Three-and-out: After loss, BC looks to rebound

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
4:19
PM ET
To paraphrase Patriots coach Bill Belichick: It was what it was.

After Boston College’s 17-13 loss to then-No. 24 Clemson, coach Steve Addazio said the game came down to just a few plays. Having watched the tape since, Addazio said in his weekly news conference Monday that was exactly what it was.

“We needed one more [play],” he said, “we didn’t get one more.”

Addazio said if the Eagles made a couple of more plays in their losses this season, they could “easily” be 6-1 right now.

“We’re not, we’re 4-3 and that’s the reality of it,” he said. “And we’ve gotta go get our fifth win. Everyone is real grounded in that -- no one here’s in a pie-in-the-sky deal.”

First down: After the Tigers held BC (4-3, 1-2 ACC) to a season-low 120 yards rushing, sacked quarterback Tyler Murphy four times and piled up a whopping 14 tackles for a loss, Addazio’s analysis was simple.

“I think we could’ve played better up front,” he said. “Realizing they were really good on defense, I still think we could’ve played better up front. And we knew we had to make those plays in the play-action game and make those shots.”

The Eagles’ offense will get a chance to rebound this week, as they go from facing a top-10 defense to Wake Forest’s defense, which is No. 41 overall nationally in total defense (357 yards per game) and No. 58 in scoring defense (24.9 points per game).

Second down: The kicking game has been a frequent problem for BC this season, and while Addazio was happy with the punting and coverage units on Saturday a missed extra point by freshman Mike Knoll proved costly.

“Obviously we missed an extra point,” Addazio said. “The minute I saw it, I said, ‘Oh, boy. This is gonna come back and get us now.’ At the end, we couldn’t try to kick a field goal to get the thing to overtime [down four instead of three]. We’ve had, without a doubt, some kicking issues, up and down. And it’s a problem and we’re trying to deal with it.

“We had such a phenomenal kicker a year ago [in Nate Freese], and now we’re breaking in some young guys. I think they’ll all be good players, but right now they’re young. We’ve gotta be able to hang in there and grow and get through all of it.”

That said, Addazio made it clear he wasn’t blaming the loss entirely on his freshman kicker -- the third place-kicker BC has used this season.

“We had a couple other guys that had some plays that they would’ve liked to have back,” he said. “But they’re tough guys and they go about their business and we love ‘em and we move forward and it’s all part of football. Mike’s a tough guy and I think he gets all that.

“Everybody’s got a job to do. Do your job, work real hard. We all understand that it’s football. You’re a competitor. It doesn’t always go exactly the way you want it to go. You make a mistake mentally, you make a mistake physically -- that’s a part of football. When you’re a competitor, it’s a new week, you’re getting ready to go, hat it up and let’s go.”

Third down: BC’s string of 3:30 p.m. kickoffs will end at three straight this weekend, as the ACC announced its Nov. 1 matchup at Virginia Tech will kick off at 12:30 p.m.

So far, BC is 1-1 in the three-game streak of 3:30 kickoffs.

Out: Finally, here’s a graphic look at BC’s performance after a loss so far this season (courtesy of BC’s Mark Majewski):



Not sure some of those -- “outrushingTD’d” or “outoffensed” -- are words, but you get the point. Now the Eagles will try to continue that trend against the Demon Deacons.

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

Near miss gives BC look into bright future

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
3:25
PM ET
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- The Eagles desperately needed someone to make a play.

Trailing No. 24 Clemson 10-7 in the fourth quarter, someone in maroon and gold finally made one.

And, really, was there any doubt it would be Tyler Murphy?

The Boston College QB found wideout Dan Crimmins running free over the middle and hit him in stride for a 48-yard gain to flip field position.

But that wasn’t the big play. On third-and-10 from the Clemson 36, with the Eagles oh-for-the-game on third down, Murphy took the snap and found himself immediately facing four Tigers pass rushers.

Murphy took off, sprinting away from the four white shirts and on the run found Charlie Callinan open for a 15-yard completion. In previous years, with previous quarterbacks, that play never happens for BC. It’s a sure sack and a devastating blow to the team’s chances.

But Murphy’s on-the-run playmaking moved the chains and, after Myles Willis took an inside handoff and sped down to the 5, gave the Eagles a shot at the end zone.

Jonathan Hilliman got stuffed on first down. Then Murphy rolled right and looked into the end zone. His first read covered, the QB looked to see if he could run for the score but didn’t like his chances.

So the signal-caller stopped on the numbers at the 10-yard line, turned and threw back across his body and the field for a leaping Josh Bordner, who pulled the ball in over a defender and secured it as he fell to the ground. All of a sudden, the Eagles had a lead on the Tigers in the fourth quarter.

[+] EnlargeTyler Murphy
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesTyler Murphy proved elusive against Clemson in helping BC rally in the fourth quarter.
And while college football is a bottom-line business and in the end BC came up short in the 17-13 loss, BC coach Steve Addazio -- very much a bottom-line kind of guy -- took some solace in the silver linings to be found.

“At the end of the game, Tyler straining to throw that ball back to Charlie Callinan [was impressive],” Addazio said Saturday night. “I really do want to appreciate the effort and the great plays that our guys, and their guys, made. I think it’s fair for our fan base and for our students to really embrace the fact that that was a great football game out there tonight.

“They saw this young football program, this young football team battle their tail off. It was exciting, it was exciting to watch and I think it was a night that didn’t go our way, but I think it gives a peek and a window into where we’re going to head.”

The Eagles ultimately fell short, but in previous years they wouldn’t even have been in the position they were -- with a chance to win late against a Top 25 team.

The future appears brighter and brighter, and with the way Murphy has played this season, it’s clear the future includes more dual-threat QB play.

“[Murphy] was able to affect us tonight in a couple of those situations where he was able to beat our guys,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told reporters. “We had him hemmed up two or three times, where it’s a sack or a [tackle for a loss], and the next thing you know it’s a first down or a 5-yard gain. He’s a good player and he made some nice throws again. It’s unfortunate for them they missed a couple of opportunities in the passing game.

“He put the ball on the money tonight and that’s the thing I hadn’t seen him do as much.”

After Clemson drove the length of the field to score the go-ahead TD, Murphy brought the Eagles back into position to score with just over a minute left.

He laid a perfect pass out for Tyler Rouse, but it went through the running back’s hands. He threw a ball away to avoid a sack. He stepped up in the pocket to avoid the rush, then overthrew Shakim Phillips in the end zone. And on fourth down, BC’s final chance, he had Phillips open over the middle but threw it just a little too low for the wideout to come up with.

