Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Midweek links

Earlier this week the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA) announced its All ACC team. Kiwi made first team. Blackmon, Trueblood, Beekman and Ross all made Second-Team. Silva got honorable mention as did Blackmon on Special Teams. Kiwi certainly deserved it. As did the lineman. I really think Beekman had the best season and probably deserved first team. I was surprised by Blackmon. I guess sometimes what I see as a fan who watches week in week out, skews my perspective and expectations. I thought Will's season was a letdown. Regardless, I am glad he was rewarded. He did some amazing things this year and made a switch that he didn't have to make.

Non BC grads might not find this interesting, but the Heights had a good story on Father Tony Penna, the athletic department chaplain. On the last page you'll find out that Matt Ryan and Pat Ross are his altar servers. (The writer, Kevin Armstrong, might be the best Heights sports writer in a decade. Hopefully he lands a job with a major paper or news site after college.)

First it was Simpsons characters. Then Ian took the analogy game to a new level with his rapper post. Now Golden Tornado goes back to the cartoon angle, only this time with the Smurfs. I love Brainy but I might have gone with Smurfette since like the lone Smurf chick, BC is just different from the rest of the conference.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The chicken or the egg

BC has a bad travel reputation. Here is our post-Flutie track record:

1986 Hall Of Fame Bowl (Tampa)Georgia41,000The inaugural game. The lowest attendance for the bowl. However, it was a different era. Look at bowl attendance for a lot of these mid-80s games. Very few sellouts.
1993 Hall of Fame Bowl (Tampa)Tennessee52,056This one hurts. But it was more than a decade ago.
1994 Carquest Bowl (Miami)Virginia38,516Coming off huge deflating loss. UVA is not known for travel either.
1994 Aloha Bowl (Honolulu)Kansas StateunavailableChristmas day in Hawaii. What do you expect? Pure TV bowl.
1999 Insight Bowl (Tucson)Colorado35,762This bowl drew flies in Tucson…before and after BC.
2000 Aloha Bowl (Honolulu)Arizona State24,397Another Christmas day. BTW, Boston to Honolulu is the longest road trip in DIA.
2001 Music City Bowl (Nashville)Georgia46,125I was there. My guess that BC sold 5,000 tickets. Non-holiday afternoon game.
2002 Motor City Bowl (Detroit)Toledo45,761Set new Motor City Bowl attendance record at the time. Still third highest at the game.
2003 Diamond Walnut Bowl (San Francisco)Colorado State25,621Capacity at this bowl is less than 35,000. Supposedly we had a good showing.
2004 Continental Tire Bowl (Charlotte)North Carolina73,238Sellout.

As you’ll note, this isn’t Pasadena, Miami and New Orleans. Aside from the then Hall of Fame Bowl, this is a collection of odd fits and undesirable bowls. Most were held mid-week and none were within driving distance of Boston. So of course BC didn’t sell a lot of tickets. BC is now in a vicious circle. Because we didn’t draw well for these bowls, we are unwanted in the big bowls. But we will never prove our drawing power until we have a game that will excite our fan base enough to travel. I’ll admit that the lackluster showings at the Hall of Fame Bowls hurt. But that was a different time and place. Fewer bowls sold out then. Now I think BC could at least bring 15,000 to Tampa. Perhaps 20,000. But these other bowls? Give me a break. They’ve rolled through various names, locations and conference affiliations. BC wasn’t the problem. Our attendance was inline with most of the other years of these bowl.

BC has many benefits that get overlooked. We are great on TV when facing a BCS-level team. Just ask Jefferson-Pilot or ESPN. We also must be somewhat desirable to opposing fans, since we were part of some of the largest crowds ever in Detroit and Charlotte. UNC can’t sell 70,000 tickets in Chapel Hill. There must be something appealing about BC to bring out the whole state when the game is in Charlotte.

BC is behind the 8 Ball. We have a relatively small alumni base and are located in a pro sports town far away from many bowls. But our bad travel rep is not entirely our fault. Would Oregon sell out Gillette Stadium December 27 at 4:30 PM EST against Pitt? No. These contrived bowls measure nothing about a school. They are complete filler for ESPN, a boondoggle for ADs, and busy work for the local Visitors and Convention Bureau.

If BC is invited to the Peach and it is not a sellout, than shame on us. We’ll deserve a permanent spot in Boise. But right now, we’ve earned a shot at a real bowl.

Shotgun wedding

The North-South divide between BC and the rest of the ACC has provided some harmless humor this season. It seems like every beat writer in the South has referenced clam chowder or grits in his BC game story. Well allow me to exploit another cliché -- the shotgun wedding. Unless we are spared by the good folks at the Peach Bowl or our new friends at the Champs Bowl, it seems like we are headed to Boise -- whether we like it or not. From the Idaho Statesman:

"One thing is for sure, MPC Bowl executive director Gary Beck said. Boston College will not be going to the Music City or Emerald bowls, as many have speculated. ‘If they're available, we're going to pick them,’ Beck said. ‘They can't say no. We have a contract.’

The Globe is holding out hope. But I think the AJC has a better read on the situation.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Blogpoll ballot

BC crawled a little in both polls (AP, coaches). A bowl win should lock up a Top 20 finish. How high really depends on who we play and who loses in front of us. I switched things up a good bit in my blogpoll ballot. I just think Notre Dame was lucky to win on Saturday and their track record is looking less impressive each week.

Games I watched:
Georgia-Georgia Tech 100%
FSU-Florida 20%
UVA-Miami 70%
Arizona-Arizona State 50%
Arkansas-LSU 50%
Pitt-WVU 20%
Texas-Texas A&M 50%
Wisconsin-Hawaii 25%

1. Southern Cal
2. Texas
3. Penn State
4. Virginia Tech
5. Louisiana State
6. Oregon
7. Ohio State
9. Auburn
10. Miami (Florida)
11. Notre Dame
12. West Virginia
13. Georgia
14. Alabama
15. TCU
16. Louisville
17. Florida
18. Boston College
19. Clemson
20. Texas Tech
21. Wisconsin
22. South Carolina
23. Michigan
24. Iowa
25. Georgia Tech

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Leaving Las Vegas

Earlier this year, basketball super blogger Kenpom endorsed the one game theory. In short, one loss is not indicative of a team’s ability. I was going to use this as my theme when I thought BC was going to lose to Drake on Friday. BC pulled it out. Then again, I was ready to apologize when the team fell 13 behind OK State on Saturday. No need. BC won again. These two tough victories in the Las Vegas Invitational were the best thing I think could happen to BC’s basketball team. First they survived two tight games. That builds confidence heading into the ACC regular season and hopefully into March. Second it was a wake up call that as talented and experienced as this team is, no game is a gimme. Until there is a change of status on Sean Williams, BC has a short bench and some defensive challenges. If BC had waltzed through the Las Vegas Invitational, I think they would have built up a false sense of invincibility. Now they know any team on their schedule can beat them and they can beat any team on their schedule. BC survived similar scares early last year en route to the school's best start.

Drake was scary. Dr. Tom provided a blueprint on how to play BC -- full pressure. I expected as much after we struggled with UW-Milwaukee last season.

Oklahoma State is not ranked but I think they will be a tournament team. That should help our tournament resume.

My concern coming out of the weekend: tempo. BC shouldn’t be playing games in the 70s. While we have plenty of people who can score, it doesn’t play to our strengths. We are better at working the clock to get high-percentage shots in the half-court offense. We are not a particularly good three point shooting team or a great transition team. Up tempo games will cost us eventually.

Other concern: Craig Smith’s foul shooting. Craig is going to get to the line a lot this year. He needs to make a higher percentage than he did this weekend. Or else he will be a liability in close games.

Things I liked: the continued improvement of Jared Dudley. When the games were on the line, he took both over. He also continued his impressive run from the stripe.

I also liked that Rice and Marshall stepped up as reliable scorers. Last year Smith was the focus of our opponents. I worried that this year opponents would try to shut down Dudley and make the other guys beat us. With Marshall and Rice showing they can score in bunches, I think the team has enough balance to pose many challenges to first-time opponents.

Finally I liked Craig Smith’s role (when he was not in foul trouble). Craig has a greater defensive burden this year. For the team to succeed, he needs to rebound and play solid defense against the other team’s big man. He doesn’t need to be the focal point of the offense. Rice and Marshall showed that they can make baskets, so there is no need to force things to Smith. Let him rebound and get points when they come. He might get frustrated, but the scouts will like seeing him progress in this area.

Overall this is a good start heading into Maryland and Michigan State.

All the news that is fit to print

Heads up to the BC blog for finding this. Respect from the paper of record (in nearly everything but sports).

