Three-and-out: BC tight on time

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
Time is of the essence for the Eagles this week.

First down: By the time Boston College coach Steve Addazio met with the media for his weekly Monday session at around 1 p.m. ET, the Eagles already had completed two practices (one in full pads) in preparation for Friday night’s nationally televised matchup with Pittsburgh at Alumni Stadium (7 ET on ESPN).

And it still hadn’t been 48 hours since they kicked off their season against UMass at 3 o’clock Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

“The offense played darn near 90 plays and they were in a real physical contest,” Addazio said in his news conference, which was streamed live via the Eagles’ website. “We’re pretty sore and beat up a little bit up front. So that’s the challenge today. Our kids responded well. But we’ve got to get our team feeling good in a very short turnaround week.

“The [Panthers] have the same short turnaround, but I’m not sure they were in the same style of game as we were. And our game was late. So we got home 8 o’clock at night, we’re back in yesterday, we’re in full pads this morning. Bang-bang. That’s challenging. That concerns me. And as I told our team, we’ve got to handle this well.”

Second down: Part of handling it will be adjusting to injuries.

Starting right guard Harris Williams, who left the UMass game in the first quarter and didn’t return, had surgery on his injured right ankle and will be out six to eight weeks, according to Addazio.

“Harris is going to be fine. Harris will be back this season,” he said. “Any injury is serious, it’s got a time factor to it but he’ll be back 100 percent.”

Aaron Kramer replaced Williams against UMass, and will start against Pittsburgh on Friday night.

“Aaron is ready to play. Aaron has really prepared and he’s going to do a great job,” Addazio said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him. Obviously it’s a hit from a depth standpoint -- Harris is a veteran player, but we’ll be able to keep going strong.”

Third down: Addazio was pleased with the team’s performance in the running game against UMass, when the Eagles ran the ball 61 times for 338 yards and two TDs.

“We ran the ball really well,” he said. “We ran a variety of different plays, from shotgun, perimeter plays to two-back power, inside plays. We had a wide variety of running plays. We’re ahead of where we were a year ago running the football, at least schematically. We’re playing a lot of backs. We don’t have that one power back yet, although I thought you saw the development of some young players that have that capability, but I’m pretty pleased with that piece.”

Quarterback Tyler Murphy led all rushers with 118 yards on 13 carries, and was followed by Tyler Rouse (19 carries for 87 yards), Myles Willis (16 carries for 57 yards) and freshmen Jon Hilliman (9 carries for 43 yards), Sherman Alston (two carries for 30 yards, on jet sweeps) and Marcus Outlow (2 carries for 3 yards).

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, gave up just 26 yards rushing in a 62-0 thrashing of Delaware in Week 1. And it wasn’t a case of Delaware completely abandoning the run when it was down big, as the Fightin’ Blue Hens rushed the ball 30 times in the game and threw it just 16 times.

Out: It’s got nothing to do with BC football, but couldn’t resist passing along this piece of good news:

No word on when the little one will issue her first ice bucket challenge.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Three-and-out: UMass not ACC-ready

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
For Mark Whipple, the takeaway from UMass’ season-opening 30-7 loss to Boston College at Gillette Stadium on Saturday was simple.

“We are not ready to play in the ACC is what I really found out,” the coach said on his weekly MAC conference call on Monday morning, according to a transcript of the session posted on the UMass website.

First down: “We played hard and the coaches did a good job preparing guys mentally,” Whipple said. “Not playing well had a lot to do with Boston College ... I felt if we went into the half close, which we did -- it was a 6-0 score -- that we would make some adjustments.

“Credit BC, they came out and scored the first three times they had the ball and we did not respond well.”

The Eagles used long drives (a 13-play, 75-yard drive for a TD and a 10-play, 52-yard drive for another TD) to open up the lead and to wear down the Minutemen defense in the third quarter, and Blake Frohnapfel and the offense were unable to stay on the field long enough to (A) produce more than seven points and (B) give their defense a chance to catch its wind.

Second down: J.T. Blyden was a bright spot for UMass on offense.

The 6-foot, 196-pound true freshman from West Grove, Pennsylvania, came off the bench to lead the Minutemen in rushing. Blyden carried the ball nine times for 43 yards, with a long run of 14 yards.

“He did some things, you never know for a true freshman in his first game. Certainly you get chances in college and he showed he has talent,” Whipple said. “We saw that on the field ... There is still a big step, certainly in the protection game. He did some good things and he missed some things, but he is not the first one to do so against Coach [Don] Brown's defense.

“His eyes weren't too big and we are excited about that. I think he is going to be a good player for us down the road.”

Third down: The Minutemen set a record for home attendance with 30,479 at Gillette Stadium on Saturday. It was the second largest crowd to see UMass play at Gillette, which sounds contradictory until you remember that the Minutemen were not the home team for the 2010 meeting with New Hampshire that drew 32,848.

Attendance for the opener was no doubt boosted by the presence of another in-state school, with a healthy BC student contingent obvious to anyone in the stadium thanks to their bright gold shirts.

UMass averaged 15,830 fans per game at Gillette last season. The Minutemen host Colorado at Gillette on Saturday (3 p.m. ET on ESPN3), when both teams will be trying to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole to start the season.

Out: Whipple knew rebuilding a program that went 1-11 in each of the past two seasons wasn’t going to happen overnight, despite the hopes of the most ardent Minutemen fans.

He’s also showing no signs of being discouraged.

On Monday, the coach tweeted:

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

BC will need to elevate game vs. Pitt

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31
Toward the end of Steve Addazio’s postgame news conference Saturday evening, after the Eagles had trounced the UMass Minutemen 30-7 at Gillette Stadium to open the season, the coach’s attention turned to the next challenge.