“Last play of the game, I threw the ball a foot too low to Shak,” Murphy said. “If I pick it up a little bit, it might have been a touchdown to win the game.

“We had some plays we could have made. We just have to find ways to get better so we can make those plays.”

Now the Eagles have to rinse the bitter taste from their mouths and move on, just as they did after dropping a close game to Colorado State late last month. The difference this time is they had two weeks to regroup after losing a late lead to the Rams. They’ll have only one week this time, as they travel to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to play Wake Forest on Saturday.

“I think we’ll be able to turn the switch,” Bordner said. “Having those two weeks I kind of thought was worse because you had to sit on it for two weeks and think about it. But we’ve have to get right at it, starting tomorrow, and get ready for a good game plan and get ready to go down and win another ACC game.”

Addazio has faith that his group will rebound from the missed opportunity.

“We’re going to get to work, take a look at where we could have played better, where we could have coached better, where I could have done a better job to be able to find the inches and the yards in there that would have swung that thing and made a difference,” he said. “But our team’s resolve is strong and united. And this is where teams come into play.

“When you’re a real team, you stick together, you support each other, you cry a little bit together, you take care of each other and your steel resolve gets stronger and you get ready to play the next week.”

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

Three-and-out: BC loses defensive dance

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18
9:21
PM ET
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Steve Addazio told anyone who would listen that his team’s game against No. 24 Clemson was going to be a defensive dance.

He was right.

[+] EnlargeArtavis Scott, Justin Simmons, John Johnson
Fred Kfoury III/Icon SportswireJustin Simmons (27) and BC's defense couldn't come up with enough big plays to tip the scales in the Eagles' favor.
First down: Though the Tigers managed to post nearly 400 yards of total offense (398) and convert 10 of 21 third-down chances, the Eagles held them to only 17 points -- their lowest total of the season.

And if the offense had been able to connect on just one more pass -- Tyler Murphy's throws to Tyler Rouse and Shakim Phillips coming tantalizingly close to providing the game-winning points -- it would’ve been enough to seal a second upset of a Top 25 team this season for BC, which lost 17-13.

“Everybody’s so preoccupied with offense -- you win with defense,” Addazio said. “You win with defense. Especially when you’re playing really good teams. This was gonna be a defensive struggle, and that’s what it was.”

Linebacker Steven Daniels led BC with 11 tackles, matching his career high. But like the rest of his teammates, he was left ruing the plays that weren’t made, the third downs the BC defense allowed Clemson to convert.

“That’s what our defense is about,” Daniels said. “That’s always the plan, to get off the field on third down.”

And though they stood toe-to-toe most of the game with the vaunted Clemson D, the Eagles didn’t do that enough to win Saturday.

Cornerback Justin Simmons had two near-interceptions slip through his fingers, and afterward he was asked if it felt like the same happened to the win.

“It definitely does,” he said. “It leaves that taste in your mouth, just like [the loss to] Colorado State again, you just gotta finish on both sides of the ball -- offense and defense.”

Second down: Clemson true freshman QB Deshaun Watson seized a starting role early in the season and came into the week ranked second nationally in pass efficiency (186.9) after throwing for 1,176 yards, 12 TDs and just two interceptions. Unfortunately for the Tigers, he also entered the week on an operating table after a broken bone in his finger required surgery.

That thrust senior Cole Stoudt back into the lineup, and he took advantage of the opportunity by going 29-for-45 for 285 yards. More than once, Eagles defenders unloaded on Stoudt just after he released a pass -- the QB standing in there to make the play and move the chains.

“Really proud of Cole Stoudt,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told reporters after his team's win. “Gutsy performance. Big, big plays. We had a couple of balls that should have been caught, they didn’t catch, but he had a heck of a night. Really proud of him stepping up, especially on the road.”

[+] EnlargeJosh Bordner, Tony Steward
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesJosh Bordner's touchdown catch put BC on top 13-10, but the Eagles missed the subsequent extra point.
Third down: With a stout defense on each sideline, field position figured to play a big role in Saturday’s outcome. And BC senior punter Alex Howell had a great day, kicking a career-high 10 times for 501 yards.

“It’s great to have a good game, but then again, we lost,” Howell said. “You don’t play football for your own glory, you play to win the game with your teammates. So it kinda takes away from it all. But then it’s something to look forward to next week, because everybody made plays. Everybody on the team made plays, not just me.”

“I thought our special teams did a great job tonight, until we missed an extra point,” Addazio said. “But our coverage was outstanding, our kick return was outstanding, our kick coverage was outstanding, our punt coverage was outstanding. I thought we did some really good things on special teams.”

As for that costly missed extra point, which kept the Eagles from being able to tie with a field goal late, Howell said his message for freshman Mike Knoll -- the Eagles’ third place-kicker this season -- was simple.

“You’ve just gotta keep your head up,” he said. “As a kicker, you have to train yourself mentally. I told him to keep his head up.”

Out: The Clemson defense held BC to its lowest offensive output of the season in a number of categories: rushing yards (120, previous low 142 vs. Pittsburgh), total yards (263, previous low 276 vs. Pitt), plays (56, previous low 62 vs. Pitt) and points (13, previous low 20 vs. Pitt).

The Eagles gave up four sacks and failed to record a rushing TD for the first time this season.

“You have to tip your hat to them,” Murphy said of the Tigers’ D. “That’s a good defense. A lot of those guys, especially up front, will be playing on Sundays. They came with a good game plan and did a good job.”

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

Eagles leave too many plays on the field

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18
8:38
PM ET
video
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- The ball seemed to hang for a moment, perfectly placed, in front of the Boston College receiver.

All that hung in the balance with it? A fifth win, a second upset of a top-25 team and another huge step forward for a program that went 2-10 two years ago.

But Tyler Rouse couldn't haul the ball in through the raindrops, Tyler Murphy misfired three more times, and the Eagles ultimately let a win slip through their fingers Saturday evening, as they fell to No. 24 Clemson 17-13.

“We certainly had an opportunity to win the game,” BC coach Steve Addazio said. “I’m not a real shoulda, coulda, woulda guy. We didn’t. Did we have our opportunities? Yes, we did.”

[+] EnlargeTyler Murphy
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaTyler Murphy and the Eagles had their chances but just didn't execute well enough to score an upset of Clemson.
The Eagles just left too many plays on the field.

