Hockey East: Providence the favorite

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2
11:57
AM ET
The past two years, the Providence Friars have been knocking on the door of Hockey East's upper echelons. This year, league coaches expect Nate Leaman's Friars to break through, establishing Providence as the prohibitive favorite for the 2014-15 season Hockey East crown.

Hot on the Friars' heels is perennial powerhouse Boston College, the Irish of Notre Dame, the resurgent Northeastern Huskies, the New Hampshire Wildcats, and Dave Quinn's Boston University Terriers, who expect to bounce back from a disastrous 2013-14 campaign. The UMass-Lowell River Hawks, who captured their second straight Hockey East championship last March, was pegged for seventh place.

The following is a quick glimpse of the Hockey East squads, and their predicted finish according to the league's pre-season coaches poll (teams are listed with their 2013-14 records):

Providence (22-11-6; 11-7-2 HE)
This year, the Friars will find out what life is like wearing the bulls-eye, as seven of the league's 12 coaches deemed Providence the team to beat. Junior goalkeeper John Gillies (a Calgary draft choice) is still one of the league's best, though his play tailed off slightly last year (2.29 goals-against average, .921 save percentage) after a sensational freshman campaign. Gillies won't have stalwart defensemen Steve Shamanski (a plus 10 on the season) and Kevin Hart, but the only forward to graduate was Derek Army. The team's top five scorers return, led by Ross Mauermann (19 goals, 17 assists, 36 points), Nick Saracino (10-18-28) and Calgary first-round draft pick Mark Jankowski (13-12-25). Top-scoring D-man John Gilmour (5-13-18) also returns to provide a threat from the blue line.

Boston College (28-8-4; 16-2-2 HE)
The Eagles lost a ton of firepower from last year's Frozen Four squad, which got bounced from the NCAAs by eventual champ Union. BC's top four scorers -- Hobey Baker winner Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes, Bill Arnold and Patrick Brown -- have moved on, taking their 92 goals with them. But you won't find many outside of Chestnut Hill penning sympathy cards to coach Jerry York, who is college hockey's all-time win leader with 963 victories. Plus, the Eagles are expected to be very strong on the defensive side of the puck, with sophomore goalie Thatcher Demko (2.24, .919) emerging as the true starter, and a muscular-yet-mobile D-corps led by Michael Matheson, Scott Savage, Ian McCoshen and newcomer Noah Hanifin of Norwood, Mass. Up front, York will want to see continued improvement from Ryan Fitzgerald (13-16-29), Austin Cangelosi (10-16-26), Adam Gilmour (7-13-20), and bruising freshmen Adam Sanford (6-foot-4, 196 pounds) and Alex Tuch (6-foot-4, 220 pounds). Apparently, not even the loss of highly touted recruit Sonny Milano to the Ontario Hockey League can dull BC's outlook.

Notre Dame (23-15-2; 9-9-2 HE)
Stud goaltender Steven Summerhays is gone, as are the three defensemen who played all 40 games last year (Stephen Johns, Shayne Taker and Kevin Lind). Top scorers T.J. Tynan (38 points) and Bryan Rust (33 points) have graduated as well. In short, a perfect scenario for coach Jeff Jackson to work a little Irish magic. Last year, their first in the league, Notre Dame managed only a .500 record in Hockey East, but then promptly knocked the top-seeded BC Eagles out of the playoffs. Jackson will look to Vince Hinostroza (8-24-32), Mario Lucia (16-15-31) and Sam Herr (14-13-27) to pick up the offensive slack, and Robbie Russo (15 points in only 21 games), Andy Ryan and Eric Johnson to anchor the defense. Goaltending is a big question mark, with sophomore Chad Katunar the only returning netminder to see action last year. Jackson, a former goaltender, will obviously take note.

