November 20, 2008
Last Saturday night Boston College was victorious against Florida State because it put together its best team performance of the year. Everything was working on all cylinders. The offense and defense executed and performed with precision.
Every bit of that same emotion and execution will be needed at Wake Forest this Saturday for BC to control its own destiny. What is most impressive is how this team has developed or matured from summer camp through the early schedule and through last week's game. The growth of the team is where my 10 thoughts lie this week.
1. The evolution of the team has taken place. The offense has matured from a pass-first approach to a run-first mentality. The offensive line has grown together, gained experience, but most importantly developed an attitude where they want to mash and knock the opponent out. The offensive line consistently came off the ball and moved the line of scrimmage. They provided holes for the running backs and have protected the quarterback. As this group goes so will BC.
2. The evolution of the quarterback has been most impressive. While I along with fans called for a change at the position(or at least to see what other options might be available), Chris Crane has developed his approach to the game. He has settled down and has begun to execute when asked to but also has returned to using his legs. He has not forced any throws in the last few games and has become more accurate. After the Clemson game where he continued to check down on the final drive to the point where a first down could not be made, Crane has improved his decision-making, finding and hitting the open receivers. His continued ball control, play-action approach will be needed against a stout Wake Forest defense on Saturday.
3. I can't say it any better than Bobby Bowden, "Those were two freshmen running backs. They were Freshmen." The confused state of coach Bowden after the game provided many quotes. The development of running backs Montel Harris and Josh Haden have allowed the offense to become more dependant upon the run. Harris finds yards constantly turning his shoulders to find a hole that doesn't exist and never stops his feet. He also showed he can use power by stiff-arming a saftey to cross the goal line. Haden uses his quickness to get to the line before the defense can react and has good hands. While there is always room for improvement the development of a pass-catching running back may have also helped with the development of Chris Crane. Adding Haden as an option for Crane can only continue to help the offense.
4. The unselfishness of the wide receivers has truly been a signal of the unity and TEAM that BC exemplifies. Last year the receivers were asked to run routes and catch the ball, many putting up career numbers with Matt Ryan at the helm. This year the same crop of receivers have been asked to play a different kind of game and they are doing just that. They are blocking downfield. They are being more physical all while giving up catches and touchdowns. This is more difficult than it might seem. Changing what you do mid season is much more difficult than going into summer camp and executing what is preached from day one. Major kudos to the receivers not only for changing their play but also for stepping up with the loss of Clerance Megwa to injury.
5. The unselfishness of the tight ends is simiar to that of the receivers only Ryan Purvis has not only given up role as an elite pass-catching tight end and concentrated on blocking, he is now lining up at fullback to help act as a lead blocker with the loss of James McCluskey to injury.
6. What can I say about coach Jagodzinski and company? He too has changed. Play-calling from offensive coordinator Steve Logan has evolved to put the players in position to execute and win. Other than execution issues for the North Carolina game, BC has been in every game until the last possession. I would expect them to be in Saturday's game as well. Defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani has also dialed up a scheme where BC stops the run and creates turnovers in the secondary. While blitzing has been the best method to get pressure on the quarterback the defense has been the backbone of the team. Special teams has improved under coach Yanowski. Going into the FSU game block punts occurred in two consecutive games. The punt return team was solid and now the kicking game is coming off its best performance (minus a 9 yard punt) of the season.
7. Like I said earlier the defense has been the backbone of the team while the offense struggled to find its identity. What is most impressive is the defense is more complete than last year's team which graduated three star players. Most would think with the loss of Jo Lonn Dunbar, Jamie Silva and DeJuan Tribble that the defense would need to rebuild. What has happened instead is that the defense is playing more as a team than ever before. Players have stepped up for the loss of linebacker Brian Toal and Alex Albright. They know their assignments and play a disciplined style which keeps over pursuit to a minimum and the secondary has played beyond their years.
8. Controlling the line of scrimmage by the BC defensive line has forced opposing teams abandon the run. Knowing that offenses have to pass has allowed the young BC secondary to play with their eyes toward the quarterback and thus has led to the 21 interceptions this season. The play of the linebackers has forced deeper throws where the safties and cornerbacks have been waiting. No interception came at a better time last week than DeLeon Gause tearing the ball away from FSU standout wide out Greg Carr.
9. Looking to this week's game vs. Wake Forest expect a continued dedication to the run. Harris and Haden need to get 40 touches to control the clock and time of possession. This is a huge game for both teams. Emotions and controlling these emotions will play a big role in winning this contest. Wake Forest will run an end around and possibly pass off of it as well. They like the trick plays and the back side defensive end must stay home and get enough depth to force the play inside. As the clliche goes the team that wants it more will win the game...it sounds simple but it couldn't be more true. This is a playoff game. Win and move on.
10. Playing two games in a row on the road with this much on the line is tough. Staying in the ACC race after two tough losses to Georgia Tech and Clemson shows fortitude. Wanting to get back to eliminate the mistakes made in the North Carolina game shows dedication. I expect BC to leave everything on the field this Saturday.
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