When Josh Bordner was running free over the middle and Murphy hit him in the hands with a pass, the wideout needed to bring it in and run it down the field. But he dropped it.

When Clemson QB Cole Stoudt was facing a third-and-10 from the BC 19 late in the second quarter, the Eagles’ pass-rushers needed to do more than pinch the pocket around him and flush him out the middle. They needed to bring him down.

But they didn’t. He ran for the first down and set up an easy field goal to cap the first half for Clemson.

When the Eagles caught the Tigers flat-footed on a trick play, they needed to take full advantage. Wideout Sherman Alston took the handoff and gave it to Bordner on a reverse, only for the converted QB to set his feet and fire downfield for a streaking Charlie Callinan.

But Bordner underthrew the receiver, and what would’ve been a touchdown was instead only a 35-yard gain.

When Murphy and Bordner hooked up for a 6-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter, with the QB rolling right and then throwing back across his body and the field to hit a leaping Bordner in the left side of the end zone, the Eagles needed to hit the point-after attempt to make it a four-point lead at 14-10.

But Mike Knoll -- a freshman who is BC’s third primary place-kicker this season -- missed it.

“They were all over the field,” Bordner said of the missed opportunities. “I know personally I had two. ... There were definitely plays to be made all over the field.”

That’s what makes Saturday’s loss so frustrating and why Addazio said the Eagles’ locker room was “devastated.”

BC had played solid defense and allowed only 17 points. BC had played solid special teams, besides the missed PAT. The Eagles had the Tigers within reach in the fourth quarter.

“We fought. We got it to the fourth quarter [and] we gave ourselves a chance to win, we just couldn’t make a couple of plays that we needed to make to close the game out,” Addazio said. “I knew it wouldn’t be pretty, and it wasn’t. But against a really outstanding football team, our guys fought, stuck together and gave us a great opportunity to win that game.”

But Stoudt led the Tigers on a six-play, 82-yard drive to retake the lead after Murphy hit Bordner, and though Murphy moved the ball down to the Clemson 26 with just over a minute remaining, the Eagles couldn’t even consider a field goal to tie because of the missed PAT.

It was touchdown or nothing, and the Eagles came away with nothing.

In the end, all the miscues added up to too much to overcome.

“I mean, ranked team or anyone else, when you’re that close to a victory and it gets away from you ... it just hurts,” linebacker Steven Daniels said. “They’re a good team, but we had them.”

The Eagles had them, but then they let them slip away.

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

Rapid Reaction: Clemson 17, BC 13

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18
6:54
PM ET
video
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Boston College stayed with No. 24 Clemson throughout and held a lead in the fourth quarter, but the Eagles couldn’t hang on to beat the Tigers, falling 17-13.

How it happened: After a scoreless first quarter in which neither offense could get much of anything going, Clemson struck first.

Taking advantage of a short field after a punt return to the 50, Cole Stoudt hit Mike Williams for 19 yards, Artavis Scott for 15, and then handed it to Wayne Gallman, who scooted 17 yards for a TD.

And though Tyler Murphy and the Eagles tied the game at 7 with a 26-yard strike to Sherman Alston, the Tigers got the ball last and finished the half with a field goal to take a 10-7 lead to the break.

The Tigers massively outgained the Eagles in the first half, turning 40 offensive plays into 205 yards versus 23 offensive plays and just 68 yards.

Needing a play in the worst way, BC got more than one in the fourth from its transfer QB.

Murphy hit Dan Crimmins for a 48-yard gain. Then Murphy eluded a vicious Clemson pass rush and hit Charlie Callinan for a first down to move the chains again. And facing a second-and-goal from the 6, Murphy rolled out and then threw back across his body to a leaping Josh Bordner for a touchdown to give BC the lead 13-10.

But the lead, which brought much joy to the homecoming crowd, was not to last. Clemson answered with a six-play, 82-yard TD drive of its own in just 1:24 to retake the lead for good.

The Eagles had a shot at the end zone with just more than a minute left, but a potential game winner went through Tyler Rouse's hands and the Tigers held on.

What it means: Clemson improves its all-time record to 13-9-2 against Boston College, running its win streak against the Eagles to four games.

Up next: BC travels to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to take on Wake Forest in a 3:30 p.m. ET matchup on Oct. 25. It’s the third straight week the Eagles will kick off at half past three.

The Demon Deacons (2-5, 0-3 ACC) have lost three straight and are coming off a 30-7 loss to Syracuse (3-4, 1-2) in which they scored first and then gave up 30 unanswered points.

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

For BC, every yard counts this weekend

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
1:38
PM ET
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Listening to Boston College coach Steve Addazio this week, one gets the impression that yards -- nevermind points -- may be hard to come by on Saturday.

Make that extremely hard to come by.

No. 24 Clemson is coming to Chestnut Hill for an ACC matchup (3:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU/WatchESPN) boasting a defense that, well, let’s ask the Eagles’ coach for some insight on that unit.

“This is the most dominant defense I’ve seen. Period. I’m just amazed watching them,” Addazio said on Monday. “They’re all back. And [the Clemson staff has] done an unbelievable job of coaching these guys. I think they’re really super talented and really well coached. And that’s not, like, ‘Oh here we go, you’re gonna get the coach talk.’ I’m telling you, that’s what I’m seeing and I’m believing when I watch this film.

“People make plays on them -- they’re broken plays. They’re not really well-executed plays, because it’s really difficult. That’s how completely dominant they are.”

addazio This is the most dominant defense I've seen. Period. I'm just amazed watching them.

-- BC coach Steve Addazio, on Clemson's veteran defensive unit
The Tigers’ D -- led by pass-rusher Vic Beasley and middle linebacker Stephone Anthony -- ranks sixth nationally in total defense (allowing 286 yards a game), second in tackles for loss (52 in six games), 11th in rushing defense (100.5 yards per game), 17th in passing defense (185.5 yards per game) and tied for 16th in sacks (20).

Clemson held defending national champ Florida State to just 13 yards rushing in a 23-17 loss in Week 3. But the Seminoles did manage two rushing touchdowns against Dabo Swinney’s squad, so while the defense is daunting it’s not completely impenetrable.

“It’s an unbelievable opportunity for us to play them at home. But it’s an unbelievable challenge,” Addazio said. “I’m sitting here saying, ‘How are we gonna move the ball against these guys?’ That’s how good they are. ... They’re relentless.”