His bald head still glistening with sweat earned on the sideline against UMass, Addazio already was thinking about Pittsburgh. The Panthers come to Chestnut Hill for a nationally televised ACC matchup on Friday night (7 ET on ESPN), meaning there’s a slightly shorter turnaround than normal for BC’s next game so there’s no time to waste.

That led to this exchange, with Addazio still up on the dais in the New England Revolution media workroom at the podium emblazoned with the Patriots logo.

“The opponent we’re playing is fairly mighty,” he said. “I don’t know what the score of that game was. Anybody know?”

After a beat, BC associate athletic director for communications Chris Cameron chirped out the answer, the score of Pittsburgh’s opener against Delaware.

“62-0,” he said.

“Oh, that’s great,” Addazio said, not missing a beat and drawing laughs from the gathered media. “That’s great. Just ducky.”

After walloping Delaware (an FCS opponent) so thoroughly in its opener, Pittsburgh is currently tied for first nationally in rushing touchdowns (seven), sixth in rushing yards (409) and 14th in yards per attempt (7.30). The Panthers allowed Delaware just 57 total yards of offense, came up with three interceptions and two sacks in a complete domination on both sides of the ball.

Sophomore James Conner, a load at 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, ran for 153 yards and four TDs on just 14 carries.

BC held UMass to 55 yards rushing on Saturday, but the Eagles clearly will be facing a different animal on Friday night.

"I think this game gave us a confidence boost,” defensive back Bryce Jones said Saturday night, “and now we can take this short week and get right to it and really just move forward and keep progressing."

The Eagles can’t waste any time this week in practice on either side of the ball if they want to improve to 2-0 on the young season.

“We go back and evaluate the film and see what we need to get better on, how we can finish drives and where we can eliminate mistakes,” quarterback Tyler Murphy said. “And even though we’ve got a short turnaround, we’re looking forward to Friday. It’ll be a good game, a conference game. It’s important that we recover fast and get things going.”

“The biggest growth in your football team is in the first three weeks,” Addazio said. “So I feel like we took a positive step but we’ve got to continue to grow. ... Last year we grew each week. We’ve got to grow each week. We’re playing a really good team coming up here ... we’ve got to elevate our play.”

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Three-and-out: UMass QB Frohnapfel hits Sharpe for 77-yard TD

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For a few seconds, at least, everything was perfect on Saturday for UMass football.

Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel, a transfer from Marshall making his first start for the Minutemen, stood in the pocket and looked deep downfield and saw wideout Tajae Sharpe coming free across the middle. The 6-foot-6, 229-pounder fired a strike to Sharpe near midfield and hit him in stride.

The 6-foot-4 speedster did the rest, skipped by the dive of BC safety Sean Sylvia, outran BC defensive back Justin Simmons and stretched the ball over the goal line for a 77-yard touchdown.

It was an electric play, one that showed the offensive potential UMass fans hope becomes reality under new (old) coach Mark Whipple.

But unfortunately for the Minutemen and their fans, that play was the exception rather than the rule on Saturday, and the home team fell 30-7 to their in-state rival.

[+] EnlargeBlake Frohnapfel
AP Photo/Michael DwyerUMass QB Blake Frohnapfel faced constant pressure from the BC defense.
“I thought we matched up physically in the first half,” Whipple told reporters afterward, according to a transcript. “Blake missed some throws, and I thought we had to make some throws to get some momentum and that didn’t happen.”

Frohnapfel, who was under near-constant duress against the Eagles’ swarming defense, finished an underwhelming 9-for-22 passing for 147 yards and the one TD. He was sacked three times (including one on an intentional grounding call), and though he kept a few plays alive with his feet, he finished with negative-21 yards on the ground.

Although the UMass defense kept things close in the first half, which ended with BC up only 6-0, the offense couldn’t convert.

“The main thing for us is we have to step it up on offense,” Frohnapfel told reporters after the game. “[The defense] kind of did a good job, but we kind of kept them on the field too long with three-and-out, three-and-out. As an offense, that’s something we have to do better.”

First down: UMass captain Randall Jette gave the Minutemen one of their best scoring chances in the second quarter when he picked off a Tyler Murphy pass and returned it 20 yards to the BC 19-yard line. It was the fourth interception of Jette’s career.

“It’s our job to give the offense the best opportunities possible,” Jette told reporters. “We had plays we left on the field.”

But this time, the offense left plays on the field. Frohnapfel was called for intentional grounding on the first play, which cost the team 15 yards and a loss of a down. An incomplete pass and a short gain later, the Minutemen faced a fourth-and-21 from the BC 30, and Whipple summoned Blake Lucas to attempt a 47-yard field goal.

The kick sailed wide right, and the Eagles escaped.

“After [Murphy’s] pick, that’s when you’re trying to make something happen … and having the [intentional] grounding kind of stalled us a little bit,” Frohnapfel said. “That’s a situation where we have to make something happen.”

[+] EnlargeTajae Sharpe
Eric Canha/Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesUMass WR Tajae Sharpe couldn't haul in this pass but did account for the Minutemen's lone score on a 77-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
Second down: The 77-yard completion from Frohnapfel to Sharpe was UMass’ longest pass play in more than five years, since Liam Coen (now UMass’ QB coach) hit Matt Silver for 80 yards on Oct. 25, 2008.

The Frohnapfel-Sharpe connection is tied for ninth longest in UMass history.

Third down: Junior linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox led all players with 15 tackles and was one of four UMass players in double digits in stops. Joe Colton had 13 tackles and Kassan Messiah and Stanley Andre each had 12.

Sean Duggan led BC in tackles with six.

