Every year during the bye week, regardless of how Boston College’s football season plays out, coach Jeff Hafley believes it’s important to take a step back and examine the bigger picture.
He and his staff study what the Eagles are doing well and what they need to improve, evaluate players and their roles and discuss whether or not their messages are getting through.
This season, BC enters the final week at 2-4 (1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) after a 31-3 loss to No. 5 Clemson last Saturday.
The Eagles showed flashes of their potential, highlighted by a win over Louisville and an encouraging first half against the Tigers. They’ve struggled mightily on other occasions, including a torrid last game against Rutgers, blowout losses to Virginia Tech and Florida State, and a disheartening second half against Clemson.
This is a team with talent, and Hafley’s goal is to help the Eagles maximize that talent in the second half of the season, starting with a tough game at Wake Forest on Oct. 22.
“I like this team,” Hafley said. “Maybe the results don’t show it, but the last two weeks we got better. I am convinced of that. We have to heal. We have to hopefully put the injuries behind us, but we are getting better.”
Here are five stats to help contextualize the first half and what needs to happen in the second half for the Eagles to save their season.
· BC quarterbacks were sacked an ACC-high 22 times.
The offensive line is young to begin with, but injuries haven’t helped. Opponents sacked Phil Jurkovac or backup Emmett Morehead 22 times for a loss of 183 yards, while the Eagles only reached opposing QBs 12 times for a loss of 61.
The Eagles often find themselves in third-and-long situations, which puts the defense in the driver’s seat. The offensive line has made great strides, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
“Ever since the first game of the season, everyone’s response against us has been pressure,” Hafley said. “They saw that we had different strikers and that we had some injuries. We play from behind, so it eases the pressure on them.”
· BC is averaging 69.5 rushing yards per game.
This goes hand in hand with bags. The Eagles are averaging an ACC-low 2.2 yards per carry and 69.5 rushing yards per game.
They found success in spurts, but overall their inability to play football regularly proved costly.
Last week was a setback, but it came against an elite defense and with the Eagles lacking.
· Zay Flowers leads the ACC with 42 catches, 556 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Jurkovec’s favorite target is making a name for himself more and more.
Flowers turned down significant money this offseason and the move paid off when it came to his NFL draft stock. He was already considered an intriguing prospect, but he’s received even more glowing reviews this season.
He has as many receptions as BC’s next three receivers combined. George Takacs (17), Jaelen Gill (14) and Jaden Williams (11) are all threats, as is freshman Joe Griffin, so spreading the ball around could help Jurkovac a lot. Of course, that’s easier said than done, and Flowers is often the one who can get the separation.
“I’d like to see it evened out a little bit, but I think Zay deserves to catch the ball and get the ball in his hands,” Hafley said. “But you’d definitely want to include those guys.”
· Elijah Jones has 9 passes defensed, first in the conference.
Jones was putting together a great game against Clemson before going down with an injury.
He has proven to be one of the better defensive players in the ACC, but his health is something to watch going forward.
BC’s pass defense as a whole is middle of the pack (eighth) in the ACC at 219 yards per game. The Eagles had the 28th best pass defense in the country a year ago.
· BC averages the fewest penalty yards in the ACC at 38.7 per game.
That number is 13th in the nation for fewest penalty yards per game.
The Eagles were extremely disciplined, which is especially hard to do when Hafley is asking the secondary to play so aggressively.
“We’re going to pressure Clemson more than anybody in the country,” Hafley said. “Every year we make them make really hard throws and it shows.”
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