Northeastern (19-14-4; 10-8-2 HE)
Will the Huskies be able to build on their stunning turnaround season last year? The answer may depend on senior goalie Clay Witt (2.37, .932), who gave Jim Madigan's squad a chance to win every time he took the ice. But he'll have plenty of help. Eight of NU's top nine scoring forwards return, led by Kevin Roy (19-27-46) and super sophomores Mike Szmatula (39 points), John Stevens (22 points) and Dalen Hedges (22 points). Sharp-shooting D-men Colton Saucerman (23 points) and Matt Benning (11 points) also return. Now, Madigan needs to capitalize on the momentum his Huskies brought to Huntington Avenue last year. An elusive Beanpot crown in February could launch a legitimate title run.

New Hampshire (22-18-1; 11-9-0 HE)
The Wildcats' NCAA bid was dashed when UNH lost the Hockey East title game to UMass-Lowell last spring, and coach Dick Umile will want to make certain his troops secure an invite based on their regular-season record. To do that, Umile will need to make up for the loss of top scorers Kevin Goumas (19-33-52) and Nick Sorkin (20-21-41), and the spine of his defense (Eric Knodel, Justin Agosta, and Trevor van Riemsdyk). Translation? Senior goaltender Casey DeSmith (2.40, .920) will need to stand on his head early as the Wildcats get accustomed to their new line-up.

Boston University (10-21-4; 5-12-3 HE)
Coach Dave Quinn will undoubtedly prefer to look back on the 2013-14 season, his first leading the BU bench, as an aberration. The Terriers struggled to find any consistency, and the result was an abysmal record, both overall and in the league. This season, Quinn is bringing nine freshmen into the fold, so the team is young. On the plus side of the ledger, BU returns its eight top-scoring forwards, led by Robbie Baillargeon (10-17-27), Danny O'Regan (10-12-22) and senior Cason Hohmann (9-10-19). But those stats belie just how anemic the Terriers' offense was last year (tied for eighth in the league). The defense was even worse, ranking 10th in Hockey East. Towering junior netminder Matt O'Connor (2.89, .920) is the prohibitive starter, with classmate Sean Maguire unenrolled for the fall semester and his future at the school in question. Big things are expected of defensemen Ahti Oksanen and Matt Grzelcyk, and freshman forward Jack Eichel of Chelmsford, Mass., who is a member of the U.S. National Development Team and considered one of the top recruits in the nation.

UMass-Lowell (26-11-4; 11-6-3 Hockey East)
The River Hawks managed a single first-place vote in the coaches' poll, which is probably a testament to the accomplishments of coach Norm Bazin in his three years at the helm (78-35-7, three straight NCAA invitations). But it's clear that most voters felt the loss of outstanding goaltenders Connor Hellebuyck and Doug Carr will be tough to overcome. Adam Chapie (12-11-23) is the only forward among the top four scorers coming back, but the River Hawks have always gotten it done by committee under Bazin. Sturdy D-men Zach Kamrass, Michael Kapla and Jake Suter are also back. In goal, UMass transfer Kevin Boyle may have the inside edge, but freshmen Jeff Smith and Olli Kalkaja of Finland will compete. "Regardless of where we have been picked in the preseason poll, UMass-Lowell will be there in the end," said Bazin. "We look forward to the start of league play on October 10 at the Tsongas Center." That game, against Boston College, will go a long way in providing Bazin with a measuring stick of his team.

Vermont (20-15-3; 10-10-0 HE)
Coach Kevin Sneddon has a luxury in goal, with Brody Hoffman and Mike Santaguida both suiting up for the Catamounts (ranked fourth in league defense last year). Replacing the lost production of Chris McCarthy, Connor Brickley and H.T. Lenz will be the greater challenge in Burlington.

Maine (16-15-4; 9-8-3 HE)
The Black Bears had a nice bounce-back season under first-year coach Red Gendron, going from 11-19-8 overall to 16-15-4. Gendron needs to find a goaltender, with Martin Ouellette and Dan Sullivan gone, but the Black Bears bring back seven of their top nine scoring forwards, and only lose solid defenseman Brice O'Connor.