Praying for the Peach

The ACC bowl picture is still unclear. Based on all things said during the UVA-Miami game, I think 'Canes are going to the Gator. I also assume the Hokies will handle Florida State (if the Seminoles pull an upset every scenario gets scrapped). That leaves the Peach as the next big question. Speculation is centering on Georgia or South Carolina from the SEC. Both would be sellouts. Every indication is that Florida State would be the choice from the ACC. The Peach would want the pupil vs. teacher angle with Richt and Bowden or Spurrier vs. Bowden rematch for TV appeal. That would probably slide BC back into the Champs Bowl. But assuming FSU loses next week, does a five-loss traditional power still have the same appeal? I hope not. And I hope that Gene and the Red Sox are using the hard sell on why BC should be the choice for Atlanta.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Refined rooting guide

Rumors abound that the bowl invites are locked in and that the ACC doesn't want to send an 8-3 team to Boise. I don't know if I buy it. So in the meantime, we need a few things to happen. Here is your ACC only rooting guide. Wins by these teams should help BC's bowl chances.

Who we want to win:
Virginia Tech

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanks for nothing

Although BC’s greatest moment (the Flutie pass) came on Thanksgiving weekend, I’ll always remember this holiday for a different reason.

One year ago I was having a great Thanksgiving. We were at my in-laws beach house in Florida. The weather was great. Thursday: food and football. Friday: food, shopping and football. I couldn’t tell you how excited I was for Saturday. We had even started looking at hotel rooms in Phoenix. Matt Ryan’s first start was somewhat worrisome, but Syracuse was so bad and our defense was so good, that I honestly didn’t think it would be an issue.

We woke up Saturday and got brunch at the next beachtown over. I wore my BC sweatshirt. After brunch, we were strolling through the shops and run into a girl wearing the same exact sweatshirt. This might not be a big deal in other parts of Florida, but in the panhandle everything is SEC. So of course I took it as good luck.

The game wasn’t on locally so we went to a sports bar. This one just happened to be owned by family friends, so we had a table with sound reserved for us. Perfect, right? Four hours from Tempe, right? Well I don’t need to tell you how it ended. It was over from the very beginning. The team gave me faint hope when they blocked a punt right before halftime to cut the deficit to 14. It didn’t matter. Syracuse came out and controlled the second half. I didn’t cry, but I did feel worse about that game than I’ve ever felt about a sporting event. I spent the rest of the day in my room. It was crushing on many levels and just another time where I asked myself “is BC ever going to reach that next level?” I am still asking that question. And I am still rooting for BC.

Maryland photo album

Old Man was at the Maryland game, but the Entropy Kid stole his thunder with the digital camera. The Kid was kind enough to share his photos. Hopefully Old Man, the Kid and I will all be able to snap a few shots at the bowl game.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

What to watch for

BC has its third game of the season tonight against Buffalo. These games are gimmes. The first true test will come this weekend in Las Vegas. But just because the games are never in doubt doesn't mean there aren't any takeaways. Here are things to look for to gauge the team's ability before conference play.

1. Blocks. Losing Nate was not a big deal. Losing Nate and Sean Williams was. The two accounted for 80% of the blocked shots last year. Blocks were a key part of our defensive success. With Williams' return still in doubt the team will need to step it up defensively. Not sure who will fill the void, but if we are not blocking any shots we'll struggle come conference time. Look for at least a 1.7 blocks per game average heading into Michigan State as a good indicator of success.

2. 3-point defense. Our continued Achilles heal. The success in this department is mostly about perimeter defense and rebounding. If Craig is rebounding on the defensive end our numbers improve. It is also about rotation on the perimeter. This is on Hinnant and Rice. It will be interesting to see how they work together. I don't have a desired percentage or average, but watch how many the other teams makes and how many second chances they get off of their misses.

"The most perplexing question is what to do with No. 21 Boston College."

The BC Blog has a running feature on BC Quotes. This bowl stuff is providing some doozies. The latest from this article:

The most perplexing question is what to do with No. 21 Boston College. The Eagles finished 8-3 and tied for the Atlantic Division title with Florida State, which won the tiebreaker by having defeated Boston College.

“The league’s got some interesting issues whether Boston College goes to the Peach or Champs,” Webb said. “They’re going to have a great record. Where are they going to fit in? This is their first year in the ACC, and whether or not their fans will travel, I don’t know.”

Boise Bowl Director on BC: "We'll be all over that"

This article sums up the scenario pretty well. Hits many of the same points I wrote about earlier. The key is we need Florida State and Georgia Tech to lose this weekend.

The Clemson problem

With the announcement that the ACC locked up two more bowls, everyone seems to be breathing a sigh of relief about the bowl situation. There are two weeks of games left, so I think this thing is far from over. But for the sake of this post let us assume that everything plays out as is. Here is the general consensus on how the ACC bowls will align.

BCS -- Virginia Tech
Gator -- Miami
Peach -- Florida State
Charlotte -- Clemson
Champs -- BC
Music City -- Georgia Tech
Emerald -- Virginia
Boise -- Winner of Maryland/NC State

BC fans, while not thrilled with the Champs Bowl would be okay with a Florida bowl game against a BCS opponent. I am less confident about it playing out that way. I think Clemson is too attractive a draw to slip all the way to Charlotte. And if they don’t go to Charlotte, I see a series of chain reactions that could lead BC to Boise.

Clemson Problem No. 1: The Gator Bowl

Now it is assumed that the Gator will not invite Florida State back to Jacksonville, since they will be there for the ACC Championship game and were there for last season’s Gator Bowl. So that would leave Miami. However, tickets and traveling is as important as record for the bowl committee. Clemson has a great travel rep. Miami does not. And you don’t need to tell that to the Gator Bowl. Their best attendance day -- Clemson. The Tigers were part of four of the top 15 Gator Bowls crowds. And since the stadium was reconfigured in 1995, Clemson has helped spike attendance past 65,000 twice. The one time Miami has been to the AllTel Stadium they drew 43,000. Given that, I think it will be hard for the selection committee to pass on the Tigers. Then the dominos start…I still think FSU goes Peach, but Charlotte would need a new team. If NC State wins, they would be tough to pass over. But assume they lose. I think Georgia Tech is the next logical choice given its proximity to Charlotte. Champs would gladly take Miami -- the best and closest team to go to the Champs since its rebirth. Music City would then be a possibility for BC, but we were there five years ago and didn’t sell many tickets. I think Nashville might give UVA or the winner of NC State and Maryland a shot over us. So we are down to Emerald or Boise. We were in San Francisco two years ago. We didn’t travel all that well. It might come back to haunt us and we could end up in Boise.

Clemson Problem No. 2: The Peach Bowl

Now if Miami does get the Gator invite, there is still a real possibility that Clemson could get the invite to the Peach. They have a good travel rep there too. The same dominos would fall with Florida State going to Champs instead of Miami and BC heading west. Georgia Tech could bump things around this weekend too. Heck the Peach Bowl committee has already said that if they beat Georgia, they are in.

My point? We need help to avoid a Blue Turf Christmas.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Second viewing thoughts and grade report: Maryland

As I said yesterday, BC was lucky to win this game. There were tons of mistakes from the usual areas of frustration. The defense really saved the day in more ways than one. Here are my thoughts and grades after going through the game a second time.

Offense: B-

The offensive line really did their job. Overrated? Underrated? Who knows? What I do know is that they carried this team throughout the season. They didn’t dominate every game, but Virginia Tech was the only game where they truly were outplayed. This was a nice conclusion to their season. Cherilus and Beekman had a strong day. Ross was really back in form. He was really quick in getting out on the pulls, screens and traps. He also handled his man on the few draws we did. Trueblood and Marten were effective, just not as dominant as their counterparts on the right side. Hall got some snaps for Cherilus again and looked okay. I wish I knew the reasoning on when they pull Cherilus for Hall. In the past I thought it was due to Cherilus mistakes, but he has really looked good the past few weeks. Maybe it is a conditioning thing and they want to keep him fresh. Who knows? The line was the best part of Saturday.

The second best part was L.V. Whitworth. On paper it would look like Callender had the better day, but I think L.V. played better. In addition to his 88 yards on the ground, he also caught three passes for 65 yards. Most importantly, he finally showed some allusiveness and ability to make people miss. And he is seeing his holes much better. L.V. clearly doesn’t have Callender’s speed or balance, but he is becoming the more well rounded back. Callender played well. But I give him bad marks for losing the ball outside the endzone. If I am going to get on other players for their repeated mistakes I have to criticize one of my favorites too. Andre has shown the propensity to fumble. At this point he has to know to cover up in a pile. He also got caught from behind once when the Maryland corner crashed a run play. And he was turning his back into tackles throughout the game. His touchdown run was nice, but there were too many head scratching plays to give him the thumbs up. Mark Palmer was back and made a real difference. Which is surprising since blocking has not been his forte.

The pass catchers were very good. Not many drops. Many clean routes. Will made a great catch on the deep go route. He was falling over, yet still maintained focus and held onto the ball. Miller got open and held onto the ball -- which is nice. Challenger's over the shoulder grab was eye opening…as was Gonzo’s tight rope walk early in the game. Why haven’t these guys got more balls thrown to them? Lester had one grab and gave a half ass effort on a deep go. If he had reached for it, he might’ve gotten the pass interference call. All these guys deserve credit for their downfield blocking. Look at some of these runs and watch what the wide receivers are doing. It makes a difference.