Out: Before the Minutemen took the field for the opener, the home team had an estimated 1,500 UMass students run out of the tunnel and onto the sideline. The students massed along the field, where they remained while the visiting Eagles ran out of the their tunnel and onto the field.

The students then had to vacate their spot -- prime viewing locale though it was -- and find their seats.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Three-and-out: BC QB Murphy stars

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tyler Murphy has played on bigger stages than the one he stepped onto Saturday at Gillette Stadium, when he took his first regular-season snaps as Boston College’s starting quarterback.

He started games under center for the Florida Gators, after all, and when it comes to college football, it doesn’t get much bigger than the SEC.

But that doesn’t mean he was any less concerned about making a good first impression.

And after rushing 13 times for 118 yards and a score and going 17-for-24 passing for 173 yards, a TD and an interception, Murphy made quite the impression.

“I was extremely, extremely proud and excited about Tyler today,” Addazio said. “He managed the game like a veteran, big-time player. He didn’t get rattled on the pick. He just was a leader, was strong, had a great look in his eye. He really managed the game. Even down at the end, he didn’t try to force [a throw, and] he took off with the ball so we could kick that field goal ... That was really intelligent. He came over [and] said ‘Coach, I didn’t want to force it.’ His growth today was great.”

[+] EnlargeTyler Murphy, Peter Angeh
Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY SportsQB Tyler Murphy ran for 118 yards and a touchdown and threw for 173 yards and another TD.

UMass coach Mark Whipple praised Murphy to reporters after the 30-7 BC win dropped his Minutemen to 0-1 on the young season.

“Their quarterback was better than ours,” he said. “He was the player of the game, and we didn’t tackle him very well.”

Murphy’s assessment was a little more reserved.

“I thought I played all right," he said. "Still a lot of room to improve and ways to get better. I have to get better, especially with the short turnaround this Friday.”

Murphy showed himself to be a true dual-threat on Saturday, as he made plays with his legs, including a 31-yard run late in the first quarter to set up the Eagles’ first score (a field goal), and his arm, including a 43-yard TD strike to Josh Bordner to answer UMass’ only TD of the day.

“He’s something else,” linebacker and co-captain Sean Duggan said of Murphy. “We knew that in camp. He’s a hell of a player, a great leader. Only good things to say about Tyler.”

“He ran the ball well, he threw the ball. That’s what a quarterback does,” Addazio said. “They make plays. They put the team on their back. That’s what they do. And you saw a little glimpse of that. It was nice.”

First down: BC is not Delaware, but if Week 1 was any indication the Eagles’ D will have its hands full in Week 2. That’s when Pittsburgh and running back James Conner come to town for a nationally televised Friday night affair.

All Conner, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound sophomore, did against the FCS Fightin’ Blue Hens in Week 1 was run 13 times for 145 yards and four -- count ‘em, four -- touchdowns ... in the first half. That’s almost 20 percent of the 799 yards he ran for as a freshman and fully 50 percent of his eight TDs in his first season.

As a team, the Panthers ran for more than 400 yards and seven scores.

In 2013, BC tied for 57th nationally by allowing opponents only 159.92 yards per game on the ground. The Eagles held UMass to only 55 yards rushing on Saturday.

Second down: Don Brown’s defense picked up where it left off last season, sacking UMass QB Blake Frohnapfel three times (including one credited for an intentional grounding call) and harassing him countless other times.

“We’re not gonna let any quarterback feel comfortable,” Addazio said. “I thought our coaches did a great job, both sides of the ball, considering we really had no film to evaluate them. I mean, no one could evaluate this quarterback. You didn’t know.”

Duggan said the plan was to hit Frohnapfel as often as possible.

“We go in every week, and we really want to get hits,” he said. “The quarterback is kinda the brain of the operation on the offense, [and] when you rattle him it kinda shakes the offense. That’s a goal every single week. We came out, we started fast and were just racking up hits on him. It’s kinda like an attrition thing. If you keep hitting it, it’s gonna crack eventually.”

Frohnapfel finished just 9-for-22 passing for 147 yards and one touchdown. Almost half of his yardage came on UMass’ one scoring play, a 77-yard strike to Tajae Sharpe.

Third down: Josh Bordner’s 43-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter was the first of his career, which has followed an unusual path.

After three seasons as one of the primary backups at QB, Bordner switched to wideout this offseason because Addazio likes his 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame. On Saturday, he started his first career game at the position and finished with four catches for 81 yards and the TD.

Asked how it felt afterward, Bordner didn’t linger on it.

“It was a great play call,” he said. “They had been edging us on some sweeps. It just felt great finally scoring. Helping the team out, it was fun.”

Out: The Eagles lost their all-time leading scorer, place-kicker Nate Freese, to graduation in 2013. So naturally, instead of asking one player to replace Freese’s 324 career points, Addazio called on two in the opener.

Alex Howell got the first chance and hit a 44-yarder to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead. Later in the first half, Joey Launceford got a shot and converted a 28-yarder to make it 6-0 BC. Launceford added three extra points and a late field goal in the second half.

“Where we go, I don’t know,” Addazio said when asked if the kicking load would continue to be split. “We had Joey working on some short-range stuff, Alex on some long-range stuff. ... They’ve got a good attitude and I like where they’re headed.”

Combined, the pair of seniors now have 12 career points. Only 312 to go to match Freese.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

BC's second-half surge cracks UMass

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Watching Boston College play football can, at times, be akin to studying geology.

Just how much pressure, over how much time, does it take for rock to crack?

Against UMass in the season opener at Gillette Stadium on Saturday afternoon, kicking off in near-perfect sunny, 75-degree conditions, it took the Eagles just about a half of withering pressure to begin to crack the Minutemen defense.