QB Tyler Murphy, BC’s best offensive weapon through the first six games, said that’s exactly why the Eagles will need to start strong on Saturday.

“We have to come out and let them know that we’re ready to play and we’re here,” Murphy said. “That this is a BC team that’s trying to be different this year and be at the top of the ACC. If we want to do that, we’re gonna have to beat teams like Clemson.

“They’re a very good team and this will be the best defense we face all year. We have a big challenge ahead of us and we’re excited about it. ... we have to be fundamentally sound and make sure we are on top of our assignments.”

BC is fifth nationally in rushing at 315.67 yards per game, and has some experience running the ball against stout defenses already this season. In Week 3, the Eagles ran roughshod over then-No. 9 USC and ended up with 452 yards and a 37-31 upset.

They haven’t forgotten that no one gave them much of a chance to win that game, either.

“I think it does give us a little confidence going in,” sophomore defensive end Kevin Kavalec said of the USC upset. “We don’t have to bow down to anyone. We can play with anybody.”

“We're going to have to play well. This is going to be a physical matchup,” Clemson’s Swinney said on the weekly ACC conference call. “We're going to have to really do a great job of running the football ourselves and taking care of the ball, try to not give those guys short fields and things like that because they absolutely do a great job with their rushing attack, especially with their quarterback playing at the level he's playing at.”

[+] EnlargeCole Stoudt
Tyler Smith/Getty ImagesCole Stoudt is Clemson's signal-caller after an injury sidelined freshman starting QB Deshaun Watson.
Quarterback is a position in some flux for Clemson, as dynamic freshman Deshaun Watson is out for a month after surgery to set a broken bone in his finger. That means Cole Stoudt, who started the first two games before being usurped by Watson, is back under center for the Tigers.

The senior was 20-for-33 for 162 yards and an interception in Clemson’s 23-17 win over Louisville last week.

BC defensive coordinator Don Brown said he doesn’t expect Clemson to change its offensive philosophy much, and the Eagles’ plan won’t change regardless -- they want to stop the run and get after the quarterback.

And while the focus has understandably been on the Top 25 opponent coming to town, the BC defense has put up some impressive numbers of its own this season. The Eagles are a tick behind Clemson in total defense (ranked eighth nationally, 289.8 yards per game) and passing defense (18th, 190 yards per game), and actually come in a tick ahead in rushing D (tied for ninth, 99.83 yards per game) and scoring defense (22nd, 19.3 points per game).

Because BC’s rushing attack helps it dominate in time of possession (averaging 34:44 per game), its defense has averaged the fewest defensive plays per game (58) and sits seventh overall nationally in defensive plays (348).

“We’re not perfect, but we’re doing some nice things as a team,” Brown said. “We play off each other pretty darn well.

“When we tackle well, we’re pretty damn good.”

To come away with a second major upset this season, the Eagles have to find a way to balance their healthy respect for Clemson’s readily apparent talent and their belief in themselves.

“I kinda just have to play my game. And as an offense we gotta just play our game,” Murphy said. “This defense is really good, and if you get caught up in how good they are you’re not gonna play well. Games like this, you really have to focus on yourself and try and make sure you’re doing the right things. That way you have a chance.”

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

Eagles' D-line makes presence felt

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
6:16
PM ET
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- To borrow a famous phrase, it takes all sorts to make up a good defensive line.

Brian Mihalik is hard to miss, but sometimes leaves less of an impression than you’d think. Kevin Kavalec, meanwhile, has no trouble flying beneath the radar even though he’s almost always making a difference when he’s in the game.

And while the spotlight this weekend will be squarely on No. 24 Clemson’s D-line, and probable first-round NFL pick Vic Beasley, the Eagles have more than held their own. Mihalik and Kavalec both have played a role in BC’s defense ranking in the top 25 in multiple categories nationally.

At 6-foot-9, Mihalik understands if people around the Boston College campus initially look at him and think, “He must play basketball.”

“I think they did a little bit at first,” the senior said with a smile after practice at Alumni Stadium on Wednesday, “but I think most people have got it figured out by now.”

It helps that he’s now packing 295 pounds on his long frame, and that the big man wears an equally big number (No. 99).

Eagles defensive coordinator Don Brown has challenged Mihalik to make a proportionate impact on games.

“I was in his grill last week,” Brown said. “When I say in his grill, I mean in a positive way. I said, ‘C’mon, dude, we need a game out of you.’ ... That play he makes in the third quarter? Huge.”

On a second-and-16 for NC State early in the third quarter, BC linebacker Steven Daniels blitzed and had a free lane to Jacoby Brissett. The Wolfpack QB saw Daniels coming and tried to dump the ball off on a screen.

[+] EnlargeBrian Mihalik, Kevin Kavalec, Jacoby Brissett
Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer/MCTBrian Mihalik and Kevin Kavalec worked together to sack North Carolina State quarterback Jacoby Brissett last Saturday.
Somehow, he didn’t see Mihalik standing right there. The super-sized D-lineman showed soft hands, bringing the ball in and rumbling upfield.

“It was a little bit of just being in the right place at the right time,” Mihalik said. “I just happened to be outside ... he kind of threw it where I could go up and get it.”

And once the ball was in his mitts, Mihalik had two thoughts running through his head: “get to the end zone” versus “don’t let go of the ball.”

“A little bit of ‘Don’t fumble,’” he said. “I got some yards and then it got to the point where there wasn’t a whole lot I was going to be able to do, so I just kind of at that point decided to get down.”

The interception was Brissett’s first in almost 200 attempts, and set up a field goal for Mike Knoll (after a nearly hour-long delay because of lightning). It was a flashy play, one that’s hard to miss.

“He was involved with a couple of big plays,” BC coach Steve Addazio said of Mihalik. “For Brian, it’s consistency [that needs to improve].

“It’s consistency in the game, it’s to be able to sustain playing at a high, high, physical, intense level throughout the game. Everybody always sees the big plays, but you want to be able to see every play. To me, this is an every-down game.”

Addazio said he used to harp on one acronym, “E-P-E-D-E-D,” which stands for “every play, every down, every day.”

That’s where Kavalec comes in.

“He’s an everyday, consistent guy right there,” Addazio said of the sophomore. “He brings it every day.”

The 6-foot-2, 256-pound Kavalec doesn’t have big numbers -- he has just 12 tackles in six games this season and didn’t get credited with any stops against NC State. Yet both Addazio and Brown cited Kavalec as a key performer in the 30-14 win in Raleigh.

