Saturday night’s highly anticipated “Holy War” meeting with Notre Dame looked to be anything but a rivalry.
Dayne Crist was doing his best Joe Montana impersonation. Armando Allen was looking more and more like his name should be ‘Marcus’ and Notre Dame’s so called “high school” defense played physical all night long and were able to exploit the Eagles re-occurring protection problems.
The Irish shot out to a fast start, 21-0, against the Eagles and were ready to bring out the steamroll. The game was turning out to be more of a bullying than an even kilt battle for the Maroon and Gold.
Then, just when BC started to show some glimmer of life on offense, a big touchdown and quick field goal pulling the game within reach, hope flittered before their eyes as heralded freshman phenom Chase Rettig came limping off the field with an apparent ankle injury.
After that all was lost.
Let’s be serious here, BC looked straight awful with Marscovetra under center. Notre Dame walked into Alumni stadium as the big brother on Saturday night and didn’t leave until little bro screamed “mercy”.
Losses always hurt but losing to your bitter rival, better yet getting walloped by your mediocre Catholic counterpart just stings that much worse.
So, what now? How do we overcome two embarrassing losses and convince fans to actually come inside the stadium rather than sticking in the parking lot and crushing a few more brews?
Well, it’s not going to be easy and we definitely have a lot of needs to address before you’ll see the Eagles make it to a bowl game or better yet win one in the ACC.
As a BC fan and self-proclaimed football guru I can honestly say that there is no simple solution to the woes that face our beloved Eagles. But, there are some adjustments that might just be able to salvage this otherwise dreadful season.
1. Drop into coverage – Needless to say if you’ve been keeping up with BC football this year, but opposing teams are airing it out against the Eagles. BC’s secondary is sub-par at best and has trouble matching up against faster receivers and their quick cuts in and out of routes (see: Riddick, Theo)The Eagles are at a serious disadvantage on passing downs and could certainly use some extra help in coverage.
If BC wants to help out their pedestrian pass defense, 80th in the country, then a few things need to happen. First we there needs to be more double teams on quicker receivers trying to burn our combustible corners. And second, here’s a thought, why don’t we use some of those talented linebackers that everyone else in the country raves about, to cover the middle of the field.
We need to give our DB’s some help if we have any hope to contain pass happy quarterbacks like NC State’s Russell Wilson and Florida State's Christian Ponder.
2. Fill the holes - Of all the things I could say that the Eagles are doing wrong so far this season, there is one thing that are definitely doing right and that’s defending the run. The teams rush defense is 9th in the nation and has been stuffing holes and pounding tailbacks every week. Opposing offenses have averaged just 81 rushing yards per game against BC so far and the Eagles have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher through their first four games.
The front four, led by senior captain Alex Albright, have been impressive through the first four games. Scaife has been taking up two and even three defenders on every play it seems and Ramsey and Albright are closing down open lanes faster than the Big Dig. We need to stay healthy and maintain the strong front on D in order to drop into coverage and defend against the pass.
3. Run the football – The stats from Saturday’s game are absolutely atrocious. 23 rushes for a total of five yards? That’s even worse than Kent State’s 17-for-4 performance against the Eagles in week 2. Then again Notre Dame has a top-80 rush defense, not top-10, so Saturday’s stat line becomes even that much more unimpressive.
The fact is that the numbers are skewed by Marscovetra’s -29 rushing yards, caused by holding onto the ball too long and a few brutal sacks. Star tailback Montel Harris actually rushed 15 times for 28 yards in the game. Again, not all that impressive. But, if you take a deeper look, Harris last four carries of the second quarter went for a total of 18 yards and then he only touched the ball twice the rest of the game.
So, who is really to blame here Montel or the coaching staff? I’m not going to point any fingers here but I am also not going to blame a trust worthy running back who got off to a bad start for the lack of a running game.
Give the ball to Montel early and often and stick with him the way we did against Virginia Tech, when he battered and bruised his way to 80 yards. He will fight for every yard and after a while restless defenses will make a mistake and give up a big play that could be the game changers. That is until Shinskie decides to give the defense some errant passes to drool over or Marscovetra figures he’ll check down his pass for the 36th time on 37 attempts.
4. Control the Clock – Again this goes back to the “Run the Football” comment. Yeah, so we don’t have any semblance of a passing game, especially with our only true hope sitting on the sidelines with a bum ankle. So, why don’t we try and give our defense a rest and grab a few first downs instead of running the same pass pattern three times and then punting.
I felt like I was watching the old Tom O’Brien/Rush Limbaugh “conservative” offensive attack on Saturday. Afraid of the turnover, so instead stick to checking the ball down every single time. Without Rettig in there the offense is going to continually check down or turn the ball over so let’s at least take some time off the clock and give our defense a shot to make a play and keep us in the game.
5. Protect against the penalty – Every week the Eagles seem to find ways to make the refs their enemy. BC has racked up 27 penalties for 245 yards. That’s almost as many passing yards as Shinskie and Marscovetra have on the season. No shocker there I guess. But seriously, it’s been killing the Eagles every week. A 27-yard rush nixed by a penalty. A 35-yard pass play called back for holding. A drive ending sack called back for pass interference. What are we the Green Bay Packers?
BC is having a hard enough time moving the ball as it is we don’t need more reason to take away the few big plays we might make each week.
So, if we can actually get this penalty thing under control maybe we will actually be able to put some points on the boards.
6. Mix it up – Eagle fans are fed up with the brutal showing that we’ve seen in the first few games. So, in order to keep butts in the seats and teams off guard why not throw a little confusion at them? The Dolphins threw the wildcat out there and surprised an otherwise disciplined Patriot’s a few years back, I say we do something similar. Maybe it’s putting Montel and emerging wideout Bobby Swigert in the backfield together and playing to our strength in the running game. Maybe we throw Herzlich under center and see what he can do, he might not have the arm strength of Shinskie or Marscovetra but we would see some better decision making or at least a few guys get leveled in the process.
Honestly, I don’t know but do something, throw some sort of trickery out there, make the defensive coordinator squirm a little bit and figure out what is going on. Jeeze, run the goal line offense all game for all I care and then suddenly drop back to pass on a 1st and 10 with Kuechly as your best option on the field. Just do something to try and get a few wins on the board while Rettig heals up and the defense desperately tries to save us from another clobbering at the hands of equal or lesser talent.
All I can say is that I hope BC is the only interesting game on at noon on Saturday, otherwise I think I’ll have to unplug my internet and attempt to keep my pride as a fan.