“We could start to feel and see they were getting tired,” new BC QB Tyler Murphy said. “Coach always says, 'Let’s get into the fourth quarter and run away.' So we just kept going at them and kept pounding them, and they eventually cracked.”

The Eagles had three times the yards (276 to 84), more than two times as many first downs (13 to five) and held the ball more than twice as long (20:55 to 9:05). Yet at the end of the first half, the BC lead was only 6-0 on a pair of field goals (by two different kickers, Alex Howell and Joey Launceford).

That’s because ill-timed penalties (including three on left tackle Seth Betancourt), a turnover (a Murphy interception by Randall Jette) and a missed field goal to end the half (a 44-yarder by Howell sailed left as time expired) limited their chances.

“If you had to say what was the hardest thing, it was we dominated the game, but we were just one long ball away,” BC coach Steve Addazio said. “But the message at halftime was, ‘Hey, just keep pounding at the rock. The rock’s gonna crack.’ We wanted a big drive to open up the second half. Both things happened. We had the big drive, and the rock cracked.”

[+] EnlargeManuel Asprilla
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY SportsBC managed just two field goals before halftime, but it was enough for a 6-0 lead thanks to great defense by DB Manuel Asprilla (left) & Co.
After ending the first half with a long drive that ended in the missed field goal, BC opened the second half with a 13-play, 75-yard drive capped off by sophomore Myles Willis powering his way over the goal line. Once he cracked the plane, the young back just dropped the ball as if to say, “It’s about time.”

UMass tried to answer on its next drive, but QB Blake Frohnapfel -- who was under pressure seemingly on every snap and often ended plays by picking himself up off the turf -- watched two throws fall incomplete and then got dropped by BC D-lineman Brian Mihalik for a sack. Three-and-out the Minutemen went, a theme of the afternoon.

Then BC took advantage again, Murphy leading his offense on a 10-play, 52-yard drive and then finishing it with a nifty touchdown run of his own. The quarterback faked a handoff, spun away, sprinted for the left pylon and beat three Minutemen defenders to the end zone for his first score as an Eagle.

Suddenly, it was 20-0, and the Eagles were rolling.

“The first half, the defense really stepped up and helped us out,” wideout Josh Bordner said. “In the second half, we got our stuff going, and we were able to capitalize on a few plays.”

The Eagles didn’t flinch, either, when Frohnapfel finally hit one of the long throws he’d been trying all afternoon. Tajae Sharpe came free over the middle, and UMass’ new signal-caller hit him in stride for a 77-yard catch-and-run for a TD.

“That’s our game. It’s gonna be our game,” Addazio said of the big play. “We’re gonna give up some chunks on those things, but we’ve gotta create pressure. We’re just not gonna sit back and play deep zone. We’re gonna continue to grow and get better in our packages. But all in all, one long chunk play. They ran the ball for 50 yards. That’s it. I thought our defense played well.”

Murphy and the offense didn’t waste much time picking up the defense. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Murphy dropped back to pass from the UMass 43 and saw Bordner come open along the right sideline. Murphy hit him with an easy pass, and the former backup QB cruised into the end zone for the hammer blow in BC’s eventual 30-7 win.

How in control was BC of this one? The Eagles didn’t punt until late in the fourth quarter.

True, they turned it over on downs once, but the stat is telling: The visitors dominated play for the vast majority of the afternoon.

BC finished with 338 rushing yards (including 118 by Murphy) and 511 total yards to UMass’ 55 rushing yards and 202 total yards, nearly twice as many plays from scrimmage (88 to 46) and more than twice as much time of possession (42:11 to 17:49).

The perspective on the home sideline was clear.

“We’re a work in progress,” UMass coach Mark Whipple told reporters. “Overall, I’m not happy but I’m not displeased.”

The rock eventually cracked, but taking BC into halftime down just six points is something Whipple and his staff can build on.

Loaded as it is with young players, BC learned something about itself from the win, too.

“We’ve got fight in us,” Bordner said. “Coach said coming in, it’s gonna be a dogfight, and we’re gonna have to play four quarters. It was just that. We never let up. We fought the whole way.”

And the fight’s far from over, as the Eagles will just move on and find a new rock to crack.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

BC RG Harris Williams out with injury

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Boston College starting right guard Harris Williams left the game in the first quarter with a right ankle injury and did not return.

After the game, BC coach Steve Addazio said he might be looking at an extended absence.

"I don’t have every detail right now, but he’s gonna be out for a while," Addazio said. "He’s got an ankle injury."

A fifth-year senior, the 6-foot-3, 299-pound Williams started every game for BC in 2013. He was injured on an 8-yard run by Myles Willis, with the Eagles backed up to their own 2-yard line after a UMass punt.

After being attended to on the field, Williams was helped off by two athletic trainers -- not putting any weight on his right leg.

Williams was taken to the locker room on a cart at the end of the first quarter. After the game, Williams was seen seated outside the BC locker room with crutches by his side and his right ankle wrapped in ace bandages.

Aaron Kramer, a 6-7, 293-pound grad student, replaced Williams.

"That’s a hard deal for us right now," Addazio said. "But I thought Aaron Kramer stepped in and did a great job. And we’ve built some depth on the offensive line. Anytime anybody gets hurt, it’s a problem, but that’s a hit for us obviously.

"But he’ll be back, and he’ll be fine and we’ll get ready to rock ‘n’ roll. He’s got a great attitude."

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Rapid Reaction: BC 30, UMass 7

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Boston College beat in-state foe UMass 30-7 at Gillette Stadium on Saturday to kick off the 2014 season for both teams.

It was a beautiful afternoon for football, 75 degrees and sunny, and more than 30,000 showed up for what was being touted as the “Battle for the Bay State.”