Addazio said that Kavalec played “relentlessly” and Brown called him “the unheralded guy.”

“He’s one of those guys that’s got a high motor,” Addazio said. “That’s who he is, that’s how he is. He’s like that in everything. He’s like that in the weight room, he’s like that everywhere. Some guys are just wired like that.”

Kavalec is the guy who flushes the QB from the pocket, for his teammates to bring down. And he’s fine with that.

“Individual accolades will come,” he said. “Getting after the quarterback is a team effort. It’s not just [a job for] an individual. If you try to be an individual, you create a seam and the quarterback can get free.

“You never know when your sacks are going to come, but when they come they’ll come.”

When Mehdi Abdesmad was lost for the season with a recurrence of the knee issues that cost him 2013, his teammates on the defensive line knew they’d all be asked to pick up the slack.

“Mehdi obviously was a good player for us,” Mihalik said. “So him going out, it really hurt us. But I think everyone was able to step up and do a good job.”

Mihalik and fellow senior Connor Wujciak, sophomore Truman Gutapfel, freshmen Harold Landry and Noa Merritt, and, of course, Kavalec have all chipped in to help BC rank eighth in the country in total defense (allowing 298.8 yards a game), ninth in rushing defense (99.83), 11th in opponent first downs (15.5), 18th in passing defense (190.0) and 22nd in scoring defense (19.3).

“He’s really stepped up a lot,” Mihalik said of Kavalec. “Even if he doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, you just always know he’s going to be doing his job. He’s been a solid player for us all year.”

Kavalec said it gets him “fired up” to see his teammates bring down the opposing QB, but of course he’s aiming to do more of that himself going forward.

“I feel like I’ve been getting better as the season goes on, getting more confident in my pass rush,” he said. “I’ve just got to start producing more sacks.”

Whether it’s flashy plays like sacks or interceptions or steady efforts that lead to success for others, Mihalik, Kavalec and the BC D-line have to keep contributing regularly if the Eagles are going to continue their winning ways.

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

Christian focused on mindset at BC

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
4:06
PM ET
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- The squeak of sneakers and thunk-thunk-thunk of dribbling basketballs was back in Power Gym on Wednesday, as new BC coach Jim Christian led his Eagles through a workout with the start of the new season drawing nearer every day.

And while there were plenty of X’s and O’s in the three-hour session, which was preceded by film study in the newly renovated locker room, Christian’s focus is on something else these days.

“Until you understand how to compete, you can’t compete,” he told a group of reporters after the practice ended. “That’s kinda what we’re doing. We’re building the right habits, we’re getting our guys to understand how to compete and how hard to play and holding them accountable to the things that we’re teaching them. That’s it.

“That’s what we have to do to change the culture of the program. You have to build it on the right foundation, you have to build it on the right things that we all believe will give us the best chance to win. And then they’ve gotta be held to that standard every day.”

The new coaching staff has installed an “identity board” on a wall in the gym, with roughly a half-dozen categories each on offense and defense. The players’ names go on cards down the middle, and whenever one of them does something that merits recognition -- say, setting a “Wow screen” on offense, or grabbing a “Two-handed rebound” on defense -- he gets a magnetic Eagles logo in the corresponding box by his name.

A few times during Wednesday’s session, the Eagles got called out -- with some salty language thrown in for emphasis -- for failing to meet those new standards.

A player tipped a rebound on a missed shot instead of grabbing it, and Christian stopped play immediately.

“What the f--- is that?” he bellowed in his raspy voice. “Can we grab the ball? If you can tip it, you can grab it.”

Play resumed, but when another player tipped a missed shot instead of grabbing it Christian again stopped play.

“Are we playing volleyball?” Christian asked incredulously. “Are we playing volleyball?”

Then he sent the team to the baseline and made them run sprints.

“It’s not easy to do,” he said of changing the mindset and setting new standards. “Because it’s all new to every one of them. You don’t have anybody that’s been through it the way that we teach it.”

But little by little he’s seen progress from the group, the majority of which -- minus second-leading scorer Ryan Anderson (transferred to Arizona) and leading assist man Joe Rahon (transferred to St. Mary’s) -- is back intact from last season’s dismal 8-24 campaign.

“That’s what I’ve been encouraged by,” Christian said, “getting better each time we get out here.”

Another encouraging sign is the sight of a spry Dennis Clifford. The 7-footer from Bridgewater, Massachusetts, has missed most of the past two seasons with recurring knee issues. But he looked as healthy as he has in years on Wednesday, often beating teammates down the floor in sprints, running the floor well in drills and finishing dunks emphatically.

“I think he’s the most mentally tough guy we’ve got,” Christian said of the big man. “To come back from those injuries is not an easy thing to do. He’s been great. He hasn’t missed a beat. He understands his body and he competes every day. To me, he’s one of the guys that we gain inspiration from because of what he’s gone through and where he’s at now.”

The team will continue to monitor Clifford’s knees, but the Eagles have been happy so far with his health and effort on the court.

The Eagles were down three bodies for Wednesday’s workout, with Darryl Hicks likely out for the season with a torn ACL, and KC Caudill and Lonnie Jackson dealing with some minor injury issues of their own.

When the post-practice questions stayed centered on Clifford for a little too long, Christian was quick to point it out.

“There’s more than one guy here,” he said. “It’s a basketball team. It’s important to have him, but it’s all of these guys. Will Magarity’s gotten much better, Patrick Heckmann’s gotten much better. The guys who are slowly buying in and understanding what’s going on, they’re separating themselves.”

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

Three-and-out: UMass gets win No. 1

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
2:30
PM ET
It took them seven weeks, one week longer than it did in 2013 and three weeks fewer than it did in 2012, but the Minutemen finally got win No. 1 of 2014 with a 40-17 triumph over Kent State on Saturday.

Blake Frohnapfel went 23-for-38 for 286 yards and three TDs, running back Lorenzo Woodley carried the ball 23 times for 160 yards, the special teams blocked a field goal attempt and the defense picked off Colin Reardon and returned it 34 yards for a TD to seal the win.

When it was over, UMass coach Mark Whipple tweeted thanks to the fan base after his first win in his second stint with the Minutemen:

First down: After preaching all season the need to make “one more play,” Whipple finally saw his Minutemen make it happen.

"It was a close game, as they all have been, and our guys just made a couple plays in the fourth quarter,” Whipple said in his weekly MAC call with reporters on Monday. “Kassan Messiah blocked a field goal and that gave us some momentum, and I thought it took the wind out of the sails of Kent State. We ran the ball well in the fourth quarter.

