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The Eagles Football program entered the 2008 football season with a lot more questions than answers, not the least of which was how is senior quarterback Chris Crane going to fare replacing Matt Ryan? With the departure of a number of offensive and defensive starters, former coach Tom O’Brien’s key players have mainly left the program. Jeff Jagodzinski’s players have passed the first test with tonight’s 21-0 victory.
Crane looked very good in his debut as the starter, passing efficiently and running for two scores. His ability to move the ball with his legs give him an added weapon that Ryan did not have and it also helped set up the running game and the option, which accounted for the other touchdown, a scintillating 42-yard scamper from speedy running back Jeff Smith.
BC controlled the game on the lines, getting very steady play from both units. As far as statistics in sports go, turnovers in football translate closer to wins and losses than any other, and tonight was no exception. BC recorded two interceptions and forced three fumbles, recovering one, while keeping the ball away from the Golden Flashes, for a turnover margin of 3-0.
The Eagles also got to the quarterback corps twice, but had a lot of other pocket pressure throughout the game, though the Kent State signal callers escaped for a couple good runs. BC allowed Kent State conversion on third and fourth downs eight times in 18 attempts, 44% efficiency, which is a bit high. If the Eagles can stop these drives earlier, the offense can control the ball and see more short fields.
The Flash’s longest drive came in the fourth, but ended with an interception on the four to seal the shutout for the Eagles. Another point of concern was the rush defense allowing 134 yards, nearly double the 75.5 they allowed last season, which was second in the nation.
Offensively, Crane was 12-18 for 104 yards, but rushed for 47 in the ball control game. The team rushed for 234 total, led by Smith’s 74 and true freshman Josh Haden’s 68. Overall, a good effort to open the season and capture some momentum, but definitely leaves some room for improvement.
My preseason predictions called for a 7-5 effort this season and had Kent State as one of the wins; so far, so good. I also have penciled in a win over next week’s opponent, Georgia Tech. BC will kick off the home slate with an early season conference game against the Yellow Jackets, a convincing winner over FCS (formerly Division 1-AA) opponent, Jacksonville State, 41-14. Tech is rebuilding after losing a lot of talent following the 2007 campaign and making a coaching change in former Navy coach Paul Johnson. They are also installing Johnson’s option attack, which made Navy a postseason regular in recent years.
With the offense still taking hold, BC draws Georgia Tech at a good time and should get a win for the home crowd. It should be another game much like tonight’s, ball control, manage the passing game, and picking spots. Kent State dabbled with the option tonight, without much success, so BC should be tested to prevent the big plays with Georgia Tech’s.
The Atlantic Coast Conference had a couple big games this week and did not represent well. #9 Clemson lost convincingly to Alabama, which did not shock me. They have plenty of talent at the glamour positions, but their offensive line is weak. I am also surprised Tommy Bowden is still the head coach there; with the ACC Championship expectations coming into this season, I suspect he needs to deliver to save his job.
I think they will still win the Atlantic Division, simply because I cannot see a team as talented as they are, unless they drop the Wake Forest game. #17 Virginia Tech lost to East Carolina, an up-and-coming program. The Hokies were probably over-ranked anyway in meaningless preseason polls (due to their prestige), but the quarterback play is really concerning. The special teams play is still there and will carry them through the season.
The Coastal is especially weak and should still be theirs for the taking. (I called the VT game a loss for BC in the preseason with reservation, but BC could prove me wrong here.) The only other ranked team, Wake Forest, handled Baylor easily. Other notables including Virginia getting throttled at home by #3 USC, which should surprise no one, and Maryland gutting out a 14-7 victory over FCS power Delaware.
Miami and Florida will headline this week’s matchups and should be another body blow for the ACC. The BC-Georgia Tech game is the first conference game of the season and the only one scheduled for next week. Wake Forest should continue its march upward in the rankings with a test against Mississippi. Duke and Northwestern tangle in a battle of academic powers usually near the bottom of the FBS. Duke actually enters the game undefeated, after beating FCS’ James Madison, which has not been a given for this program.
With most teams facing FCS or lower tier FBS teams, it is tough to gauge the quality of these teams, so the poll remains largely unchanged.
UMass opened its season up tonight as well, garnering a 28-16 victory over Albany to begin its quest for that elusive FCS National Championship.