Ryan’s day was weird for me. Watching in the Sports Book, I thought he had a bad day. He made some errors. It seemed like he was holding onto the ball too long. He never saw the linebacker on his INT and he was lucky two others weren’t picked. Watching it a second time was amazing. Maybe because my expectations were lower, but he really played well. The majority of the throws, he would drop, read, plant and throw. No waiting. He threw behind Blackmon on one of the boots, but was accurate on most of his throws. His pass to Challenger was beautiful (the other QB doesn’t make that throw). Yes, he got a little reckless, but I think it speaks more to his football IQ. Look at the dump to Whitworth that was called back because he was over the line. There is nothing downfield, so he starts to take off. Yet he sees L.V. turn around at the last second. So instead of taking it himself, he flicked it to Whitworth who got a big gain. Sure it was called back, but I think it shows that A) he is scanning the field B) looking to get it to the playermakers. It is just the little intangibles that make a difference. One thing is clear -- the deep ball is back in the offense and it opens up the running game. One last thing on Ryan. I think I know how teams are going to defense him. He can handle pressure so Maryland backed off with some success. Ryan had more trouble when there were plenty of people in coverage. He waited on some of his reads and as I said earlier, didn’t even see the linebacker slide over on his INT. It will be interesting to see how teams prepare for him in the bowl game.

Bible called a bad game…again. We were running with relative ease yet he kept going back to things that had less success like the bootleg. Why did we run it 5 times? Does it play particularly well to Ryan’s strengths? No. Does it create big plays? No. Have we done it well with any QB beside Peterson? No. Yet, there it was on Saturday nearly getting Ryan killed. There were some other questionable calls too…the worst was the series before the half. We run the two minute drill really well. Get down to first and goal on the 10 with a minute or so left. First down Ryan throws the ball away and gets whistled for grounding. I would’ve liked a faster developing play and the penalty was borderline, but not a terrible call. 2nd down and goal from the 20. This is how I see it. If you want to run a play short of the endzone you do it here. It makes the 3rd down call easier and a potential kick easier. No we run a heavy protection pass play. Ryan throws the post to Blackmon. Will is in heavy coverage and Ryan puts the ball safely out of reach. There were few other options on the play. So now it is third down and goal from the 20. We throw the damn bubble screen to Blackmon. As I have said, I like getting our best playmaker the ball. But in that situation -- with a short field -- you neutralize Will’s allusiveness. It was a chickenshit call. And we missed the field goal. Our redzone play calling has been bad for years. It has only been masked by Peterson and Toal. Otherwise it is either predictable or idiotic.

Defense: A

The Defense won this game. Credit goes to Dunbar and the three second-team linemen, who I’ll get to in a minute. First Dunbar. He may be our best linebacker. Which in this staff’s tradition, means he only got the fourth most snaps! His pass coverage has really improved. He is much better at dropping and reading than he was at the beginning of the year. His two deflections show the adjustment. Jolonn also is a relentless tackler. You don’t see the misses that you get from his peers. Obviously his fumble return was a heads up play. It wasn’t the only one he made. His only weakness remains reading the option. He blew his assignment twice in this game. But with the way he has improved, I don’t think it will be an issue next year. Ricky Brown had a solid day too. His run down of Ball was a hustle play. Henderson…was coasting towards a day in my doghouse until the interception. I don’t get Ray. He avoids contact at times. Watch how other guys engage their blockers and then release, Ray will wait or run around his. Maybe he gets tired. Maybe he is compensating for lack of bulk. I don’t know. I just know it has been going on all season. On Ball’s big run he was faked out and then slow in getting to the hole. Yet the INT was what he does best -- drop into coverage. Maybe he should have been a safety all along.

The second team D-line deserve a game ball for this win. We were getting killed in time of possession and they kept our stars fresh. But more than that, they contributed. Brace was in on the Dunbar return. Ramella is looking great for a true freshman. Willis was huge on the 3rd and 1 stop from their 11. All played well. Kiwi had some big plays. But there were a few times when he was having trouble with a single blocker. Raji wasn’t as much of a run stopper as in past games, but he got after the quarterback. He and Kiwi forced Hollenbach into the Silva INT.

The DBs played well too. Fans like to get on our corners, but I have to defend Jazzmen Williams. He has become the best corner of the TOB era. He tackles really well. His man coverage is pretty good considering his size and he reads and makes plays on the ball. I know he only got his first INT in this game, but the stats don’t tell what a solid job he did this season. Tribble had a few missed tackles. Silva played well, however, bringing the ball out of the endzone was boneheaded. Glasper was good and Anam played well in his extended time.

I didn’t love the defensive play calling. We’ve used plenty of blitz this year. In the early part of the season it was the occasional corner blitz or Toal from Kiwi’s side. Both were successful. Since the Virginia Tech game we’ve been using the delay blitz from the safety position. It is not working. Our safeties are either too slow or not leaving early enough. It is not causing pressure and leaves us exposed for a big play. We also got cute with a three man front with a blitzing linebacker and safety. No pressure and even worse coverage behind it. I like the variety in schemes, but we need to realize when something is working or not working.

Special teams: C-

Petercuskie is a good recruiting coordinator. He is not a good special teams coach. At what point do we make a change? The guy has been a head coach at other schools, I am sure he can coach numerous other positions on this team. He is not doing us any favors where he is. First we cannot find a consistent kicker, which limits us. Kicking is hard and many good teams have problems finding a kid with a leg who can also handle the pressure. The punt protection is another matter entirely. Why can’t we fix this? On Saturday, the block was on. Instead of our gunner coming over for extra protection, he stayed wide. When this happens, we need to either throw him a pass or call a freaking timeout. Nope. We punt away and it is blocked. Unbelievable. Is there any Top 25 team that allows as many blocked punts as we do? Tribble’s fumble was bad, but I think it was the sun. Maryland had trouble on the receiving kicks on the open end of the field too. Other than the fumble, the returns were improving.

Overall: B-
Both teams coughed up chances to win. I guess it is a sign of improvement when BC hangs on to games like these.

Blogpoll Ballot

BC has hit its ceiling in the polls (AP, Coaches). There will be more movement around us, but I don’t see us moving up much further into the Top 15. However, a bowl-loss will probably send us out of the Top 25. Below is my blogpoll ballot.

Games I watched:

BC-Maryland 100% (twice)
Fresno St-USC 100%

Various parts of:
Virginia Tech-Virginia
Ohio St.-Michigan
Georgia Tech-Miami
LSU-Ole Miss
Idaho-Boise St.
Syracuse-Notre Dame
Penn State – Michigan State

1. Southern Cal
2. Texas
3. Penn State
4. Louisiana State
5. Virginia Tech
6. Oregon
7. Notre Dame
8. Ohio State
10. Auburn
11. West Virginia
12. Miami (Florida)
13. TCU
14. Georgia
15. Alabama
16. Louisville
17. Florida
18. Florida State
19. Boston College
20. Georgia Tech
21. Clemson
22. Texas Tech
23. Fresno State
24. Wisconsin
25. South Florida

Quick basketball note

BC is now 2-0 after ho-hum victories over Dartmouth and Shawnee State. The first real test should come as they advance through the Las Vegas Invitational.

Encouraging first signs: Smith getting to the line and making his shots. Smith also getting active on the boards.

Discouraging signs: poor 3-point shooting. The void at Center.

I'll continue my profile over the next few days before the real games start.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Thoughts on the weekend

An 8-3 regular season is probably better than most BC fans would have predicted in August. BC was lucky to win such a sloppy game. Ignore the Peach Bowl talk. Way too many things need to happen. Orlando looks like the most likely option.

I just got back in from Vegas late Sunday, so I won’t have my second viewing thoughts posted until Monday.

While in Vegas I was able to watch a ton of college football and get a new perspective on BC football. The two guys I was with are both BC grads and sports fans (one of the guys has regular season tickets to the Celtics and Red Sox, yet not BC). Neither is a diehard BC fan. They both root for the Eagles, but don’t rearrange their schedules around gametimes like I do. You just don’t find SEC grads into sports that don’t root for their school before pro teams. Part of it is culture. College football is behind pro sports in the Northeast. Part of it is our BC experience (we all graduated in 1998. The Super Fans and the rabid culture had not caught on yet. BC football was still about the party). And part of it is TOB. I get a lot of email on him. I also spend a ton of time on the BC message boards where I have already described the divide. But hearing the casual fans talk about our predictable mediocrity was an awakening. It proved to me that the average BC grad is underwhelmed by O’Brien and his accomplishments. I have talked about how torn I am on the guy. I think he might be the best coach in the history of our program. I’ve also discussed his numerous and frustrating short comings. Listening to these guys made me realize that the general population is bored with our program and it will take a new marketing push or TOB taking us to the next level for the malaise to change.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Rooting guide

I am out of town Saturday so I won’t post a game recap until Sunday. I’ll try to get the second viewing thoughts up Sunday night, but it might have to wait until Monday.

In my absence I thought I would provide a rooting guide for BC fans this weekend (I am ripping off this idea from All Things Longhorn). These are the teams we need to win and lose in order for our bowls options to improve.