“But [the game] was back and forth like all of them have been. So we were fortunate to get out of there with a win and [we are] just happy about it."

Second down: Now the question is: Can UMass get win No. 2?

"It was nice to see the kids [celebrate the win], much like we got a chance to see Miami’s kids [celebrate] last week,” Whipple said. “We’ll see how we handle it. It made for a good locker room scene and everything else, but it is uncharted territory. This program hasn't won two games in a row in a long time and this group of guys has never done it, so we’ve got a challenge ahead.”

UMass hasn’t won two straight games since Oct. 8-Oct. 15, 2011, when the then-FCS Minutemen beat Central Connecticut State and Delaware in back-to-back weeks.

Third down: A week after wideout Tajae Sharpe was added to the Biletnikoff Award watch list, tight end Jean Sifrin got some watch list love of his own.

Sifrin finished the Kent State game with three catches for 24 yards and a TD, bringing his season totals to 23 catches for 285 yards and four TDs, and on Monday he was added to the John Mackey Award midseason watch list.



The Mackey Award is given annually to the nation’s top tight end, with Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins taking home the honor in 2013.

Frohnapfel tweeted a message to Sharpe and Sifrin on Monday:

Out: Now that they’ve finally won and snapped the nation’s longest losing streak, the Minutemen must be out of Ryan McGee’s “Bottom 10,” right?

Think again.

McGee wrote: “The UMass faithful probably thought their win over Kent State would allow them to run out of the Bottom 10 like the Minutemen scampering over the Old North Bridge. But a win over the then-second-ranked Bottom 10 team can only get you so far. Plus, I've become a little emotionally attached. I can't quit U, Mass.”

Maybe a win Saturday over Eastern Michigan (2-4, 1-1 MAC) at Gillette Stadium (3 p.m. ET on ESPN3) will get UMass off this list.

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

NFL draft experts: Harvard's Zack Hodges almost famous

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
10:00
AM ET
When you’re a star player at Harvard, chances are you’re not exactly anonymous.

But two NFL draft experts believe the exposure level is bound to increase soon for Zachary Bernard Hodges, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound senior defensive end/outside linebacker from Atlanta.

In their “midseason awards” piece for ESPN Insider on Monday, both Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay highlighted Hodges -- who was known as “Zach” for his first three seasons, before this season asking to be called “Zack” -- as a player who’s “almost famous.”

Wrote Kiper: “I think Hodges has a chance to be the first non-FBS player off the board in the 2015 NFL draft. He has great burst in pursuit ... and what I really like is that he creates pressure off the edge but also dips inside and creates problems there. Against Cornell on Saturday, he had 2.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks, and what I love is how he always looks to dislodge the ball in pursuit.”

“I think you've been looking at my notebook, Mel,” McShay wrote. “You're right, though, Hodges is one of the top small-school prospects in the country, and he could come off the board in the third- to fourth-round range. ... Harvard is off to a 4-0 start, and the defense, led by Hodges, is the biggest reason.”

Hodges is Harvard’ all-time leader in sacks, with 22.5 in his career. This season he’s on the radar for a number of national honors and awards, including the Butkus.

The Crimson (4-0, 2-0 Ivy) return to action on Saturday when they host Lafayette (1 p.m. ET on ESPN3).

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

Three-and-out: For BC, it's on to Clemson

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
6:42
PM ET
In case there was any doubt, Steve Addazio made it abundantly clear Monday that he's turned the page from Boston College's 30-14 win over NC State to Saturday's matchup with No. 24 Clemson.

The BC coach raved about the Tigers' defense and said it's "terrific" and “understandable” that no one will give the Eagles a chance to win this weekend.

First down: Of course, Addazio knows you have to appreciate the wins, too.

“It was a big win for us, to get to 4-2, to win an ACC road game -- which are very, very difficult to win," he said in his weekly news conference. "I was thinking back to a year ago, we won one ACC road game and it was on a last-second field goal against Maryland.”

The Eagles finished 1-3 on the road in ACC play last season, losing at Clemson, North Carolina and Syracuse. They have ACC road games left against Wake Forest (Oct. 25), Virginia Tech (Nov. 1) and No. 2 Florida State (Nov. 22).

"Watching the film, we did a lot of really good things," he said, "[and] we have things that we absolutely need to correct and get better at."

Second down: BC QB Tyler Murphy earned himself a shoutout from Jared Shanker and the ESPN ACC crew with his performance Saturday.

Here’s what Shanker had to say, after awarding Murphy his second helmet sticker of the season:


Murphy and Boston College have suffered through ups and downs this season, but he was dominant on the ground and efficient through the air in a 30-14 win at NC State. Murphy had a 47-yard touchdown run in the first half and sealed the win in the fourth quarter with a 26-yard score. It was part of another 100-yard effort rushing to go along with 12-of-19 passing. In six games, Murphy has 711 rushing yards. The Eagles need Murphy at his best if they hope to make it back to a bowl game, as the schedule turns much tougher with road games at Virginia Tech and No. 1 Florida State and home contests against Clemson and Louisville.


Murphy leads all quarterbacks nationally in rushing yards per game (118.50) and is in the top 20 nationally in a handful of rushing categories, regardless of position, including yards per game (No. 16), total yards (711, No. 17), average yards per rush (8.71, No. 11) and rushing TDs (eight, tied for No. 12).

The QB’s ground game will no doubt be important this week, too, but Addazio pledged judicious use of his signal-caller because of ferocity of Clemson’s defense.

“Yes, we’ll need his legs and his mobility,” Addazio said, “but we gotta be careful because there’ll be a price to pay there.”

Third down: The BC D got some love this week, too.

Brian Mihalik was named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week after he picked off Jacoby Brissett early in the third quarter, returning it to the Wolfpack 10-yard line and setting up a Mike Knoll field goal. It was the first career interception for the 6-foot-9, 295-pound senior. He also had a sack in the game, pushing his season total to 3.5.

Josh Keyes continued his strong season, leading BC with 10 tackles on the afternoon and recording his team-leading fourth sack in the fourth quarter. He was named ACC Co-Linebacker of the Week, his second ACC honor of the season.

Overall, the BC D held NC State to just 43 rushing yards and 217 total yards and didn’t allow a Wolfpack score after the first quarter.

Out: The ACC announced Monday that BC’s game at Wake Forest on Oct. 25 will be a 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff, and will be televised by the conference’s regional sports network partners.