Merrimack (8-22-3; 3-15-2 HE)
Though leading scorer Mike Collins is out the door, the next seven scorers will be back on the Warrior bench. But they'll need to score more often to improve on last year's offense, which ranked dead last in Hockey East. A bigger obstacle for coach Mark Dennehey will be replacing blue-line leaders Brendan Ellis and Jordan Heywood. Senior goaltender Rasmus Tirronen of Finland must be sharp, or freshman Colin Delia could compete for time between the pipes.

Massachusetts (8-22-4; 4-13-3 HE)
Coach John Micheletto has to hope that the third season is the charm. But it won't help the UMass cause that top recruit Jake Wahlin bailed last spring, and the Minutemen lost three of their top four scoring forwards, and top two scoring defensemen. The performance of senior goaltender Steve Mastalerz is likely to be a difference maker. An early-season home tilt against the BU Terriers on Oct. 10 could be revealing.

Connecticut (18-14-4; 15-9-3 Atlantic Hockey)Welcome home, Mike Cavanuagh. Former longtime Boston College assistant Cavanaugh returns to Hockey East in his second year at the helm of the Huskies, the league's newest entry. The Huskies tied for third in Atlantic Hockey last year, but lost their top three forwards and feisty netminder Matt Grogan.

Eagles focus on fundamentals on bye week

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
4:05
PM ET
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Steve Addazio has a knack for cutting to the core of an issue.

“We’ve just gotta keep getting better, keep developing,” he said after a rainy midweek practice at Alumni Stadium. “That’s all there is to it.”

[+] EnlargeSteve Addazio
Anthony Nesmith/CSM/AP ImagesFor Steve Addazio's Eagles, the bye week represents a chance to rest up, get healthy and hopefully get better.
After a disappointing 24-21 loss to Colorado State closed out the nonconference schedule, the Boston College coach had his team focused on fundamentals during the bye week.

“The goal for the bye week is to obviously get healthy and get everybody rested up,” strong safety Dominique Williams said, “but at the same time get mentally focused and get ready to take on North Carolina State.”

As for his unit, the defensive co-captain said there’s a lot of work to do. Especially after some shaky tackling helped keep Colorado State drives alive and a broken play late on a fourth-and-10 for the Rams resulted in the game-winning touchdown.

“We have a lot of errors that we have to fix on defense,” Williams said. “Right now, we’ve done a good job tackling, but I think you can always get better. So that’s one thing we’re trying to get better at, is tackling.”

Free safety Justin Simmons leads the team in tackles with 29, but he acknowledged there’s always room for improvement.

“We’re gonna work on that every day,” he said. “The defensive backs know that regardless of what happens through the defensive line and linebackers, we have to get the guy [with the ball] on the ground. A lot of those missed tackles come from us, and it’s gonna stop with us.”

The loss dropped the Eagles to 3-2 (0-1 ACC) on the season, but they’re still in position to achieve more of their season-long goals. They need three more wins to become bowl-eligible for a second straight year, and they’ll have to get them against conference opponents.

ACC play kicks off for the Eagles in earnest with a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina, to play North Carolina State on Oct. 11 (3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3).

“Yeah, it’s tough. It’s definitely something that’s gonna motivate us, I would say, for the rest of this week,” Simmons said of the letdown against Colorado State. “But with that said, we do have to throw it behind us. It’s over now. We’ve just gotta learn, watch tape, get ready and get prepared for NC State so it doesn’t happen again.”

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 drops another shootout

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
4:04
PM ET
Let’s start with the positives, shall we Mark Whipple?

"The atmosphere was really good and the administration did a great job of promoting the homecoming game,” the UMass coach said during his weekly MAC call with reporters on Monday. “The weather was warm.”

