It's a rare moment when Boston College football gets a break. But just one drive in against No. 16 Virginia Tech, the Eagles got that chance to grab an early lead.
Defensive end Zach Allen, who had his best game of the season, tipped a pass from Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson, the nation's best freshman quarterback. It landed into the hands of an acrobatic Isaac Yiadom, who locked the ball down at Virginia Tech's 25-yard line.
But in four plays, the Eagles showed why they're gameplan cannot stand up to the nation's best teams.
On the first play, head coach Steve Addazio allows Anthony Brown to take a shot downfield on a play-action pass to Tommy Sweeney. Like many of Brown's deep shots this year, the pass was slightly off the mark--this time, a little underthrown--and couldn't be completed. Still, a good play call and attempt.
But on the second play, Addazio called a run up the middle with AJ Dillon, a slowly developing play that got only two yards. Deep within the red zone, it was a play that did next to nothing. Brown then had a panicky incompletion without any pass protection, on third and long. And to finish off the drive, Colton Lichtenberg's 40-yard field goal went wide left.
That kind of conservatism ultimately cost BC on a day in which its defense played arguably its most complete game against an ACC opponent from start to finish. Now, in four games against Power Five opponents, the Eagles (2-4, 0-3 Atlantic Coast) have scored exactly five touchdowns--and BC's only one on Saturday came in garbage time. But in his last 19 games against ACC teams, Addazio has now averaged a pitiful--pitiful--10.7 points per game. And on this evening, despite previously having a day in which their quarterback was 11-for-29 with three picks and only 119 yards, the Eagles put up their worst offensive performance of the season in the first three quarters. Defensively, the performance was all for real. But offensively, the game was not nearly as close as the final score indicates, unlike the Notre Dame and Clemson games.
THE DEFENSIVE LINE OF OLD: The pass rush was better than it has been all season, behind Allen and Harold Landry. Allen had 12 tackles and two sacks, a career high for both, while Landry tied his career-high with three sacks. Jackson still had a superb day through the air, but he was put on the run. The line also stopped Virginia Tech three times within the 10, forcing two short field goals and a fourth-and-out at the VTech 1. Easily the best defensive line performance of the year. Except...
ALL EYES ON LANDRY: The star defensive ended up leaving the game with what looks like a twist of his ankle late in the game on his third sack. He did not return. It'd be a crushing blow if the Eagles were to lose him for extended time.
SECONDARY EXPOSED: BC's secondary came into the game 12th in the nation in fewest passing yards allowed, but Jackson dominated them through the air. He finished the day 22 of 33 for 322 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles struggled mightily on slant-and-go routes, and Lukas Denis and Will Harris struggled with their tackling and wrapping opponents up. Cam Phillips' 53 yard skinny post touchdown was largely the product of Denis missing a tackle.
FUN RIGHT AT THE END: The lingering trend throughout the entire year is that, though the offense has been stagnant to an alarming degree, there are players on the roster that have the talent to make offense happen. On the Eagles' touchdown drive, they showed that they can indeed make things happen. Addazio called the jet sweep with Thadd Smith, a play that has been in his playbook for a long time but finally has the right man. Then Brown connected on a 23-yard gain to Sweeney. Finally, Jeff Smith finished the drive by throwing, yes throwing, a 25-yard touchdown pass back to Brown. A waste of a great trick play? Maybe. Was Virginia Tech letting up at the end? Possibly. But it was a fun one to see, and it proved that, when they're allowed to open it up, the Eagles can play fast with success.