That makes it three straight 3:30 kickoffs for the Eagles.

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

BC doesn't let NC State get away

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
10:27
PM ET
Already facing a formidable foe in a hostile environment for the first time this season, the Boston College Eagles also found themselves fending off forces of nature.

Neither NC State nor Mother Nature could stop BC on Saturday, as Tyler Murphy and the Eagles waited out a 57-minute rain-and-lightning delay and ran pat the Wolfpack 30-14.

"Obviously, a really terrific stand here. A great win. Going on the road in the ACC is very difficult," BC coach Steve Addazio told reporters in Raleigh, according to a release. "Coming into someone’s home turf ... I thought our kids played really well. I was really proud of how hard, how physical and how tough we played.

"We weren’t clean at all times, but we were tough and we were resilient."

The Eagles ran for more than 300 yards for the fourth time this season, which is impressive. That their total of 310 fell short of their season average of 316.8 per game is even more so.

"They are just so big up front, they have five fifth-year seniors and we have 15 freshmen on defense," NC State coach Dave Doeren said. "It’s hard for us to create that situation in practice and it's frustrating for all of us.”

The Eagles clearly were frustrated during the bye and the week of practice that preceded Saturday's matchup. They felt like they let a winnable game slip away against Colorado State.

So they were determined not to let this one go, withstanding two first-quarter Wolfpack TDs and then scoring 16 unanswered points to seize their first ACC win and improve to 4-2. They never trailed in the game.

The win means the young Eagles are just two wins from achieving one of their preseason goals -- becoming bowl eligible -- with six games to play.

And it means that instead of shaking their heads over what could have been, as they were after losing to Colorado State, they will go into next weekend’s home matchup against No. 24 Clemson with a little positive momentum.

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

UMass hopes for breakthrough weekend

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
6:17
PM ET
One more play.

Those three words have become something of a refrain for UMass coach Mark Whipple, this idea that the Minutemen are this close to getting that first win.

“We’ve gotta make one more play, once again,” Whipple said in his weekly conference call on Monday. “So we’ve improved weekly and we need to take another step this week as we get ready for a really, really impressive Kent State team."

The Minutemen may be 0-for-6 so far this season, but in four of the six they were within a touchdown of a win -- losing by three to Colorado and Vanderbilt, by five to Bowling Green and by one to Miami (Ohio).

They had a chance to make that one final play against the RedHawks, with quarterback Blake Frohnapfel getting the ball with three seconds to go and UMass six yards from the end zone and a win. But Shadrach Abrokwah was stopped short of the goal line and Miami snapped its 21-game losing streak, longest in the country.

Now it’s UMass that owns that dubious mark, having dropped its past 12 games dating back to last season. Southern Methodist has the next-longest losing streak, at seven games.

“There was a lot of good things, a lot more good than bad,” Whipple said of the loss to Miami. “We’re just looking to make that one play. Time’s run out on us. We need a few more seconds on the clock."

They’ll have another 60 minutes to try to get win No. 1 on Saturday, when they take on Kent State in Dix Stadium in Ohio (2 p.m. ET on ESPN3).

And though the Golden Flashes also enter the game winless, Whipple doesn’t believe that is reflective of their talent level.

“Kent State really, really played well this last week and they have played well in all their games,” he said. “We don't have the guys on defense that Northern Illinois has got and [the Golden Flashes had] a chance to win the game at the end.”

Kent State lost that game 17-14 after a late drive stalled and a 56-yard field goal attempt fell short. The 14 points the Flashes put up equals their high for the season, from the opener against Ohio.

But when you’re going up against defenses like those of Ohio State, Virginia and Northern Illinois, offense is going to be hard to come by.

Passing yardage may be tough for the Minutemen to come by this weekend, as Kent State ranks fifth in the MAC in passing defense by allowing only 246.2 yards a game through the air.

Of course, that won’t stop UMass from putting the ball in Frohnapfel’s hands and asking the QB to make plays.

"He gives us a chance to win every week,” Whipple said of his signal-caller. “He has thrown for almost 1,000 yards in two games and nine touchdowns and [he still comes] in and [asks], ‘What else do I need? What else can I do to help this team win?’

“I don't know if I’ve had anybody throw for that many touchdowns in two weeks and [then] just [be] looking for a way to get the team a win.”

If that attitude rubs off on Frohnapfel’s teammates, soon UMass may not need its “one more play” mantra anymore.

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

Young Eagles brace for first big road test

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
12:22
PM ET
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Their eyes may be open wide. Their palms may get a little sweaty. Their hearts may race.

All of those things may happen when Boston College’s young players walk into a packed Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina, to warm up for their first true road game of the season against NC State on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3).

“I expect that, especially during warm-ups and stuff like that,” veteran QB Tyler Murphy said after practice in Alumni Stadium on Wednesday. “But when we regroup in the locker room [pregame], I feel like everybody will be focused. After you see [a hostile environment] once, you forget about it and you’re ready to go.”

At least, that’s the hope.

“We gotta go on the road for the first time this season with a young group,” BC coach Steve Addazio said, “and handle the crowd, the crowd noise and just being on the road, being out of the comfort of your home stadium. Playing against a really good football team with a dynamic quarterback.

[+] EnlargeNorth Carolina State fans
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeThe Eagles have been preparing for a loud and crazy crowd at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina. "We're looking forward to it," said coach Steve Addazio.
“Our challenges are there for us, but we’re looking forward to it and we’re excited to play on Saturday.”

When you’re dealing with young players, it’s one thing to have an idea of how they will react when put in novel situations. It’s another thing to actually see it happen.

The Eagles have been practicing with piped-in crowd noise this week, in an attempt to acclimate themselves to the decibel levels they may encounter on the road. They’ve been working on silent cadences and hand signals, in case it’s too loud to hear much on the field this weekend.

“Coach Addazio has really been helping the young guys, just telling them what they’re in store for,” linebacker Steven Daniels said. “There’s no dodging it, we’re gonna have to go in there and we’re gonna have to do what we do best.”

That means the game plan will stay the same: run the ball, stop the run, and limit turnovers.

NC State has struggled to stop the run, giving up an average of 171.0 yards per game through the first six weeks. In 2013, the Eagles -- led by Heisman finalist Andre Williams -- racked up a whopping 420 yards rushing against the Wolfpack.

And through its first five games, BC is averaging 316.80 yards a game -- sixth in the country.

