Tomorrow, Penn State plays in its first bowl game since the disastrous Ticket City Bowl, three years ago. The Pinstripe Bowl will be played under entirely different circumstances, with a vastly different Penn State team, and, perhaps, a more interesting opponent. In Boston College, Penn State will meet its mirror image; or, at least, it's mirror image in a world slightly more ideal. Like Penn State, BC wins games with a strong defense and an offensive attack that isn't exactly explosive--unlike the Nittany Lions, the Eagles have generally been able to successfully establish the run and avoid turnovers.
But for a team from Boston that managed to upset USC and hang with Clemson and Florida State, BC hasn't received enough media coverage for us to know more than those bare facts. So, I spoke with BC Interruption's A.J. Black to learn more about the team that will be lining up across from our Lions on Saturday.
Black Shoe Diaries: Despite a pair of 7-win seasons, Steve Addazio had become such a hot commodity in the coaching market that BC locked him up to an extension through 2020. How excited are BC fans at the prospect of the next six years with Addazio at the helm?
BC Interruption: I think BC fans are pretty excited with the job that Addazio has done with the Eagles. He turned around a two win program into back to back bowl games, won our first game against a Top 10 team in over a decade, and has reignited both the recruiting base and fans. Addazio embodies everything that BC football should be about, he's a no nonsense, fiery competitor and has gone toe to toe with some of the best programs in the country, all while being surrounded by transfers, freshmen and Frank Spaziani recruits.
BSD: Andre Williams graduated, but BC's run game still ranked in the top 15, nationally. What's been the key to the Eagles' success on the ground this year?
BCI: Last year the Eagles depended on the wide shoulders of Andre Williams, this year the rushing attack is much more diverse and exotic. First and foremost, watch out for QB Tyler Murphy, a Florida transfer who led the country in rushing for a QB and broke the ACC record for rushing yards by a QB. As he runs the option he has a myriad of weapons to use including true freshman bruiser Jon Hilliman, speed back Marcus Outlow, and returning tailback Myles Willis. They will also throw in some end around and sweeps with 5'7 speedster Sherm Alston, who is possibly the fastest player on the team.
BSD: BC beat USC and hung with Florida State, in Tallahassee, until the final minute. What went right in those performances that didn't in the losses to Pitt and Colorado State?
BCI: Well I think the first thing that BC did against USC and FSU was control the clock. Addazio speaks frequently of wanting to shorten the game and he did that against those teams (Clemson as well). BC basically did the same thing against Colorado State for three quarters and then the defense fell apart in the fourth quarter. The Pitt loss was awful, much in the ilk of the Louisville failure, in which BC couldn't get off the field, they made multiple mistakes and against the Panthers James Conner turned on the "UNTACKLEABLE" cheat code.
BSD: Like Penn State, Boston College's defense far outpaced its offense, statistically speaking. Where is the Eagles' defense the strongest, and where is it most vulnerable?
BCI: BC is strongest up front, which is pretty ironic because before the season that was the biggest area of concern. However players have stepped up big time to give them one of the better lines in the ACC. Connor Wujciak, Kevin Kavalec and Malachi Moore have stepped up to give the Eagles a strong rushing defense, and Josh Keyes at linebacker has shown glimpses of pass rushing dominance. BC's biggest weakness is in the secondary. If opposing offenses are given time they can move the ball through the air.
BSD: For BC to emerge with a Pinstripe Bowl victory, which players will they rely on to have strong performances?
BCI: I think BC is going to need to have a big game up front on the offensive line. Clearly Penn State has an elite defense, and with the #1 rushing defense in the country, BC is going to need to open up holes for their offense to work. However if they get pushed around like they did against Clemson and Louisville they will be in trouble. If BC can sustain drives and put up points, I expect that they will be in good shape to win.
BSD: On the other hand, what script will the Nittany Lions have to follow to come away with a win on Saturday?
BCI: I would say Penn State is going to need to force some turnovers against BC if they want to win. BC's defense is pretty solid, but if the Nittany Lions can stack the box and force Tyler Murphy into a one dimensional passing quarterback the Eagles are in trouble. BC is going to need to run the ball, they can't effectively pass on a consistent basis, so if Penn State can force BC into a lot of 3rd and longs, the Eagles could be in for a long day.
BSD: How do you see this one shaping up?
BCI: It's hard for me to take off my maroon and gold shades, but honestly I like BC in this one. I don't see either teams scoring all that much due to some strong defensive plays, but I do believe that the Eagles have just a little more scoring power and probably will win by 6 (missed extra point, look at our stats BC's kickers have struggled BIG TIME). Looking forward to this game, should be a good one. Cheers!
Thanks again, A.J., and remember to read B.C. Interruption today and tomorrow to learn more about our bowl opponents.