And while it was closer than perhaps expected early (the score just 6-0 in favor of BC at the half), the Eagles used a massive advantage in time of possession to wear down the Minutemen defense and capitalized with two long TD drives in the third quarter to essentially end the battle.

How it happened: At the end of the third quarter, BC held a 314-3 edge in rushing yards. That’s not a typo. Because of lost yardage due to Blake Frohnapfel sacks, the Minutemen had a total of 12 rushes to their credit for just 3 yards.

And even when Frohnapfel hit Tajae Sharpe running open over the middle for a 77-yard TD, Sharpe outrunning BC defensive back Justin Simmons (who tried to club the ball free) and stretching the ball over the goal line, the Eagles had an answer. On the next possession, Tyler Murphy found Josh Bordner running free up the right side and hit him for an easy 43-yard TD.

That made the score 27-7, and kept the Minutemen from building any late momentum.

What it means: The Eagles start the season 1-0, getting solid performances on offense from transfer QB Murphy, sophomore RBs Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse, and on defense from linebacker Josh Keyes and defensive lineman Brian Mihalik (a sack each, to go with multiple pressures).

The Minutemen start Mark Whipple’s second stint 0-1, and despite hanging in during the first half, they couldn't get enough offense going to mount a serious challenge to their ACC opponent.

Up next: BC will host Pittsburgh on Friday night, Sept. 5, at Alumni Stadium (7 p.m. on ESPN). The Panthers hammered Delaware on Saturday, finishing the first half up 42-0 with sophomore running back James Conner tallying 13 carries for 145 yards and four TDs before the break.

UMass will host Colorado on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 6, at Gillette Stadium (3 p.m. on ESPN3). The Buffaloes will be looking to bounce back after they dropped a 31-17 decision to in-state rival Colorado State in their opener this past Friday. Colorado had a 17-7 lead in the third quarter but allowed the Rams to score the last 24 points of the game.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

BC counts on youth, expects roller coaster

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
The list goes on and on.

There are freshmen (of both the redshirt and true varieties) everywhere on the Boston College depth chart.

There's 11 on the offensive two-deep depth chart, eight more on the defensive two-deep and one more (not counting players twice) on the special-teams two-deep for a total of 20. That's nearly a third of the 63 total names listed.

Add in the six sophomores listed and you're up to 41 percent underclassmen.

"We have a lot of youth in our skill positions," sophomore back Myles Willis said. "But you'd much rather have it that way than [have it] flipped and have a young O-line and old skill position players."

The youth at the skill positions doesn't mean there's no experience on BC's sideline -- the Eagles have 15 graduate students on their roster, tied with Alabama for most in the country. All five starters on the offensive line -- including returning starters Andy Gallik, Bobby Vardaro and Harris Williams and new starters Seth Betancourt and Ian Silberman -- will be in their fifth year in 2014.

[+] EnlargeMyles Willis
Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty ImagesWith Andre Williams gone, Myles Willis will be counted on to carry the load in Boston College's running game.
"It's good to have them coming back -- they know what's up," Willis, a likely starter at running back alongside fellow sophomore Tyler Rouse, said of the O-line. "They know how it feels to go win a game on Saturday and know how hard it's gonna [be]."

But the rest of the young Eagles don't -- at least not yet. And for BC to build on its 7-6, bowl-worthy performance in Year 1 of the Steve Addazio era, those untested players will have to ace all their early tests at the college level.

The first of those comes on Saturday, when the Eagles will bus to Foxborough to face in-state foe UMass at Gillette Stadium (3 p.m. ET, ESPN3).

"You sit here and you say to yourself, 'OK, for the future of the program we've gotta get them on the field. We've gotta get 'em going,'" Addazio said of the young players. "But you also know that you lose games when you put the ball on the ground. And that's the dilemma you're in.

"Those guys, they're working really well and they're getting better every day but it'll be the first time in that environment."

BC's Class of 2014 was ranked as high as No. 24 nationally by Recruiting Nation, before landing at No. 42, and includes three four-star prospects and a whopping 19 three-star prospects. Clearly that youth is enticing.

But the fact is young players are prone to making mistakes, and BC's reliance on youth -- which is unusual for the program -- no doubt has cost Addazio shuteye ahead of this season.

"It's an interesting dynamic in Year 2," Addazio said. "We have a lot more talent in here now, so it's exciting. There's a lot of unknowns, but I'm excited about it. I'm not sitting here in front of you whining about it. I just know it's gonna take a little time. That's what this season is going to be."

Just because BC went from 2-10 in 2012 to 7-6 in 2013, appearing in a bowl (losing to Arizona) for the first time in three seasons, doesn't mean all the holes have been patched over and the rebuilding is complete.

Some structural work remains.

"When I took this deal, this job, I knew that this was minimally a three-year, probably more in line closer to [a] five-year [project]," Addazio said. "And nothing has changed. Not from my vantage point. Grabbing seven wins last year didn't solve it all, but we're rolling our sleeves up and building more.

"Year-by-year we will get a little bit more experienced and a little bit more restocked. And then you get to the point where you're in your fourth or fifth year, in there, and you have a nice drawer full of good players that have varied experience levels ... then hopefully you're starting to get back to where you were when you were hitting it."

In the meantime, Addazio likes what he's seen from Willis, Rouse and freshmen Jonathan Hilliman, Marcus Outlow and Richard Wilson in the running back corps. He's high on redshirt freshman Charlie Callinan and true freshmen Thaddius Smith, Gabriel McClary and Sherman Alston at wide receiver. He's been impressed by freshmen defenders Harold Landry, Connor Strachan and Ty Schwab.