“Yeah, that’s something we’re striving for, especially being on the road with a young team -- we have to get the run game going,” Murphy said. “We have to really control the tempo and keep the crowd out of it, so we can have momentum on our side.”

[+] EnlargeJacoby Brissett
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesThe key to beating the Wolfpack? Stop quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
Like the Eagles with Murphy, the Wolfpack very much go as QB Jacoby Brissett goes.

“They’re a good team and the quarterback is a really good player,” Daniels said. “He really gets them going and keeps them going. When they’re successful, it’s behind him.”

Though the 6-foot-4, 231-pound signal-caller is just No. 51 nationally with 233.2 passing yards a game, Brissett has been very good with the ball. He has 13 TDs and just one interception, and hasn’t thrown a pick in 174 consecutive passes -- the eighth longest such streak in ACC history.

So the defense’s task is simple: stop Brissett.

“He’s a big guy, he breaks tackles and he keeps plays going for a while,” Daniels said. “We’ve just gotta get to him and take him down.”

If the Eagles can do that, they’ll also limit the impact of the Wolfpack’s fans on the game.

Offensive lineman Ian Silberman, like Murphy a transfer from Florida, has played in his share of hostile environments. He believes his young teammates can handle what they’ll find at NC State.

“I think these young guys are ready,” he said. “We have a good group of freshmen and sophomores, those guys are a lot more mature than what you would think. These coaches have done a great job of preparing these freshmen for that situation.”

The 6-foot-5, 294-pounder has simple advice for his young teammates.

“It’s gonna be hectic,” he said, “but as long as you focus in on what you have to do and you try to help out the next man as much as you can [it’s gonna be OK].”

Though still a young player himself, sophomore Myles Willis has already checked off the box next to “first road game.” His came at USC in Week 3 last season.

“I wasn’t even nervous going to USC,” the running back said. “I was just excited for the opportunity. That’s what you dream about playing college football, going on the road, playing in crazy crowds, the student section cussing you out or whatever, that’s what you dream about, that’s what you want.

“I think the mindset [is] we’re excited. There’s gonna be some bumps, as always playing on the road with a young team. But I feel like for the most part, no one’s really nervous. We’re excited about the opportunity.”

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

This game is special for BC's Murphy

October, 9, 2014
Oct 9
3:58
PM ET
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- The date’s been circled for a while now.

Since the schedule came out in January, Tyler Murphy has been looking forward to Oct. 11.

It’s not a homecoming, as the Connecticut native is closer to home in Alumni Stadium than he’ll be in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Saturday.

It’s not a revenge game, as Murphy’s never played against N.C. State before.

It’s a reunion of sorts, with Murphy’s Eagles taking on fellow former Florida quarterback Jacoby Brissett’s Wolfpack.

“When the schedules came out and we saw that we were gonna be playing each other, we both kinda texted each other and laughed and joked about it,” Murphy said after practice Wednesday in Chestnut Hill. “We’ve both been looking forward to this. Neither of us wants to lose.

“It’s almost like playing your brother in one-on-one basketball -- you don’t want to lose to your brother. So this is a big game for both of us, as well as our programs and teams.”

Both BC (3-2, 0-1 ACC) and NC State (4-2, 0-2 ACC) are looking for a first conference win.

What are the chances that two former teammates, who happen to play the same position, would end up facing off against each other in a new league years later?

“I don't know. It sounds kind of unique to me. Really don't care much about it, to be honest with you,” BC coach Steve Addazio said with a laugh, “but it is kind of unique.”

[+] EnlargeTyler Murphy
Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports"It's almost like playing your brother in one-on-one basketball -- you don't want to lose to your brother," Murphy said about facing his friend Brissett.
Addazio didn’t overlap with Brissett at Florida, but he’s heard good things about him and likes what he’s seen of him on tape.

“He and Tyler are both doing very, very well for their respective teams,” Addazio said. “It's nice to see two kids having success and given the fact that they weren't able to get on the field as much as they probably would have liked to at their previous place.”

The two became friends during their shared time on the Florida sideline in 2011 and 2012, through sessions on the practice field, in the weight room and in the quarterbacks’ meeting room.

“When his time came and he felt like it was time for him to go, I supported him through that,” Murphy said. “And then after I graduated he supported me through my time [transferring], so having a friend like that is always helpful.”

They’ve stayed in touch since, talking before most games and often checking in after, too. If Murphy sees something in his friend’s game that needs improving, he doesn’t hesitate to point it out. And Brissett does the same.

They’ll also talk about what they saw on TV and how their families are doing. You know, typical friend stuff.

But with the face-off drawing near, they’ll take a break.

“This week we obviously won’t do much talking,” Murphy said with a laugh, “because we’re playing each other, and we both want to win. But we’ll definitely talk after the game and share thoughts and stuff like that.

“He’s a competitor and I’m a competitor, and you have two programs both on the uprise and trying to make a name for themselves and be in the top part of the ACC this year. So this is a big game for us and a big game for them.”

Offensive lineman Ian Silberman played with both QBs at Florida, and shared a scouting report on NC State’s starter.

[+] EnlargeVic Beasley
Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer/Getty ImagesBrissett has thrown for 1,399 yards and 13 TDs with just one interception through six games this season.
“He’s a great guy,” Silberman said of Brissett. “A lot of people compare him to Jameis Winston, just with his build and how he plays. And I agree. They have similar stature, they’re tough guys to bring down. They’re guys that are gonna compete every single play. That’s how Jacoby is, he competes every play.”

The chance to compete is what it’s all about for this QB pair. It’s why Brissett decided to leave the Swamp after 2012 to transfer to NC State and sit out 2013, and why Murphy decided to take his talents to the Heights after graduating in 2013.

So far, those decisions have paid off.

Brissett has thrown for 1,399 yards and 13 TDs with just one interception through six games this season. And while Murphy has thrown for only 660 yards and has twice as many INTs (six) and TDs (three), the BC quarterback also has rushed 71 times for 579 yards and six scores.

Most importantly, though, both are healthy and getting a chance to show they can lead a team to the win column.

“He’s happy and he really believes in his team, that they can be good and have a great season,” Murphy said of Brissett. “I feel the same exact way. I feel like we’ve played some good ball and we can compete with anyone, we can have a really good season -- we just have to go out and do it each and every week.

“We both try to make sure to stay level-headed and stay humble and keep working hard, because you might play well one week but that only counts as one week, so you have to come out and play well each and every week and be the same guy.”

Even when the other guy under center happens to be like a brother to you.

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

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