Five Things We Learned: Eagles Trio Leads The Way
|10.31.09 at 9:00 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — Boston College sprung the trap on Central Michigan.
The Mid-American Conference leader was flying high coming into Alumni Stadium but it learned that, on The Heights, nobody flies higher than the Eagles, who claimed a 31-10 victory over Central Michigan, Saturday.
BC is now 6-0 at home this year. Yet, this one could have been a trap from the start. It certainly looked that way at first. There was not much of a story at the end of the first half. Both offenses traded a series of stalled drives until midway through the second quarter when Central Michigan was finally able to crack a drive deep into Eagles territory that resulted in a Chippewas field goal. That’s when the Eagles offense took control of the game.
“There wasn’t so much what we did at halftime. They did a good job of controlling the ball and keeping it away from us and the offense,” coach Frank Spaziani said. “We came out and ran our offense, had a three-and-out and got back in there. Now we had rhythm. We had a good game plan we just needed to get ourselves into it a little bit.”
The lesson to be learned is that the “good game plan” on offense consisted of three things: mistake free quarterback play, a solid running game and the ability to take big plays when the opportunity is presented. Hence, as of the ninth game of the season, BC can say that it has really found an identity on offense.
Good football teams always seem to have some type of trio that leads the group. Think of the great Indianapolis Colts teams with Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison. Boston College does not have that kind of monster, but they have developed an efficient offense centered around freshman quarterback Dave Shinskie, sophomore running back Montel Harris and senior wide receiver Rich Gunnell. Today they showed, that when given opportunity, they can move the ball and get in the end zone.
Gunnell finished the game with 8 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown. Harris ran 27 times for 136 yards and two touchdowns. Shinskie was 18-28 for 262 yards and a touchdown while playing mistake free football and getting the ball into the hands of seven different receivers. Between the three, it was a good bounce back performance after the disappointing (and mistake riddled) loss to Notre Dame last week. Couple that with the drama of Justin Tuggle and Josh Haden transferring out of the program this week and the Eagles offensive trio showed a lot of poise taking control of the game and picking up the rest of the team.
“The players need to take ownership of their team and they did,” Spaziani said. He was talking about the team as a whole and this was a good team win, but Shinskie, Harris and Gunnell were really the players on the forefront.
“Rich is stepping it up, he is a senior and making some big plays for us down the field,” Harris said. “If we can establish the running game it opens up the secondary for Rich and Dave to make more passes. I guess, working as a team, you know?”
More than any other point this season, we do indeed know.
Here are four other things that we learned as Boston College became bowl eligible . . . .
The Legend of “Sid Vicious”
Place kicker Steve Aponavicius may not be the second most important thing we learned from this game, but his accomplishment is one of the best stories in this history of this football program. Aponavicius set the all-time school scoring record at Boston College with a third quarter extra point off a Harris touchdown to give him 263 career points, one more than point than kicker Brian Lowe who played from 1986-89.
For those of you who do not know or have forgotten the story (he has been on Chestnut Hill for five years now, after all) of Aponavicius, here is a refresher: Aponavicius painted his body for the 2005 season opener against Army and was a hit in the stands. Sometime after that game he was on the field at Alumni Stadium kicking field goals with a $10 tee when a graduate assistant noticed him. Aponavicius was offered a chance to walk on to the team and he did. At first the players did not know his name so they called him “Sid Vicious.”
The rest is history.
“He gets another hall pass. He gets to sit in the principles office now,” Spaziani said. “I think it is tremendous, it really is. It is a great story. A guy who dropped out of the student body and after a lot of hard work and a lot of time and energy to become the all-time leading scorer. That is a great accomplishment that he can be proud of and we are very, very happy for him.”
Aponavicius is also the active career leader in the ACC in both PATs (140) and field goals (40).
“It’s awesome. It is something going into the year that I knew I had a chance at and to be able to do it, it really is special,” Aponavicius said.
When asked if he gave an thanks to Harris for scoring the touchdown that gave him the opportunity for the record, Aponavicius turned to Harris (who was sitting next to him at the interview table) and said “No, but I can now. Thanks Montel.”
“He’s scored a lot. There have been a lot of extra points after Montel touchdowns. I think he has a shot at the record now, the way he is going right now” Aponavicius said.
