24, Florida State 21

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