Things I thought about:
– Loses that help Virginia Tech move into an automatic BCS bid (there by freeing up one of the attractive ACC slots).
– Loses that make Virginia Tech a more appealing at large invitee for a BCS game (once again opening a slot in the ACC affiliations)
– Loses to ACC teams that might get invited to good ACC bowls ahead of BC. While we want our past opponents to look strong, BC’s travel reputation is so weak that I don’t want to leave anything to chance.

Who we want to win
South Carolina
Middle Tennessee State
South Florida
Virginia Tech
Michigan State
Oregon State
Ole Miss

Who we want to lose
Ohio State
Florida State
NC State
North Carolina
Notre Dame
Penn State
Fresno State

Basketball Preview Part IV: Meet Sean Marshall

Can Sean Marshall take his game to the next level? When they arrived on the Heights, the expectations for Marshall were much greater than those for Jared Dudley. While Dudley has been a superstar, Marshall is still a role player. His game remains somewhat limited.

The pluses -- he can be a hot shooter. He is still our best outside threat. And he is an above average defender.

The minuses -- he can’t create much on his own. Doesn’t handle the ball well and therefore cannot spell the point guards occasionally. Not all that active on the boards.

He has the body and some of the crucial skills to be a very good player, but is still only in the pretty good category. He must be somewhat confounding to that coaches too. They start him every game, yet he doesn’t get nearly the same minutes as Dudley, Smith and Hinnant. They’ll leave him on the bench even when we need a spark on offense.

Hopefully he improves his game this season. If he just improved his handle a little I think he would find his minutes and points would increase.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Looking for the latest?

News and notes from the past few days:

Toal is not playing Saturday. He is a great asset. Fortunately we have the depth at LB. Ironically enough, I think we’ll miss him more in goal line situations and on special teams.

Kiwi was the ACC player of the week. Well deserved.

Here is the latest on recent basketball signees.

The move to the ACC sparked the Patriot-Ledger to write a BC basketball story (rare for them).

The ACC bowl situation is a mess. Here is an update on the latest scenarios.

The conference is mulling adding challenges to the replay system.

If Troost doesn’t work out, we have another walk-on waiting to take over.

Basketball Preview Part III: Meet Louis Hinnant

On a team of overlooked and underrated guys, Louis Hinnant still manages to fade into the background. His game is far from flashy and his presence is unassuming, yet he is a vital part of Boston College’s recent success.

Hinnant does exactly what a point guard should do -- distribute and avoid mistakes. His assist to turnover ratio has been impressive and improved each year (from 1.9 as a freshman to 2.6 last season). He is a pretty good perimeter shooter, but usually our third or fourth option on offense. He’s been over 70% from the line the last two seasons. His three-point shooting percentage fell last year after reaching 46% as a sophomore (but we don’t rely on the three).

His weaknesses? Although Louis' defense is solid and he is good for a steal a game, he sometimes gets burned on rotations around the perimeter (look at the Notre Dame game from last year). He also seems to have one lingering injury a year that slows him for a few games. And while good for a clutch basket here and there, he cannot provide the scoring spark that Watson used to provide.

Hinnant is a key part to this season. It is nearly impossible to win a conference championship (or an NCAA title) without good guard play. Hinnant is not a first-team All America candidate, but he doesn’t make mistake and makes his teammates better. With Hailey and Watson gone, the team is going to need his steady presence even more in order to have a successful season.

Old Man's NC State pictures

BC’s home games are complete. All the tickets were sold, but attendance really took a hit with the monsoons in October. The weather and the Butler incident were the only blights on an otherwise exciting first season in the ACC. As you know, Old Man was there to capture it all. Here are his pics from the NC State game.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Basketball Preview Part II: Meet Craig Smith

If Jared Dudley is the team’s most complete player, Craig Smith still has a chance to be this year’s best player. When he is on, he is dominant in the low post. He can demand the double team and open up easy baskets for his teammates. With the move to the ACC -- which doesn’t have the Big East’s rep for physical play or as many wide bodies -- Smith can really exploit his size advantage this year.

But Craig is more than a brute. He has very soft hands and great touch around the basket. He also runs the floor pretty well and can finish. Like many on the team, he is a good passer and will make the extra pass.

This summer Smith impressed many on Team USA with his moves facing the basket. (I don’t know if that was growth in his game or just an adaptation to the international style of play.)

So his upside is huge, however, he is not as well-rounded as Dudley. He is not a great ball handler in the open court. In the past when team’s pressed us, Craig was not able to help the guards break it. When he is on, he is a monster on the boards, but there were a few nights when he disappeared. His defense is good, but not great and he has been known to get in foul trouble. Smith is not much of a threat from beyond 12 feet. And his free throw shooting has never risen above 68%. My one other concern is that he’ll have to play long minutes at Center until Sean Williams returns in January. The extra defensive burden may impact his offensive game.

(That list of gripes should be taken with a grain of salt, since the things he is good at (low post scoring) he is great at.)

The reports from this summer were very encouraging. Smith was the standout on a college All-Star team. He has proven that he is a great scorer. If he rebounds with consistency this year, and improves his shooting, this team could be deadly.

Maryland preview

I have no idea what to expect from Maryland. Ironically, I thought they looked good in some of their losses. I was less impressed with how they performed in their wins. Does that make any sense? I do think highly of Friedgen. If you look back to the preseason I even penciled this game in as a loss. My opinion has changed -- this game is ours to win. Here is what BC needs to do.

Offense -- what BC will do

BC went heavy run last week. Unbelievably Ryan only attempted 16 passes. I think Bible and TOB feared NC State’s pass rush. I think they’ll go ultra conservative this week too, but for a different reason -- you can run on Maryland. The Terps are giving up more than 170 yards a game. Watching various teams push the Terps D-line around the field can only excite TOB et al. It wouldn’t surprise me if Ryan is in the teens on his pass attempts again.

Offense -- what BC should do

I have no problem going heavy run. We have the advantage in the trenches. I would like to see more deep passing. Ryan showed really nice touch last week and Blackmon showed that he can beat his man one on one. Believe it our not, I would also like to see Ryan attempted some short routes. I know he likes the long ball, but he needs to get comfortable with the whole offense. If we are all deep routes and ball control with Matty Ice, teams will eventually figure us out.

Defense -- what BC will do

Last week’s defensive line performance was outstanding. I also liked that when we had the lead Spaz got more aggressive. We had more blitzes in the second half than we had in the first. I imagine well do the same this week -- try to beat them early with the front four and come at them late with different looks. As Turtle Waxing pointed out, their Offensive line is learning on the job. I think we’ll give them the same sort of trouble we gave NC State.

Defense -- what BC should do

Maryland can and will score. If we play our normal lose two-deep coverage, Hollenbach could have the chance to pick us apart. I hope we mix in some man coverage and use the corner blitz again (we haven’t seen it since VaTech). I also want to see Pruitt and Dunbar get plenty of snaps to keep the option aspect of their run game in check.

Special teams -- What BC will and should do

Blackmon’s returns have been getting better each week. I think he is bound to break one before the year is over. The kick and punt coverage was strong in the first half of last week’s game but started to break down in the second half. Hopefully they emphasized it this week in practice.

Final Prediction:

Maryland has more at stake this week, but TOB needs this game to stymie the growing criticism of how he handled the QB situation. If BC can keep the Terps off of the field and get to Hollenbach when he is on the field, the Eagles can win. If this game becomes a shoot out, Maryland wins. If it is won in the trenches, BC wins. I think BC will overpower them.

Final Score: BC 28, Maryland 20.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Guest Blogger: Turtle Waxing

The final regular season game. The final guest blogger. This time Esquire from Turtle Waxing fields the questions on the Terps. Obviously this is a crucial game for both teams. I think BC can win and will give more on my thoughts tomorrow. In the mean time, read what Esquire thinks about Saturday's matchup. For more on Maryland go to Turtle Waxing.

1. Scoring points has not been a problem for Maryland this year. The only exception was Virginia Tech. What did Tech do that BC can or should try to emulate this weekend?

Maryland struggles with big and physical defenses. Corners who can play a physical pressing coverage can shut down Maryland's small wideouts. If they are allowed a free release Jo Jo Walker, Dan Melendez and Derrick Fenner can make plays downfield or find holes in the coverage. Virginia Tech was able to get pressure on QB Sam Hollenbach early without having to blitz much. BC looks to be in good shape with its front four.

Another technique that will be important is ball control. West Virginia was able to hold the ball for an extra 11 minutes in their 30-19 win and in 3 of the 4 losses this year the opponent won the time of possession battle. Keeping the Terps offense off the field is the best way to stop them from scoring.

Contain TE Vernon Davis. In my biased opinion he is the most dangerous tight end in college football and a first round NFL draft pick this spring. He comes into the game with 731 yards on 39 receptions and 4 touchdowns. Davis is an incredible combination of size, speed and strength. He owns every weightlifting record for Maryland tight ends and still runs a 4.4 fourty.

Keep RB Lance Ball from establishing the run in the first half. Ball has 573 yards and 4 touchdowns in his last 5 games. When Maryland struggles to run early the playcalling tends to get tentative and the running game ceases to be a factor in the 2nd half.

