Earlier this year we did a home and home with SBNation blog BCInterruption. Their editor, Brian Favat, has a unique perspective on this game as he was a BC undergrad and went to Northwestern for grad school. You can bet where his allegiance lies based on the fact he’s operating a blog dedicated to the team from Chestnut Hill. Let’s get in to it.
LTP: So I turn on the first half of the BC/Miami game after my near heart attack surviving the ‘Cats 42-41 win over Syracuse and I see BC up 14-0 and Miami driving. The exact moment I turned it on BC intercepted and I thought, uh-oh. Week three is going to be tough. Then, I saw Chase Rettig put up 400 yards of passing against the ‘Canes and I thought “uh-oh”, where’s the 2011 Chase? Finally, I read the Maine box score (sorry, game wasn’t on here) and saw Chase had a pretty average game – 50% completions and just 216 yards on 33 attempts. This is a very long way of saying what have you learned about Chase Rettig so far in 2012?
BCI: The box score from the Maine game is a bit misleading for Rettig. There were some bad throws, but a few of those were dropped balls and medium- to longer-yardage attempts. I thought that Rettig played well enough in the Maine game and as you point out, even better in the Miami game. The offensive line, which took its sweet time gelling last season, has done a much better job at buying Rettig time to throw in the pocket. I’m not sure whether we’ll find out if this is as a result of better coaching (former Ohio State offensive coordinator Jim Bollman took on BC’s OL coach role in the offseason), better execution or a byproduct of BC’s early schedule. It will likely take a few more games until we figure out just how good this year’s OL truly is.
As for what we’ve learned about Rettig, on the whole he has elevated his game this season. He seems to have taken to new (again) offensive coordinator Doug Martin’s offensive playbook. And BC is passing more. A lot more, in fact. Small sample size, sure, but Rettig is averaging more than 15 pass attempts per game than he did all of last year. Overall, Rettig has been the one player to really shine on offense so far this year. If he keeps it up, he’ll easily finish among the top 1/3 of signal callers in the conference – a far cry from the last two seasons to be sure.
LTP: I see that you’re 14th in the NCAA in passing (330 ypg) and 86th in rushing (131 ypg). Is the latter a result of Chase being so productive in the air or does it seem to be more of a reflection on Andre Williams, Tahj Kimble or the BC O-line?
BCI: Not sure I can chalk this up to either Rettig’s production or the Eagles running game. This likely starts with new OC Doug Martin, who is installing yet another new offense at the Heights. Martin’s scheme is described as “passing to set up the run.” So far BC has done a lot of passing and not a lot of running. That’s part scheme and part execution. The running backs have already had a season’s worth of mistakes, putting the ball on the turf in both the Miami and Maine games. A few of those times proved costly. The OL didn’t dominate a Maine team you’d expect them to dominate and the run game seemed to suffer a bit as a result.
LTP: The NU game marks the first road game on a brutal travel stretch that sees you play at home only once – next week vs Clemson – and includes four of five on the raod with (trust us, don’t overlook) Army, @ a lethal Florida State team and @ a pesky Georgia Tech team. Is it fair to say a loss on Saturday and that upcoming stretch could be the cranking of the dial on Frank Spaziani’s hot seat?
BCI: Agree that the @ Army game has all the makings of a classic trap game for BC. Boston College’s A.D. Gene DeFilippo actually swapped home dates with Army this year and next, a decision I’m sure we’d like to have back considering the Eagles only have six home games this year and a particularly brutal stretch coming up. I would have liked to have had that home game to break up the three game road stretch that takes BC to West Point, Tallahassee and Atlanta in back-to-back-to-back weekends.
The dial on Spaz’s hot seat is already at a toasty 8-9. There probably isn’t a coach in the country sitting on a hotter seat. It doesn’t help when your biggest advocate is set to retire at the end of this month. And Spaz hasn’t been particularly good on the road as HC. BC typically plays down to the level of their opponents on the road, squeaking past teams they should handle easily and getting pasted by the better teams in non-competitive losses. Win or lose, I don’t think this weekend’s game affects Spaz’s status much one way or the other.
LTP: The offense. Do tell. Chase Rettig has had more offensive coordinators than any BCS AQ QB that I can think of. How different is the look for BC on offense now that you’ve seen two games worth? We as NU fans are assuming you’ll be attacking us through the air and going after our corners. What’s the projected gameplan on your part?
BCI: That sounds about right. BC has really gotten away from the run, which is very un-BC-like on offense. The team’s most reliable back – Montel Harris – was booted from the team earlier this year for unspecified “violation of team rules” and now is with Temple. The three remaining backs on the roster – Andre Williams, Rolandan Finch and Tahj Kimble – have all come down with a case of fumblitis in weeks 1-2 and the staff has yo-yoed each in and out based on poor performance and/or minor injuries.