"Now, will that equate to production this year?" Addazio asked rhetorically. "Probably, but maybe not to the level you're hoping in Year 1. But the talent's there."

That comment was specifically about the wideouts, but it can apply to the team as a whole. The Eagles return just 16.9 percent of their rushing yards, 0.08 percent of their passing yards, 31.1 percent of their receiving yards and 57.2 percent of their tackles from 2013.

There will be plenty of opportunities for new players to emerge and make up for some of that lost production.

QB Tyler Murphy has never taken a regular-season snap for the Eagles, but he started six games for the Florida Gators. The graduate student transfer says that experience was invaluable, and he's been trying to pass on what he learned to the young players around him.

"It feels good to be the guy, but it comes with a lot of responsibility," said Murphy, whom teammates and coaches alike have praised his leadership ability. "You have to make sure you're ready, individually, and then you also have to make sure everybody else on the offense is ready. That's part of the challenge.

"You can't just focus on your job, you have to make sure everybody else is doing their job, pushing guys and making the best of each rep."

With the first regular-season reps almost here, the Eagles can probably best be described as cautiously optimistic.

"I really like our guys. Every day I go to work and it's fun to coach this football team," Addazio said. "I've got a lot of respect for the guys on this team. They really like ball, they have talent and they want to be good, so what else do you want?

"Now we'll go about the business of putting this together and developing it. You hope you can get out early and get some positive momentum going and that'll go a long way in the development. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. But I mean that's the hope. It would be great for the building of this team. But part of development and part of maturity is those scars, those scars from going through it the hard way."

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Which CFB team is most popular?

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
With Boston College and UMass set to kick off the 2014 college football season against each other on Saturday at Gillette Stadium (3 p.m. ET, ESPN3), there’s one obvious question to answer.

Who is the most popular college football team in Massachusetts?

According to online ticket reseller TicketCity, the answer is Harvard.

That’s right, in TicketCity’s rankings the Crimson top both the Eagles and the Minutemen.

Don’t believe us? Check it out for yourself:

Here’s the formula TicketCity followed to come up with these rankings:

To determine which college football team is the most popular in each state, we factored in four pieces of data for all Division I football teams (FBS and FCS). The first two data points were culled from social media; the number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers that each football team’s official page has. Next, we used Google Tools to pull the monthly average number of searches conducted for each team by users in that team’s state. Lastly, we used the median price of tickets on the secondary market for the upcoming season. As the price of tickets is a strong indicator of demand, we weighed that factor heavier than the other three. We then indexed the data points and ranked the teams accordingly.

Harvard kicks off its season against Holy Cross on Friday, Sept. 19, at Harvard Stadium.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

BC's defense hopes to build on progress

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
So, Manuel Asprilla was asked early on in training camp, entering Year 2 in Don Brown’s defense what’s the biggest difference?

Is it less terminology, more time spent getting into the nitty-gritty? More X’s and O’s, less let’s-see-what-he-knows?

If you spent any time around Boston College during the preseason, the 5-foot-11, 183-pound Everett, Massachusetts, native’s answer might surprise you.

It was the volume level.

“Last year, there was a lot of yelling because we didn’t really understand everything that was going on,” Asprilla said. “But going into this year, I’m understanding my position and the man next to me [is understanding his].”

Now, the Eagles’ defensive coordinator hasn’t lost his voice. Brown can bark with the best of them, and in the portions of practice open to the media he often could be heard well above the fray -- even from the back fields at Shea.

But now that he’s not constantly having to correct his charges, Brown has been able to dial the barking back a bit.

“We’ve thrown a lot at ‘em and the guys have been very responsive,” Brown said after one practice last week. “We’re second year in now, so especially the core guys have a real understanding of what we’re trying to get done.

“We’ve been able to challenge the guys with more scheme. In this game, you’re looking to have as many answers for problems as you can possibly have. I think we’ve been able to ... not only just digest it but execute it to a certain level.”

And while head coach Steve Addazio wasn’t ready to say the BC defense will be ahead of the rebuilt BC offense to open the season, which starts Saturday at Gillette Stadium against in-state rival UMass (3 p.m. ET, ESPN3), he admitted there’s a clear difference from Year 1 to Year 2.

“I feel better about where the defense is right now relative to last year,” Addazio said. “Relative to a year ago, I think we have more veteran players back and I think we’re ahead of where we were. Again, does that always mean that it’s going to equal wins? You hope it does. But I think we’re ahead.”

[+] EnlargeDuggan
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesSean Duggan, who will start at middle linebacker, has blossomed into the field general of BC's defense.
While the Eagles will have to replace their leading tackler (Steele Divitto), second-leading tackler (Kevin Pierre-Louis) and leading sack artist (Kasim Edebali), they return six starters on Brown’s side of the ball in juniors Asprilla, linebacker Steven Daniels, defensive lineman Connor Wujciak, defensive back Bryce Jones, safety Sean Sylvia and graduate student strong safety Dominique Williams.

That’s twice as many starters as BC returns on offense, with only center Andy Gallik, guard Bobby Vardaro and guard Harris Williams back on that side of the ball.

Dominique Williams, voted a captain for 2014 along with Gallik, wideout Josh Bordner and linebacker Sean Duggan, said the defense isn’t focused on who it doesn’t have anymore.

“You can’t really replace those guys,” Williams said early in camp. “Those guys are great guys on and off the field. But one thing they did do was they took the younger guys under their wings, and those guys were able to gain experience on the field.”

Now it’s time for the remaining Eagles to make that experience pay off. The defense was going to look different this season anyway, Brown said, so now it’ll just be more so.

“We change about 40 percent of our pressure stuff on a year-to-year basis,” he said. “And I think there will be a significant difference. It’s really up to new dynamic guys to take place and kind of fill the voids that were left.”