Control 3rd down conversions. Maryland has only converted 29% in its losses this season.

2. BC's defensive line is finally healthy and clicking on all cylinders. Has Maryland's pass protection been as shaky as it looked against UNC? Although he had a good game, it seemed like someone was in Hollenbach's face the whole game. How long can he sit back there and make big plays without making a mistake or getting knocked out?

Maryland's pass blocking isn't terrible but it isn't all that great either. With Hollenbach's injury it was clear that UNC made a priority of getting hits on the quarterback. Massive true freshman LT Jared Gaither is still learning his position and RT Brandon Nixon struggles with athletic pass rushers. The interior line has also struggled at times this year and a rotation is still in effect at center. Part of the problem is Hollenbach's tendency to hold onto the ball and try to make a play. He often holds the ball too long and allows a coverage sack instead of throwing the ball away. He took some big hits against UNC and kept on playing, but you have to imagine he's one hit away from being done for the season. Hollenbach's backup, Joel Statham, lost his starting job last year for making critical mistakes and generally stinking. Still at 6-5 220lbs Hollenbach is a big and tough quarterback, he won't go down easy.

3. In the Terps games I've seen this year (parts of Navy, Virginia Tech, UVA and Maryland) it seems like your defensive line gets blown off the ball easily and doesn't apply too much pass pressure. Fair assessment? How are they going to attack BC's large line?

The defensive line is truely a weakness for Maryland. DT Conrad Bolston is solid if unspectacular at run defense but not much of a pass rushing threat. The line has been unable to muster any pass rush the last few weeks. True freshman Jeremy Navarre and hybrid rush end Trey Covington are both undersized and struggle against the run and rushing the passer. Neither end has registered a sack in the last 4 games. Defensive coordinator Gary Blackney has taken to putting LB David Holloway as a pass rusher on third down. Blackney has always been fond of blitzing from every position on the defense but he has been doing more of out of desperation lately. He will be in some form of blitz package on most passing downs. The linebackers are the strength of the defense and they will be aggressively shooting the gaps to stop BC's running game. This will make Maryland vulnerable to play action. Free safety Christian Varner has struggled in giving up big plays this season.

Read all about the Terps on Turtle Waxing.

Couldn't have said it better myself (really)

I wanted to point you towards Ian's latest post on how he feels about UVA vs. the pro teams he roots for. It really captures how I feel.

We moved around a lot growing up, so my roots to certain teams were pretty shallow. I still cheer for the Mets, but I was not heartbroken after the 2000 World Series. After the last year's Syracuse loss my wife was worried I was going to throw myself infront of one of the golf carts at her parents' beach house.

I don't know any of the current players. But they live where I lived. They ate where I ate. They took many of the same classes. My experience was very different from most BC jocks, but there is still a common bond that we share as alumni of Boston College.

I am too emotionally invested in BC sports. It is somewhat comforting to hear others have this same blessing/curse too.

A dollar and a dream

Tuesday’s MegaMillions jackpot is expected to reach $310 million. Of course I am playing. I figure after the cash option and Uncle Sam, I’ll be left with $75 million. Now bigger men could do a lot of good with it. Not me. If I win, I am going to become the most notorious college football booster of all-time. The folks at SMU, UNLV, and Alabama will cringe at what is in store for BC. Here is my plan.

Step 1: New head coach.

Tom O’Brien is serviceable enough, but he even with a loaded team I have doubts he could win 10 straight national championships. So he’s out. Instead of hiring the next big thing, I am going create a coach. Using the latest in robotics, cloning and stem-cell research, I will build the TriBill 3000. The TriBill 3000 would be a three-headed cyborg using the best of Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Bill Walsh. This coach would be an offensive genius, a defensive genius, and a motivational genius. His raw intelligence would be supplemented with on board computers that would allow him to calculate millions of play scenarios in nanoseconds. Nothing would get past his literal photographic memory. The TriBill would also be equipped with the latest wireless technology so that he could text message recruits during TV timeouts. Making this coach a cyborg would also avoid the potential health pitfalls that would come with the 162 hour work week. Just give him that pudding mix from Robocop and he is good to go.

Step 2. Improve the recruiting staff.

The new recruiting coordinator -- Mack Brown. The knock on the Texas coach is that he can recruit but can’t coach. If I am paying the bills, I’ll leave the glad handing and phone calls to Mack. Plus you need someone with his folksiness on the staff. The human versions of the three Bills are not known for their warmth. I don’t think a cyborg will be much more personable. With Mack around he can be the warm fuzzy guy that nurtures the pampered jock after the TriBill cuts him down with his preprogrammed insult.

Once Mack gets them to campus for recruiting weekends, someone needs to show them around and make sure they have a good time. My pick: Tucker Max. (If you don’t know Tucker, read his stories -- BUT NOT AT WORK). A lot of guys might have suggested Fred Smoot for his Viking Cruise foray. I am not impressed as that seems like it was a one-time shot. However, Tucker’s track record of having fun in college towns is well documented.

Step 3. Spoil the players.

Finding the right guys and making sure they have a good time is important, but you have to keep them happy once they arrive on the Heights. Like Mark Cuban, I would want to give the players the best available of everything. Screw NCAA violations. The dorms would look Thorton Melon’s. Charter plane -- a must.

Remember Willie Williams surf and turf evening in Tallahassee? The BC dining hall would put it to shame on a daily basis.

We’d bring in Gary Barnett to help coordinate the social scene. And I would be on the sidelines handing out cash incentives like Luther Campbell back in the day.

Step 4. Cripple the competition

As Phil Fulmer showed, tattling on your opponents can help your recruiting, make your schedule a little easier and add animosity to any rivalry. I would employ a full time staff to dig up dirt on every team in the conference. The NCAA headquarters would be bombarded with Fedex packages filled with receipts, photographs and taped phone calls.

Step 5. Get a good lawyer and a priest

As much as I’d like to think the MegaMillions jackpot would make me invincible, I am sure it would break all sorts of NCAA, Massachusetts laws, Federal Laws and even a few Canon Laws. The lawyer could help me get out of jail. (Even a cyborg Johnnie Cochran couldn’t get BC off of probation after my run.) Although the priest couldn’t help me with the angry BC alums, at least he could square things away with God.

The BC athletic department would probably be in ruins after I am done, but I think it would be worth a decade of National Championships. So Wednesday morning if you hear that the winning ticket was sold at a BP in Atlanta, get on the BC bandwagon right away. You’ll be in for a fun ride.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Blogpoll Ballot

BC is back in both polls (AP and coaches).

Last week I didn’t get my blogpoll ballot in on time. That was sort of a blessing in disguise as it gave me a blank slate to work with this week. The real voters take a lot of heat, but I have a new appreciation for what they do. I imagine each voter establishes some set of criteria and then adjusts the poll from week to week. My main criteria had been record. At this in the season it is hard to stick to that. Alabama has the better record, but I really think Notre Dame would beat them if they played today. Regardless, it is all subjective. Being a pollster only confirmed my belief that we need a playoff.

1. Southern Cal
2. Texas
3. Miami (Florida)
4. Louisiana State
5. Virginia Tech
6. Penn State
7. Oregon
8. Notre Dame
9. Alabama
10. Ohio State
11. UCLA
12. Auburn
13. West Virginia
14. Fresno State
15. TCU
16. Georgia
17. South Carolina
18. Michigan
19. Louisville
20. Florida
21. Florida State
22. Boston College
23. UTEP
24. Texas Tech
25. Wisconsin

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Peaches and politics

If you couldn’t tell, I am somewhat preoccupied with our bowl position. Seven years of third-tier games creates a weird mix of hope and cynicism. Here is what I know. We are not going to the BCS. We are not going to the Gator. Virginia Tech will get that invite. A lot of people are saying “if the Hokies go BCS it might open a slot for us blah blah blah.” Don’t count on it. I think Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio State, and Oregon are all more desirable and more likely at large bids.

I think the best bowl we can go to is the Peach. Obviously that would be ideal for me. I also think it would excite plenty of other BC fans not from this region. But it is still a long shot. First we need to beat Maryland. No small task.

Then we have to hope for a total Florida State meltdown. If Florida State loses to Florida and then loses the ACC Championship game there is a chance that the Peach would pass. Auburn, South Carolina and Georgia would all be sure sellouts, so the Bowl organizers would start thinking about TV matchups instead of ticket sales. Who is more appealing: a reeling Seminoles team or BC? Recent evidence would show that BC is a surprisingly strong TV draw.

Then there is the Champs Bowl factor. Florida State would surely sell more tickets in Orlando than we would. If they finish their year with four straight losses, would they take one for the Conference and go to the Champs? I don’t think so, but there is a chance.

So what should BC fans hope for? A strong showing against Maryland, a SEC invitee that is close to Atlanta and a total FSU meltdown.

If we make the Peach, you can all crash at my place.

Second viewing thoughts and grade report: NC State

This is the performance the team and the fans needed. Winning covers a lot of sins and mistakes. Here is what I think after watching the game a second time (all except for the first minute and a half. Thanks ESPN 2.).