I would expect the Eagles to attack primarily through the air on some short and medium passing routes, using a lot of play action and sprinkling in the run. The BC offense has also thrown in a bunch of trick plays in the first two games, as evidenced by the fact that one of our wide outs – Johnathan Coleman – has thrown more passes (1) than BC’s backup QB Josh Bordner, who ran the ball three times in the victory over Maine.
LTP: Defense. You kept Maine off the scoreboard most of the game, but it looked like both Maine and Miami moved the ball pretty well. We’re just happy as hell that Luke Kuechly is gone. Re-educate us on your strengths and weaknesses.
Up front, the Eagles front four has been awful, continuing a multi-year trend of the BC D generating little to no pressure on opposing QBs. Already BC ranks tied for 109th nationally in sacks and 115th in TFLs. When you consider that the Eagles’ annual FCS opponent is already in their rear-view mirror, you are just left scratching your head. One can’t really expect those stats to get much better with a remaining schedule that includes six road games and four nationally ranked opponents.
The BC D strength is in the middle, with a talented set of LBs taking over for Kuechly. Kevin Pierre-Louis is the most talented of the bunch at WLB, but the Eagles also have two other talented LBs in Nick Clancy (MLB) and Steele Divitto (SLB). While you can’t replace a player like Luke Kuechly, I suppose the best you can do is go back to Kuechly’s HS — St. Xavier in Cincinnati – and pluck two more Bomber LBs from the school. Sophomore Sean Duggan and freshman Steven Daniels, both from Kuechly’s HS, back up Clancy and KPL, respectively.
There are plenty of question marks in the secondary but for the most part have played OK in the first two games. BC will be without the services of starting corner Al Louis-Jean Jr. who suffered a foot injury and will be sidelined for a few more weeks. Colter and the talented corps of ‘Cats receivers will be a huge test for this young and inexperienced unit.
LTP: The BC Chicago buzz. By now you must be well aware that we are “Chicago’s Big Ten Team”. However, this is also fertile ground for Eagles as a ton of kids from this area go to school at the Heights. What kind of “travel” showing do you expect to see at Ryan Field on Saturday?
I wouldn’t expect half of Ryan Field to be clad in maroon and gold as has been known to happen when the ‘Cats face other conference opponents. That said, Evanston probably won’t be a ghost town when it comes to BC fans, either. I’m sure a number of fans will make the trek out to Chicago because, well, it’s Chicago, and we get Notre Dame at home this season. There is a large contingent of alumni in the greater Chicagoland area so I would expect a decent amount of BC fans. Favorable demographics, however, may be offset a bit by a general lack of excitement and buzz surrounding the program for the portion of the fan base that is counting down the days until the Spaziani era mercifully and finally comes to an end.
LTP: 3 Biggest surprises (good) you’ve seen from BC. 3 Biggest surprises (bad) you’ve seen from BC.
BCI: The good …
1) The Boston College passing offense. Rettig looks like a new QB and has really taken to Doug Martin’s offense. Watching Rettig throw the ball around against Miami was a lot of fun, something that has been sorely missing from Boston College football in the years since Matt Ryan left the Heights.
2) Spiffy Evans. The BC return man took one to the house against Maine. Sure, it was against Maine, but the program hasn’t had that type of game-changer on special teams in a number of years and the potential is there for Spiffy to be that guy.
3) Jake Sinkovec. The converted LB had a big game as a fullback in the opener against Miami though he did get hurt in the W over Maine. He’s a local, North Shore kid coming out of Carmel Catholic so I’m sure he’ll be disappointed if he can’t go this weekend.
The bad …
1) Boston College’s front four. Have generated little to no pressure on either QB faced to date.
2) Boston College’s running game. Haven’t gotten much of anything on the ground this year, which feels strange. BC booted the one RB that could consistently hang onto the football and are left with a trio of RBs where they can’t decide on a starter (based on poor performance and/or minor injury).
3) Losing to Miami. After the performance the ‘Canes just turned in on the road in Manhattan, that’s not a good football team right now. That may prove to be a (very) costly loss for BC when it comes to returning to college football’s bloated postseason.
LTP: And finally…prediction for Saturday?
BCI: This game has the potential to be another 42-41 type game. Rettig has been really productive in Doug Martin’s offense, while Colter and Mark have the potential to gain a lot of yards on the ground. Throw in Colter’s talented group of receivers and I give the edge to Northwestern in this one. I think this will be a back-and-forth game for three quarters before the ‘Cats pull away with a late TD. Final score: 35-28 Northwestern.
LTP: Thanks for playing. We’ll be rooting for you big time, starting on Sunday.
The QB Thing
Amazingly it is Tuesday and we haven’t addressed the Kain Colter/Trevor Siemian, everyone is talking about the QB situation thing. We’ll get to it. Plenty of time this week!