To that end, both Addazio and Brown praised the linebacker corps, and in particular Duggan, who is slated to start at middle linebacker.

“He is the field general on the field for the defense,” Addazio said of Duggan. “Flat-out. He makes every check, every call. It’s unbelievable. He’s got total command. He’s really blossomed. I’d say he’s one of the guys in my opinion who’s really emerged, really blossomed. He might be as big as anybody in that category.”

“Very happy with Sean Duggan at mike,” Brown said. “Very happy with Steven Daniels there, as well. ... [Mike] Strizak’s had a good run. Josh Keyes at [strongside linebacker] has been very dynamic. I’m very excited about his preseason. He’s a key cog for us. And Matt Milano has backed him up and really done a good job as well.

“So maybe the faces will change, I’m just hoping the guys when we hit the game will be able to play at the same level if not higher.”

In Year 1 in Brown’s aggressive, in-your-face scheme -- “We always say solve your problems with aggression, you want to play fast, you want to play on their side of the line,” Duggan said -- the BC defense went from six sacks in 2012 to 36 sacks in 2013. That six-fold increase brought BC from 124th (also known as last) in the nation in 2012 to a tie for 19th in 2013.

Thirty-six sacks -- or three sacks a game in a 12-game schedule -- will be the target again in 2014. But that’s not the only thing the BC D is shooting for.

“I think the main goal is just build upon what we started last year and just grow as a defense,” Duggan said. “We want the stats to reflect how far we’ve come. There’s always statistical goals, but you just want to keep growing as a team and keep getting better.”

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

UMass trolls Doug Flutie and his statue

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
When one thinks of in-state rivalries in college football, Boston College and Massachusetts isn't exactly top of mind. But we can always get behind a little rivalry hijinks during game week.

In advance of Saturday's matchup between the Eagles and Minutemen at Foxborough's Gillette Stadium, someone -- we're just going to guess a UMass supporter -- decided to go to BC's Alumni Stadium and dress up the statue of the school's most famous football alum: 1984 Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie.

Whether they had anything to do with it or not, the UMass program and its mascot were more than happy to point it out to Flutie on Twitter.

Do you think he noticed? Oh, he certainly noticed. And he wasn't too impressed.  

UMass' new QB embracing the challenge

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
The quarterback with the easier-than-it-looks name made a harder-than-it-looks decision, and Mark Whipple is glad he did.

Blake Frohnapfel -- that’s pronounced FROH-nap-ul -- decided to transfer to Massachusetts after a visit in the first week of February. And when a visitor joked that it must’ve been the Amherst-in-winter weather that sold him, the 6-foot-6, 229-pounder joked right back. He was leaving Marshall in the mountains of West Virginia, not exactly Miami Beach.

But, he’s quick to add, just because the weather can be equally dismal in Huntington and Amherst doesn’t mean it was easy to leave the former for the latter.

“I have a lot of close bonds with people at Marshall,” Frohnapfel said.

[+] EnlargeMark Whipple
John Bohn/Getty ImagesUMass head coach Mark Whipple hopes Frohnapfel and a bolstered receiving corps can improve on the team's dismal 2013 passing numbers.
With the Thundering Herd, he got to play alongside his twin brother, Eric (a 6-foot-7 wideout). His sister was a graduate assistant for the athletic department. He had a lot of family in the area. And though he’s graduated, his girlfriend is still in school there.

“Leaving that was hard for me,” he said, “but I knew, kinda at a personal level that it was probably best for me to leave Marshall and help myself branch out and expand and come to the northeast, which is a place I’ve never really been before.”

Whipple has been here before. Shortly after starting his second go-around as the UMass coach (though this is his first season with the program at the FBS level), the 57-year-old set about trying to add talent to a roster that had gone 1-11 in each of the previous two seasons.

When he heard through a coaching connection that Frohnapfel was looking for a place to play (while earning his MBA), Whipple was intrigued. He liked what he heard from people at Marshall about Frohnapfel’s drive and leadership ability, not to mention his skill set.

In two years as a backup, the Stafford, Va., native went 35-for-45 for 386 yards, five TDs and two interceptions. He also rushed 24 times for 164 yards and two TDs, much of the yardage coming on long runs of 45 and 51 yards.

Though his numbers in limited action were good, Frohnapfel knew he wouldn’t see the field with Rakeem Cato -- who ESPN Insider Brock Huard called one of the nation’s 10 best QBs for 2014, and who others have called a dark-horse Heisman candidate -- back for his senior season.

So he put together a list of schools with potential opportunities at QB and a good business program, and UMass happened to be on it. Frohnapfel liked what he saw on his visit -- despite the winter’s chill -- and felt at home, so he committed.

“It’s been great,” he said of the experience so far. “The team unity has been great. They really just accepted me. Everyone was trying to help me out, ‘Hey, Froh, we’re going to do this, come hang out with us.’ Even that first week when I didn’t really know anybody ...

“My roommates have been great, giving me rides to places -- because I don’t know where it is.”

Comments like that and his Twitter handle (@FrostedBlakes15) and bio -- “Isenberg School of Management MBA/MS student. Marshall University grad. Your mom's favorite player.” -- show off his easygoing sense of humor.

“He’s real cool,” wideout Tajae Sharpe said. “He’s kinda a laidback person. He’s very funny, too, once you get to know him ... and he studies the game a lot in his off time, so that’s also a big plus.”

Frohnapfel was named the starter at QB after a camp battle with A.J. Doyle and UMass’ other signal-callers. Though Whipple praised Doyle’s play, as well, he said the newcomer made a few more throws and a few more good decisions.