But the Minutemen lost a 47-42 shootout with Bowling Green and fell to 0-5 (0-1 MAC) on the season.

First down: In what’s become something of a common refrain for Whipple this season, the coach said the game came down to a few plays that didn’t go UMass’ way.

“I thought both teams played really, really hard and [Bowling Green] coach Dino [Babers] did a really good job with their kids,” he said. “They did a nice job in the fourth quarter. We had gone in with a lead at home and just couldn't secure it. Turned the ball over twice, they took it away.

“They knew how to make the play when they needed to and we didn’t.”

A fumble with 1:46 to play cost the Minutemen their last chance, and ensured they would come up short yet again.

Second down: QB Blake Frohnapfel had himself a banner day in his first game at McGuirk Stadium -- UMass’ first true home game since 2012.

The Marshall transfer set a school record with 589 passing yards and tied a school record with five touchdown passes, finishing 39-for-61 for 589 yards, five TDs and one interception. Through five games, he’s at 99-for-188 for 1,471 yards, 11 TDs and three INTs.

After his outburst against Bowling Green, Frohnapfel is No. 21 nationally with 294.2 passing yards per game.

"He hung in there and made a lot of really good throws,” Whipple said of his QB. “He gives us a chance to win. He is doing what I thought he would do.

“I just think his confidence level has grown. We had a good talk after [the loss to] Penn State. He’s got great ability, the guys are running their routes better, we are getting in synch a little bit more and I think he can continue to improve. I think he’ll get better, certainly, with practice and I think our offense will get better when we can form some kind of running game."

While UMass is tied for No. 26 nationally with 304.8 yards per game passing, it is No. 124 nationally in rushing offense with 60 yards per game on the ground. Only four teams have rushed for fewer yards per game than the Minutemen.

Third down: Something’s gotta give this weekend.

When UMass travels to Miami, Ohio, for its next game one of the two teams will have to win. Both teams enter the game 0-5, with the Redhawks coming off a 35-27 loss at Buffalo to open their MAC slate.

Stopping the pass will be important on Saturday (2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3), as Miami checks in at No. 43 nationally in passing offense with 268.4 yards per game.

Out: As if to add injury to insult, a rented video board collapsed during the game Saturday at McGuirk.

No one was injured, and the board will be replaced. But, c’mon. If a scoreboard suddenly collapsing during the first game on campus in three mostly dismal seasons as an FBS program isn’t the most fitting symbol for the rough transition to date, what is?

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 stumbles into bye

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
5:51
PM ET
After his third straight game with two rushing TDs, freshman Jon Hilliman gets the last word on BC’s 24-21 loss to Colorado State:

The Eagles will be off this weekend, with their first true road game on Oct. 11 at NC State (3:30 p.m. ET kickoff).

First down: With the nonconference slate wrapped up for 2014, let’s take this chance to reset the chains on BC’s goals for this season.

Goals:
  • Win opener: check
  • Become bowl eligible: incomplete, but halfway there with three wins in five games
  • Make it to Charlotte for ACC title game: incomplete; Eagles 0-1 in ACC play to date


The second goal seems more realistic than the third, especially coming off Saturday’s dud. The Eagles (3-2, 0-1 ACC) just need three more wins to qualify for a bowl -- ESPN ACC reporter David Hale has BC playing in the BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl as of Monday -- and have seven games remaining.

That means the Eagles don’t even need to win more than they lose the rest of the way to get to six wins, though obviously they’ll shoot for better than that.

Second down: What does ESPN’s Football Power Index think of BC’s chances of getting to six wins? Glad you asked.

BC is favored in just two of its remaining seven games, and isn’t the overwhelming favorite in any of the games left on its schedule.

The FPI says the Eagles have a 71.9 percent chance of beating Wake Forest in Week 9 and a 56.8 percent chance to beat Syracuse in Week 14.

