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The Eagles will meet the Virginia Tech Hokies in a rematch from last season’s ACC Championship Game after they beat Maryland in a gritty game. BC played to its strengths to win as they controlled the game and the clock on the ground, on both sides of the ball. They also pressured the quarterback and forced interceptions that the defense lives on, including one returned for a score. BC, behind a solid Dominique Davis performance at quarterback, did not turn the ball over.
Offensively, BC rode Montel Harris, who had 25 carries for 117 yards and one, 13-yard catch. Josh Haden, 8-50 rushing and 3-8 receiving, was also a factor in the game-controlling running game. Davis was just 12-24 for a modest 135 yards, however, that does not tell his story of the game.
He ran it five times for 12 yards, was sacked once for a small two-yard loss, and scrambled to escape pressure and throw a couple balls away for no loss on a play, something he was not doing even last week. While that seems to minimize his play, he also threw two touchdown passes, was not intercepted, and did not fumble the ball. Most teams rely on rookie quarterbacks to manage the game effectively and that is what Davis did for the Eagles in this game.
The major weakness on this team, the passing defense, allowed 360 yards in the air. However, Maryland only racked up 356 total yards because the NCAA’s leading rush defense allowed -4 yards on the ground! Maryland made it in a game, and racked up some passing yards, late in the game as they had to abandon the run, which the defense made completely ineffective throughout the game.
When BC was not busting through the line to stop the run, they were doing it to drop the quarterback, which they did five times. Linebackers Mike McLaughlin (following a leap over his defender), Robert Francois, Mark Herzlich (twice), and tackle B. J. Raji all recorded sacks. Chris Turner was pressured all day which resulted in rushed pass attempts that dropped short, or off target, or even into BC’s hands. BC added two interceptions to its national lead, now at 25: Herzlich (his sixth) and Francois’ first of the season, which he took to the end zone.
BC was out-gained overall 356-320 and 360-144 passing, but did rumble for 176 on the ground. Davis threw a seven-yard fade to Justin Jarvis to give BC the early lead. He found Rich Gunnell for a 45-yard touchdown pass on a fake handoff. It was a simple backyard throw as the fake gave Gunnell a wide open field. However, the play of the game was more Flutie Magic for the Eagles. Up 14-7 in the third quarter on the Maryland nine, BC elected to kick the field goal. However, when the ball was snapped, Billy Flutie, the holder (and Doug Flutie‘s nephew), faked the handoff to Steve Aponavicius, ran left and found a wide open tight end Jordon McMichael running right for the touchdown. The touchdown catch was the sophomore’s first reception of his BC career.
Coach Jeff Jagodzinski deserves a lot of credit for taking this team to its second consecutive ACC Championship Game. After losing NFL first rounder Matt Ryan and their primary running backs, leaving them to depend on Chris Crane, a fifth-year senior with one prior start, and two true freshman running backs, the Eagles looked to slog through a tough year. However, Coach Jags and Offensive Coordinator Steve Logan adjusted the gameplan to suit Crane and improved as the season progressed, a mark of good coaching.
Also, major credit goes to Defensive Coordinator Frank Spaziani, a holdover from the Tom O’Brien administration who did not want to relocate to North Carolina. Coach Spaz has built a tremendously resilient defense which is the nation’s top run stopping unit and also recorded more interceptions than anyone else in the country. The defense, specfically on the line, is the most experienced group on the team and was expected to carry the Eagles all season as the offense matured and they did. Safety Paul Anderson wore the ceremonial #31 jersey, honoring Jay McGillis.
I correctly predicted Maryland as a win to complete a 7-5 season, so I undershot by two games and one division title. I will take BC next week as I think they got the better matchup in Virginia Tech, as opposed to Georgia Tech. The Hokies have poor quarterback play and a bad offense in general, which plays right to BC’s strengths on defense. The regular season meeting was marked by big plays on both sides: a punt block and punt return TD for BC and two interception return touchdowns for Virginia Tech. I would not expect all of the big plays to be repeated in the rematch, which would favor the Eagles as Virginia Tech has kept them in the game in the past.