The Minutemen certainly could use a boost at the position, after Doyle and former QB Mike Wegzyn combined to go 177-for-336 passing for 1,877 yards, nine TDs and 18 interceptions in 2013. UMass ranked No. 113 nationally with 156.4 passing yards per game and tied for No. 120 at 5.5 yards per attempt.

At Marshall, Frohnapfel averaged 7.8 yards per attempt in 2012 and 9.4 yards per attempt in 2013.

The coaching staff hopes Frohnapfel and a bolstered receiving corps that includes Sharpe, redshirt junior Markel Michel and Penn State transfer Alex Kenney, among others, can improve on the team’s passing numbers in 2014.

“We’re working on getting to know [Frohnapfel] better,” Whipple said, “so things he likes to do and feels comfortable with we’ll work those in, some of the things we’re trying to teach him.”

“As soon as I met him, he wanted to get on the field and start throwing the ball, get our timing and everything down like that,” Sharpe said. “As a quarterback you have to be a leader and a communicator, and he’s definitely done a good job with that.”

The biggest adjustment hasn’t been finding his way around Amherst or fitting into the team culture at McGuirk; it's been taking the snap from under center in Whipple’s pro style offense after a career spent mostly in shotgun formations.

So Frohnapfel’s gotten to know center Matt Sparks -- who happens to be one of his three roommates, along with two other offensive linemen -- very well.

“Oh yeah, we’re just in the living room, running through full plays, moving the coaches around,” Frohnapfel said with a laugh. “It’s a good time.”

The Minutemen and their supporters hope that, with Whipple back in charge of the offense and Frohnapfel now under center, the good times are just beginning.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Eagles choose team captains

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
Steve Addazio knew, but he wasn’t talking.

The team had already voted for its 2014 captains, the ballots had been tallied and the winners ascertained, but the Boston College coach wouldn’t reveal the names at his news conference on Monday.

He wasn’t being secretive, he didn’t disagree and wasn’t demanding a recount. He just hadn’t announced it to the team yet, and he wasn’t about to announce it to the public before his players.

All Addazio would say, when pressed for some comment, was “Not shocking, [the team picked] great guys. They got it right.”

Once he finally told the team, at a meeting later Monday, the Eagles announced via Twitter that quarterback-turned-wideout Josh Bordner, linebacker Sean Duggan, center Andy Gallik and defensive back Dominique Williams had been voted BC’s 2014 captains:

Former BC captain Kasim Edebali, now fighting for a spot with the New Orleans Saints, tweeted a message of encouragement after the announcement. BC athletic director Brad Bates sent along his congratulations, and freshman running back Jon Hilliman added a message of his own:

Bordner, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound graduate student, served as backup QB the past three seasons (going 4-for-8 for 61 yards and one interception and rushing nine times for 100 yards and two TDs) before switching to wideout in the offseason. Duggan, a 6-4, 250-pound senior, has 79 tackles to his credit in three years at BC and is slated to be the starting middle linebacker in 2014. Gallik, a 6-3, 304-pound graduate student, is a three-year starter at center with 28 starts to his credit. Williams, a 6-foot, 220-pound graduate student, has 83 tackles in 34 games in his career as a defensive back.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Three-and-out: Addazio missing film

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Boston College coach Steve Addazio held his first regular-season news conference at Alumni Stadium on Monday afternoon, and the talented talker was in midseason form.

Here are a few key takeaways, in three-and-out fashion:

First down: While Addazio, Don Brown and Mark Whipple all go way back, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Eagles know exactly what Whipple’s Minutemen will do when the teams face off in the season opener at Gillette Stadium on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN3).

“I think we don’t have a great feel for what they’re going to do on defense,” Addazio said. “There’s no video to watch. There’s recent Mark Whipple-coached offensive film out there. But [for UMass defensive coordinator] Tom Masella, there’s not recent defensive coordinator film out there. So I’d really feel much more comfortable right now, to tell you the truth, if we were watching like six, seven games of last season -- like they’re watching of us.”

Addazio said the Eagles will have to prepare for anything, which means putting more responsibility on his young team and that, in turn, could mean more potential for mistakes in Week 1.

“So I think it’s a disadvantage and makes me very uncomfortable, to be honest with you,” he said.

Second down: The Eagles made it through training camp mostly intact, though they did suffer one major injury -- losing backup linebacker Tim Joy for the season with a knee injury.

Wideout Bobby Swigert is still working his way back and won’t be ready for Week 1. Running back David Dudeck is likely out as he rehabs a hamstring injury. And wideout Harrison Jackson is still rehabbing a knee injury, but has a chance to play this season.

Wideout Shakim Phillips, linebacker Steven Daniels and defensive back Ty-Meer Brown, all of whom were limited at times in camp, should be ready to go.

“One serious injury is one too many,” Addazio said, “but overall coming out of training camp we’re pretty healthy and that’s a good thing. I hate to even talk about it too much. I mean, goll-y. We’ve still got a couple days.”

Third down: The BC coach expects to use between six and 10 freshmen and redshirt freshmen in the game against UMass.

“That’s a lot. You didn’t make me feel good saying that right there,” Addazio joked. “You’ll see them in the game. Now, starters? A couple. But they’re gonna play.

“A couple of them actually played [last year] ... A guy like Matt Milano, he played a handful of snaps last year. You’re gonna see him a lot. [Truman] Gutapfel played a handful of snaps last year, you’re gonna see him a ton. He’ll become like a starter.”

Other young Eagles to watch out for, in no particular order: Sherman Alston, Gabriel McClary, Thaddius Smith, Jon Hilliman, Kamrin Moore, Ty Schwab, Connor Strachan and John Johnson.

Out: The Eagles posed for the team picture after practice on Monday. Here’s the proof:

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.