Staying on the subject of kicking, punter Ryan Quigley had a good game. Using the wind to his advantage he popped a 61 yard punt in the first half and averaged 47.2 yards per kick. He placed a punt on the 7-yard line and had a touchback. On kickoffs he twice blew the ball all the way through the back of the end zone for touchbacks.
Goal Accomplished: Suppress LeFevour
Boston College came in with a game plan against Central Michigan’s star quarterback, Dan LeFevour, that ended up playing out perfectly. Keep him in front of the defense.
Boston College has been employing the “give up the underneath” strategy in recent weeks to varying degrees of success. The Eagles were burned by Virginia Tech and Notre Dame with it but it was effective against NC State and Florida State. Today they were able to give LeFevour the dinks and the dunks, step up on third down and make the stop.
“That is a real skilled outfit over there as far as scheme and coaching and that player,” Spaziani said. “We just had a game plan to keep it in front of us and make some plays and try to keep him one-dimensional. The kids did a great job executing the plan.”
It almost back-fired. The offensive trio mentioned above had trouble getting into sync in the first half. Part of the reason for that was because the Boston College defense was having trouble getting on the field. Central Michigan would go on a short drive into Eagles territory before having to punt. The Eagles offense would go three-and-out and Central Michigan would do it all again. Before the touchdown at the end of the second quarter on a drive that took 5:19 off the clock, LeFevour and the Chippewas held onto the ball 17 minutes of the first half. At that time LeFevour was 17-27 for 135 yards passing and had 9 carries for 24 yards on the ground. That is a total of 36 touches for 159 yards which comes to 4.41 yards per touch.
For a guy as explosive as LeFevour, 4.41 yards per touch is a small figure. On the game it was lower to an even 4 yards per touch (45 for 180) as the Eagles put the clamps down on the Chippewas offense in the second half. LeFevour would eventually leave the game in favor of redshirt-freshman Ryan Radcliff.
Once Boston College was able to get LeFevour off the field, the game snow-balled from there.
“He is a dual-threat quarterback because he can run and throw the ball so it was important for us to close down his options on the pass and I think we did that really well,” true freshman linebacker Luke Kuechly said.
Kuechly Continues To Be The Man
Another game, another day at the office for freshman stud Kuechly. He registered 11 tackles on his way to another fine game and his perpetual spot atop the leading tacklers.
He was rewarded for it as well.
With 5:00 remaining in the game, Kuechly stepped in front a an errant Radcliff pass at the Chippewas 28 yard line, made a step, then raced the rest of the way to the end zone for the touchdown. Kuechly said that was the first interception return for a touchdown that he has ever had.
“It feels nice. We’ve been working on that play all week,” Kuechly said. “It was great that we had practiced that and coach was tell me that they were going to run that. I was already keyed on it and Wes [Davis] was tell me to watch the holes. It really helped me out.”
The freshman was his normal abashed self when describing it.
“It was pretty neat. It was the first time I had ever done it so it was pretty cool. I didn’t have too many interceptions in high school.”
Now that he has one, he probably has a thirst for more. After all, he is only 261 career points behind Aponavicius.
Subtle Change In The Offensive Scheme
So, yes, we learned the formula for Boston College to get going is to get Harris, Shinskie and Gunnell going. But, without Haden around to carry some of the load, the offense looked a little different today.
Shinskie lined up in the shotgun about half of the time and under center about half of the time. This is a departure as Shinskie (or Tuggle in the beginning of the year) would spend take most of the snaps from shotgun. The Eagles also went three wide a little more with Justin Jarvis as the X, Colin Larmond, Jr. as the Z and Gunnell in the slot.
The offense has been run primarily through the shotgun which meant that when Harris or Haden ran it was from and extended draw plays. Harris took more snaps in the single back formation today and last week than he has all season. It is no coincidence that Boston College has gone to this formation with the loss of Haden, who was unavailable against Notre Dame with an ankle injury.
The Eagles also have gotten away from their Wildcat/Bazooka formation. They used it twice today, with Gunnell getting a carry for three yards and Harris a carry for four. Without two quality running backs to pull it off, the Bazooka is not quite an effective as a weapon.