Offense: B

Trueblood and Marten get most of the attention from the press. In this game their counterparts on the right side of the line (Cherilus and Beekman) dominated. They were blowing their men away in running plays and providing good protection on pass plays. After a few shaky games, Pat Ross played well too. Trueblood got off to a rough start. It looked like NC State’s speed was going to give him trouble. After the Ryan fumble they all calmed down and controlled the game the rest of the way.

We only completed eight passes, so I am going to give everyone but Miller and Blackmon and incomplete. Will gets an easy A. It was nice to see him break a few long ones. The screen was a great combination of him breaking tackles and his teammates blocking downfield. The long catch where they caught him short of the TD was a great route. It was sort of a bow. His man followed him inside and as Will ran back towards the corner Ryan hit him in stride. Miller’s TD catch was nice. He had to make an adjustment and held on.

A nice game for Whitworth. He read his blocks well and made cuts when they were there. His long run late showed that he doesn’t have breakaway speed. Callender’s day was more ho hum. He had a few nice runs but was stopped at contact a few times. Both got involved in the passing game for minimal gains. Toal was injured early and both Andre and L.V. were giving chances on the goal line. L.V. scored, but neither was a force. I don’t like our goal line strategy but will get to that later. Lynch did a good job opening holes. Palmer returned for one reception.

Ryan’s 8 for 16 was more impressive than it sounds. First his misses were not about errant passes. I only counted two that were on him (including one near interception). Everything else was either dropped or wisely thrown away. His completed passes were really impressive. The game changed on the 3rd and 21. Ryan had plenty of time, stood in the pocket and then made a beautiful throw to Blackmon for the first down. That was when I was glad he was starting. I don’t think Porter would’ve shown the same patience or been able to make the same throw. Having the long ball back in the arsenal changed the makeup of the game. It kept the Wolfpack honest and prevented them from keeping eight in the box. Ryan’s second bomb to Blackmon was another throw I don’t think our previous Quarterback would try or make. Finally the Miller TD was an example of how high Ryan’s football IQ is. Miller was jammed really well at the line. When that happened to Porter he would abandon that receiver. Ryan didn’t. Instead he waited in the pocket. Saw the linebackers release Miller and then hit him with a dart between the zones. He was patient and made a strong throw. It was off of Miller’s wrong shoulder, but Miller had enough space to make the play and get in the endzone. Ryan also had two TD runs. The first was more impressive than the second. He’s not pretty when he runs, but you got to like the results.

Bible didn’t go anyone any favors. He really kept Ryan in check. I am all in favor of running the ball, but only throwing 16 times? Then there was the option call. What? As you would guess it was blown up. Fortunately Ryan covered the fumble and then responded with the great 3rd and 21. But why are we even running the option? Then there are our problems around the goal line. We go ultra conservative. There is no one in the building that doesn’t know what we are doing. Up the middle. Up the middle. Up the middle. Kick the field goal. Even with Toal, I think we have problems. At least one play per series we should use play action or put Ryan in the shot gun. It would work. Right now the opponents crash the line knowing we are going that way. One pass would keep them honest. I also thought Bible went ultra conservative way to early. We started killing clock half way through the third quarter. Run. Run. Screen pass. NC State was on the ropes, our D was killing them and we sort of let them hang around. Go for the knock out punch! Heck, just throw on second down. Anything to keep them guessing. I was giving Bible the benefit of the doubt early in the year. He hasn’t called a good game since Virginia.

Defense: A-

It is a shame the defense gave up the 96 yard TD, because it skewed the yardage and score -- neither of which were indicative of how dominant this performance was.

The D line was outstanding. Kiwi was beating double teams for the first time all year. He was spinning, crashing the line on runs, motoring downfield. He was everywhere. Raji was also killing them inside. What most impresses me about him is that, like Kiwi, he makes plays downfield. That shows hustle and speed. I expect it from Kiwi, but Raji is a house. It amazes me to watch him move like that. Washington had a good game too. Larkin had a sack, but still has trouble getting off blocks. The second teamers were not as effective. They allowed some yardage. We had to bring in the first team to apply pressure again. The only time the first teamers didn’t do there job was on the Stone touchdown. Everything else was nearly perfect. If the 3rd and 21 changed the game on offense. Kiwi tripping up Stone from behind in the 2nd quarter was the turning point on D. Stone and the O-line were never the same after that. They were constantly jumping and getting beat.

Toal went down early and we hardly suffered. We have a lot of depth with the linebackers and as I’ve said all season, the backups are better against the run. Pruitt, Francois and Dunbar we key to shutting down NC States vaunted ground game. Henderson also had one of his better games. He didn’t miss many tackles and his interception was a classic Ray play. He is great at reading the QB and has good hands. Brown was all over the place too.

The DBs didn’t do much. This season they’ve had to do a lot of tackling in run support. This week, most of the plays were over before they got there. Tribble got beat on the long TD. There wasn’t a safety in sight either. Sure Tribble messed up, but it was really a breakdown by the whole team. No pressure. No safeties, etc. Other than that the DBs were strong. Stone helped too. He was scattering his throws. However, you could tell the coverage was good because Stone was looking downfield and couldn’t find anyone open. Williams made a few good tackles. His move honoring McGillis was very classy. NC State’s drops also helped the DBs’ efforts.

Spaz called a pretty good game. We didn’t blitz much until the second half. Then it was a blitz and run blitz mix. All of it was effective. Earlier this week in my exchange with StateFansNation, I questioned Marc Trestman. This game did nothing to change my mind. Our D was clogging the line at the first sign of run. Why didn’t NC State try more play action off of that? Regardless, Spaz wasn’t super creative, but the team was very effective.

Special teams: B-

The returns are getting better. It is just a matter of time before we break one. The coverage was good, but it looks like Ohliger is losing his length. A few of his kick offs were short. We had one blocked PAT. It was more on the line than on Troost. Ayers has really come around. He has shortened his motion and is booming some of his kicks. The real bonehead play was Anam’s roughing the kicker. We were fortunate to get the INT on the same drive, but that could’ve been a game changer.

Overall: B

NC State came in hot and needed this game. Their defense was the talk of the conference. BC regrouped well and played a complete game. Now let’s finish the regular season on a high note.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Senior moments

The last home game for this Senior class and they went out with style. Big night from all the Senior leaders, especially Kiwi and Blackmon. Matt Ryan played like a Senior and is now 3-1 as a starter. His success and Florida State's loss added a bittersweet taste to the day. We could've won the division if he had started the North Carolina game. I'll be stewing over that for a long time.

Second viewing thoughts and grade report Sunday.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Basketball Preview Part I: Meet Jared Dudley

Jared Dudley is the most complete player on this season’s basketball team. If things go according to plan, three months from now, he’ll be the most hated player in the ACC.

Like nearly every Duke star of the Coach K era, Dudley is the type of guy you love when he is on your team and hate when he is on your opponents. He hustles, he’s boisterous, he is always in the middle of things, he will yank a jersey and burry a shot with the game on the line. All these little traits overshadow a great basketball player.

Dudley can do it all. His main strength is his basketball IQ. He knows where he is supposed to be on the floor and knows where everyone else should be. Dudley will make the better pass if it will lead to a high percentage play (95 assists to 49 turnovers last year). Why is this supposed superman not more well known? If he is so good, why wasn’t he recruited by bigger schools? Why did they cut him from Team USA? Honestly, I think it is looks rather than results. Dudley’s slight frame and slow step make him seem inferior. Maybe at each step coaches and scouts thought he couldn’t make the transition to the next level. Dudley is obviously lean. Yet he was able to handle the physical nature of the Big East play. As for foot speed, I don’t think it impacts him that much. BC plays a lot of zone and Dudley has proven he can score without dribbling around people.

Other areas of improvement heading into this season: free throws or his three point shooting (I guess). Dudley shot 75% from the line and 33% from beyond the arc, but I don’t think it captures how clutch he is. In our two toughest losses (Notre Dame and UW Milwaukee) he carried the team in uphill battles. Against UW Milwaukee he was the only one who was able to breakdown their press and get to the line (he went 18-21). His extra work around the basket makes his team better. He averaged 7.5 rebounds per game in addition to his strong assist numbers.

Craig Smith deserves a lot of pub too, but Dudley is the key to the team’s success. I expect a big year from him this season. He’ll play out of position the first semester while we await Sean Williams’ return. But after that I think his continued maturity, the less physical nature of the ACC and improved shooting from 3 will take his game to another level.

The week that was

The leaves are falling (and filling up my gutters). That means it is the end of football season and the start of basketball. Here are the stories that might be worth a glance.

The QB switch is getting some national attention.

I am a sucker for the Senior day angle. This group of guys have been good to BC. It will be sad to see them go.

After getting off to a rocky start, future BC QB has turned it on in time for the Georgia High School playoffs.

Andy Katz had a nice feature on Ohio U coached by BC grad and former Skinner assistant Tim O'Shea.

The AJC also focused on BC in its basketball coverage.

FOX sees us finishing behind Duke.

Anywhere but Boise

As the big boys of the college media world focus on who still has a chance at the Rose Bowl, I’ll turn my energy to the question on many ACC fans mind: “are we going to get stuck going to Boise?”

Boise might be a lovely place. All bowls are not created equal, but this one has a lot to offer. There is the great skiing, the blue turf, a sure sellout…maybe even some snowmobile rides. However, going there is a nightmare scenario for most of the middle of the pack ACC teams.

You see, going to the MPC Computers Bowl is a near no-win situation for the ACC participant. No one is rooting for you. Your fans are not there and are probably disappointed in your mediocre season. You are expected to win. If you win, everyone says you were supposed to win. If you lose, critics will say “see! They were not that good.” And you are probably facing a hungry WAC team looking to get a piece of a big boy. When ACC teams start the season they are thinking BCS first. A New Year’s Day bowl is acceptable for most. The Peach is okay. Charlotte usually means a close drive. Even the Champs Bowl has the appeal of a day at DisneyWorld. Boise is the ultimate ugh bowl.

With Boise State having a pretty good, but not great season, they are most likely WAC invitee. So who is going to represent the ACC? Miami, Florida State and Virginia Tech have locked up good to great bowl invitations. Duke and Wake are not bowl eligible. That leaves the other seven schools. Here’s the breakdown:

Boston College: A very real possibility. BC went to Charlotte last year and is not known for traveling, so we are unlikely to get invited back North Carolina. The ticket sales aspect makes an at large bid at the Liberty or other open bowls doubtful. That leaves the Champs Bowl in Orlando or the MPC bowl.

Virginia: Another likely candidate. Virginia may not even become bowl eligible. Even if they do, they will not have a bevy of invites from which to choose. They’ve been to Charlotte twice, so I think the organizers would probably pick nearly anyone else. There is talk of a Liberty Bowl bid, but I don’t see it. Would UVA sell more tickets than some of the other teams trying to go to Memphis? Then there is the Champs. The dream destination of the middling ACC teams. I bet the Hoos would want to go. But would the Champs want them? Last year, the wine and cheesers turned their nose up at Orlando (supposedly because of an exams conflict). Will the organizers stick it back to them or help them avoid the blue turf?

Georgia Tech: The good news for Georgia Tech -- they've been to Boise and won. The bad news -- they went to the Champs last year. Also they end the season with some tough games. A losing skid would kill fan momentum and make them less desirable for closer bowls in Charlotte and Orlando.

Maryland: After staying home last year, I don’t think the Terps would see Boise as a real downer. They also embrace the WAC spirit of wacky uniforms, innovative play calling and “we’ll play anywhere.” If they are wanted in Idaho and want to go, I think the rest of the ACC will breathe a sigh of relief.

Clemson, NC State and North Carolina: One of these teams is going to Charlotte. One of these teams is staying home. One is going somewhere sucky. I don’t know which is which. I do know that the Mienke Bowl would love the tickets sales that these schools would provide, especially if the Big East team is not known for traveling. With the way things have to play out, it is highly probable that one of these teams won’t be bowl eligible. (Even Boise sounds good when you are not bowling.) The other team will has a chance to go to Boise. It will depend on conference records and if one of the ACC teams finagles an at large invite somewhere else.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Blame Canada!

Sorry for the limited blogging this week. I was north of the border. More to come later today. I am ramping up for basketball too.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

NC State Preview

Both teams enter the game heading in opposite directions. BC is coming off a really bad loss and making a switch at Quarterback. NC State is riding high after another FSU win, hoping to put the bad memories from earlier in the year behind them. Here is how I see things from BC's perspective.

Offense -- What BC will do
I think Bible goes very conservative in this game. The Wolfpack are looking better and confused a young quarterback last week. Look for a gameplan similar to the one they used with Ryan in Death Valley -- heavy run and conservative passing. Callender or Whitworth will need to step up. And the line -- under question for the first time all season -- needs to give plenty of protection and push. In his relief duty, we've given Ryan a lot of four wide formations. Don't expect it from Bible this weekend.

Offense -- What BC should do

I want to see more passing. There are many reasons we made the change at QB, but one of the main has to be to spark our passing game. Ryan can throw downfield. He is more accurate. Don't handcuff him with a limited offense. He looked his best this year leading us downfield late in the Clemson game. I expect NC State to key on him and give him a variety of looks. Hopefully BC comes up with a wrinkle or two to counter. I would love to see us send Miller and Lynch wide like we did against Clemson. It takes some of the pressure away from the line and has the potential to cause mismatches that favor us.

Defense -- What BC will do

Our defense has become very predictable. After getting burned against Virginia Tech, we went away from our blitz packages against UNC. I expect more of the same against NC State. They've struggled at times and I bet we come out very conservative with a focus on the run. There will be plenty of two deep.

Defense -- What BC should do

NC State is going to come out running so I hope BC uses a lot of our second team linebackers. Pruitt and Dunbar have proven to be better tacklers than the starters. The only team that really gave them trouble was Wake and that was more about the option. Against a more traditional running game like NC State, their tackling and speed should be valuable. I would also like to see us try some run blitzing. We've gotten away from it, but it worked well earlier in the year.

Special Teams -- What BC will and should do

Last week's coverage breakdown cost us the game (with some other things too). Once again, I hope we refocus. Blackmon was good again last week. He is bound to break one before the season ends.

Overall Prediction:

I've been a founding member of the Ryan bandwagon, so I am predicting victory. If the defense continues at its same level and just gets a little help from the offense, BC wins.

Final Score: BC 27, NC State 17.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Guest Blogger: StateFansNation

StateFansNation got behind this blog very early on. I appreciated it then and appreciate it now as they become my latest guest blogger. Here are the questions I asked and Jeff's answers. Check out for more on the Wolfpack.

1. Saturday's win was huge. Do you see it as a turning point or just Amato having Bowden's number...again?

I do NOT view Saturday's win as a turning point for Amato &/or the Wolfpack program. Amato's problems in Raleigh have not been a dearth of "defining moments" or getting over individual humps through the, a one game scenario cannot put his ship on the right direction.

State's/Chuck's problems have been rooted in much longer-term performance issues that no one "peak" is going to solve. For example, NC State outgained EVERY opponent in yards in EVERY game last season; we averaged more than 100 more yards per game of offense per game in conference games. In multiple games we gained over 200 more yards than our opponents and still lost those games. Ultimately, we finished 5-6 because of penalty and turnover problems that were amongst the worst in the country.

This year's team has performed similarly pathetic in 6 of the previous 8 games and we remain one of the worst teams in the country in turnover margin. All of this is in addition to a 5-year trend (we carve Norm Chow's year in 2000) of questionable game decisions and poor time out management that equals horrible X & O strategy and execution. Even Saturday's big win was littered with problems similar to the past like the major special teams breakdowns that we continue to experience since Amato replaced one of the best special teams coaches in America, Joe Pate, with the son of the Mayor of Miami.

Turning points are often points in time where programs move to levels and situations where they have not yet been. Chuck cannot achieve that this year, even with the FSU win. If State wins our next three games, we finish .500 in the ACC and 7-4 overall with something like a Tire Bowl appearance. That is nothing that Amato hasn't already generally done. Therefore, the next real turning point for Amato's program will actually come this offseason It will come when the program FINALLY experiences an offseason with no major changes our coaching staff and avoids crippling defections. Amato MUST find a way to instill longer-term familiarity and trust with the players that can only come through consistency and continuity with the staff of assistants.

That is Amato's next turning point.

2. I questioned the Trestman hiring. The guy has worn out his welcome with many NFL teams. Did you think he would be the answer? Can he still be?

I ABSOLUTELY think that Trestman can be the answer. In fact, if we don't screw it up, I think that he IS the answer. I don't want to sound like hyper-optimistic homer, but I think that he could be just what the NC State program needs on many levels, some of which aren't blatantly apparant on the outside.

You have to remember that our quarterbacks are now working with their third offensive coordinator in the last four years (and 4th in 6 years). That's brutal on 18 to 23 year old minds. Add the complexity of Trestman's system and a thin/spotty offensive line, and I don't think the true verdict on his offense can be passed until next year, or even the next. (Thank goodness he has a three year contract). Our quarterbacks this year (BOTH Jay Davis and Marcus Stone) are very limited in what they can do; each have different characteristics, but neither is close to being a complete college QB who can execute what Trestman wants/needs to have his offense humming.

Similar to the comments in question #1, the key again is to create some continuity for the program and the players. Let Trestman teach skills and his system to a capable quarterback (Daniel Evans? Mike Greco? Justin Burke?) for more than one year and let's see what can take root and grow.

Trestman is as cerebral as they come and takes an approach to the game that is much more "corporate" in style. IMHO, our staff has a tendancy to be far too stubborn; almost 'meat-headish' with the way that we sometimes refuse to let go of failed ideas and strategies. Additionally, Trestman is not one of Amato's "yes men" that do a better job stroking Chuck's ego than game planning. We desperately need the presence of his approach to the game and his independent thinking around the program. So, his off-the-field impact and presence can be as valuable as his play calling for us.

The best thing that Chuck Amato can do is to pretend that NC State does not even have an offense and let Trestman be the true "Head Coach of the Offense." Trestman has been hired to do a job -- stay out of his way and let him do it. If he fails, then he gets fired. If not, then we all succeed.

3. The team was expected to be dominant defensively. Instead they have been inconsistent. BC's offense has been equally inconsistent. Where are the weaknesses in the Pack's defense? How should BC attack?

The preseason prognositcators pointed to the strength of our front four and claimed that our linebackers and defensive backs would be weak. I said at the time that they were very wrong about our linebackers, and have been proven right by the amazing play of Stephen Tulloch and to a lesser extent, Oliver Hoyte. The secondary was young at the beginning of the season, but has grown up a lot in the last month.

It was obvious that Florida State thought the way to attack was with the pass. They ended up being wrong because our defense gameplanned effectively with strategic use of extra defensive backs and our defensive line was able to get great pressure on the quarterback without being required to commit linebackers to the rush (therefore allowing them to drop into coverage).

If you want to gameplan effectively against State, then you need to watch the Carolina film and see how the Heels widened the line of scrimmage and ran away from (#9) Mario Williams and straight at (#91) Manny Lawson. Manny is an excellent pass rusher with awesome speed and athleticism, but he is a weak link against the run. Clemson followed the Carolina game by spanking us along the line of scrimmage and running at will.

I'm hoping that the inconsistency part of your question has been eradicated; State has been pretty consistently good on defense over the last three games. I do not know what adjustments were made since Carolina and Clemson, but the defensive efforts against Wake Forest, Southern Miss and Florida State were very good. (Wake scored 14 of their 27 points on interception returns for touchdowns)

Ultimately, BC should utilize that awesome offensive line to attack the run the same way that Carolina & Clemson did, and then take vertical shots down the field in the passing game for the big play. In past years, State's defense has been prone to giving up big plays by asking too much of our corners. I think this year's team has mitigated that risk by being more conservative in coverage. The only way to beat that is to establish the run just enough to set up play action and take some shots down the field (if you can get the pass off before Mario and Manny get to the QB). It is MUCH easier to score on our defense with a big play than to try to methodically drive down the field. Just ask Florida State.

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Monday, November 07, 2005

It's about time

I am out of the country, but I can hear the cheers from here. Matt Ryan will start this Saturday. It is two games too late. Hopefully he can right the ship. If he comes out blazing, TOB is going to take a lot of heat for not going to him earlier. Regardless, I am excited and relieved. He may not be the savior we think he is, but at this point Porter is a sunk cost. We are not going to the Peach or Gator Bowl. It is pretty much Champs or Boise win or lose, so we might as well get Ryan some more snaps.

Blogpoll ballot later today.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Second viewing thoughts and grade report: North Carolina

This season is killing me. We haven’t blown everyone away. We stole the Wake game. But all three losses were winnable. And I think all can be pinned on the coaching staff for their refusal to acknowledge that Quinton Porter is not the best quarterback on the team. I am wrong a lot…but I did see this coming.

I don’t know anything. I don’t have any inside knowledge. But people ask me my opinion often because I obviously spend too much time thinking about BC sports. The most common question is why is Porter starting? I don’t know, but I think it is on TOB. The only way I can explain it, is that in life there is a fine line between your best and worst qualities. TOB’s planning, stubbornness and loyalty are admirable. They built the program we have today. But at the same time, they are exasperating. His tunnel vision, dedication to the system and loyalty to his seniors and staff are the reasons we start the wrong players, and consistently have sloppy special teams and have many questionable calls in key situations.

I am traveling Sunday, so I’ve already subjected myself to a second viewing. This is what I saw.

Offense: D+

The only reason it is not an F is that Matt Ryan moved the ball down the field late to nearly steal another game.

The offensive line was better than it was against Virginia Tech, but not as good as earlier in the season. Ross is struggling. He tripped over Miller on one of his pulls. He got beat bad on pass protection a few times. Not sure what is going on with him. A stupid penalty on Beekman cost us a touchdown. Everyone else looked okay. We tried the second team early. They weren’t as effective as they were against Clemson. So so for them overall. They could’ve beaten UNC all day, but turned it on and off.

The wide receivers were just okay too. Blackmon is getting back in the groove. He let a first down in the second half go through his hands, but I almost expect him to have one of those per game. His called back touchdown was a nice play. Lester had one of his better games. Gonzo’s catch was huge. Even the broadcasters were asking why we didn’t throw to him more. Miller had a nice game catching. But like I said last week, he can’t seem to have a complete game (He missed a few blocks).

The running backs…looked good early. They both had some nice runs on the first scoring drive. Callender was showing his burst. It had me thinking this might be one of his “on” days. Yet in the second half he was not nearly as patient with his reads and our line didn’t help him much. I am not an expert at looking at film. I never played at a level that was beyond the manager standing at the top of bleachers with a camcorder. Most of what I have learned about breaking down plays came from watching Merrill Hodge and Jaworski on NFL Matchup. So when our running backs run into the line or get tripped up, I try to see where the free man came from. Too often the past two seasons it has come from the Tight End’s and/or fullback’s man. Once again the blocking from our non-linemen was at the C level. Not really L.V. or Andre’s fault. Unfortunately they cannot make something out of nothing like past BC backs.

Porter. He had some nice plays. I would say about 20% of his snaps. If the remaining 80% could have just been average we win this game. Instead he subjected us to a series of running when he shouldn’t have. Missing open men. Throwing behind, too late, or at his target’s feet. He had Lester for a long TD twice. Once he underthrew it. The second time he didn’t even see him. I also think he is tipping our plays. On running plays he doesn’t scan the field. On passing plays he will look to both sides, but keep coming back to one side. In this game if he kept going back to one side with his looks before the snap three times or more with his head, 70% of the throws went that way (it could’ve been more, but he ran on a few pass plays). He is not a heady guy, an accurate thrower and starting to take bad sacks (he held the ball too long on a screen for Christ’s sake). For me to say anything else about the kid is just piling on.

Bible and TOB. I’ve certainly been an apologist for both at times. This loss is on them just as much as it is on Porter. Bible’s play calling was poor. In past games I’ve said the routes were there and Porter was not taking advantage or the deep passes. That happened again today, but Bible made a questionable bubble screen call on third and long in the 3rd quarter that killed a drive. I understand that Blackmon is our biggest playmaker and the screen is safest way to get the ball in his hand, but expecting him to break a play over and over, especially late in the game, is asking too much. Call plays that are designed to get the first down! I also think we abandoned the run too early. We had the size advantage. We should’ve kept pounding and pounding like we did in the Tire Bowl.

Supposedly TOB makes the final call on who starts. He is the head guy so the buck stops there. But Bible should be screaming, pleading doing whatever it takes to get Ryan on the field. Many fans are pointing to the Blackmon TD call back as the game changer. Porter followed the play with a bad sack and a bad incomplete. To me the sign that he was done for the day came much earlier. We had two two minute drills before the first half. Both were a mess. Porter’s passes were off and the calls were idiotic. What was Bible thinking and how could a team not rush to spike the ball or know to get to the first down? Just atrocious.

Ryan got lucky that two passes weren’t picked, but the kid can only do so much. His poise is unquestionable. The scoring drive was great. If we had given him one more possession, he might have won the game. Unfortunately, he still might not start next week.

Defense: B-

The team did not allow a touchdown. And they kept their intensity despite getting down on the very first play of the game. But they allowed a mediocre North Carolina to control the clock. First the good. The D line did a good job batting down balls. They also did a great job stuffing the run inside. Raji was killing their center in the first half. Unfortunately they did not get much pressure on pass plays. Baker had way too much time throughout.

The bad was the tackling in the flats. North Carolina had success running to the side and away from Kiwi. The starting linebackers missed a few tackles, but more than that, they couldn’t get off their blocks and seemed a step too slow. Henderson’s roughing the passer cost us three minutes and three points. The second team unit of Dunbar and Pruitt were much better. The secondary is still playing too lose. But it wasn’t all about missed assignments. Give credit to North Carolina’s maligned wideouts. They made some tough catches. As I said, the DBs kept North Carolina out of the endzone, but they could’ve played better. Where is the team that pushed Clemson around?

Special teams: D

They put the team in a hole with a classic breakdown. North Carolina muffed the kick. The coverage team all got down there quickly. But instead of maintaining lanes and making solid tackles, we let a busted return become a 90 yard touchdown. Tackling was questionable on coverage throughout. The coverage was great last week. They have the ability to contain the best special teams in the country (Virginia Tech) yet have breakdowns against UNC. It is all about effort. Blackmon looked better returning the ball. We didn’t do much with his better returns. One good run was called back on a penalty. Troost’s miss was a tough kick. I still feel better about him than I do about Ohliger.

Overall: C-

Losing this game was bad. Seeing Florida State lose later in the day was lemon juice in my paper cut. We could’ve won the division. Sometimes being a BC fan is like being Tantalus from Greek mythology. The decision to stick with Porter is costing us every week. The rest of the season depends all on who starts.