After that, though, the best chance FPI gives BC at a win is against Louisville on Nov. 8 (39.8 percent). FPI doesn’t give Steve Addazio’s crew better than a 30 percent chance in any other game this season, starting with the Oct. 11 matchup with NC State (29.0 percent).

Third down: The Rams held the Eagles to their second fewest rushing yards of the season on Saturday, allowing just 239 yards (on 49 carries). That’s just 239 because that total would still rank No. 25 in the country as a per-game average (just behind Baylor’s 239.75).

But Colorado State can still be happy with its run defense since only Pitt has given up fewer rushing yards to BC this season, allowing only 142 yards on 34 attempts.

Out: The loss to Colorado State may have been a bit of a surprise, but it actually continued a dubious trend in recent years for BC.

The Eagles haven’t won the week before a bye since 2010, going 0-2 in 2013 (losing to USC and Clemson), 0-1 in 2012 (losing to Northwestern) and 0-1 in 2011 (losing to Clemson) before a week off. Their last win prior to a bye week came on Sept. 11, 2010, when they beat Kent State 26-13 in Week 2.

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

Three-and-out: Hilliman has his way again

September, 27, 2014
Sep 27
9:21
PM ET
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Although the end of Boston College's last-minute 24-21 loss to the Colorado State Rams was ugly, it wasn't all bad for the Eagles on Saturday at Alumni Stadium.

[+] EnlargeJon Hilliman
Winslow Townson/USA TODAY SportsJon Hilliman celebrates his second-quarter touchdown Saturday.
First down: True freshman Jon Hilliman enjoyed the best game of his young career, as he rushed for 128 yards and his fifth and sixth touchdowns of the season -- good for his third consecutive two-touchdown game.

The first run was a dandy, as Hilliman tucked his shoulder down and went right up the gut for the Eagles' first score of the day. After a Rams punt that pinned the Eagles at their own 4, Hilliman was at it again. He burst through the line and to the outside for a career-high run of 52 yards.

Had he not been stiff-armed out of bounds by Rams defensive back Bernard Blake, Hilliman would have taken it all the way to the house for a 96-yard touchdown. Instead, he later settled for a 5-yard touchdown on his third-quarter score, when he rolled off a tackle and into the end zone.

Second down: Not to be outdone, quarterback Tyler Murphy added a touchdown run of his own, his sixth of the season.

It came in the second quarter on the same drive as Hilliman's long scamper. Murphy hit the line, rolled off a defensive lineman, shook off the tackle attempt of another and made it easily into the end zone.

Although he didn't reach the century mark rushing, he ran for 79 yards on 16 attempts. Meanwhile, he showed improvement in the passing game and completed 12 of his 18 attempts for 169 yards, four short of the season-high he set Aug. 30 against UMass.

Of course, his costly interception in the fourth quarter in Rams territory overshadowed the positives.

"In the red zone, you've got to take care of the ball," Murphy said. "That's something I really have to be tough on myself about. There's a lot to learn."

Third down: Speaking of interceptions, the Eagles defense had two of them against the pass-heavy offense of Colorado State.

The first came with 8:20 remaining in the first quarter, when Dominique Williams caught a pass overthrown by Rams quarterback Garrett Grayson for his first interception of the season.

On Colorado State's next possession, Grayson marched the Rams into Eagles territory for the first time of the afternoon but was picked off by third-year defensive back Bryce Jones in the end zone.

The initial call on the field was that Jones had not secured possession before going out of bounds, but a lengthy official review reversed the ruling.

"I just read the quarterback's eyes and just took a chance," Jones said. "I guess it was close. I couldn't tell you."

It wasn't all positive for Jones, though, as he described the team's blown 14-point lead as "hands-down" one of the most bitter defeats he's been part of.

Out: With Saturday's game falling on BC's annual Parents' Weekend, the Karate Kid himself, Ralph Macchio, attended the game with his son Daniel, a student at the school. Macchio posted a photo of the two on his Instagram account.



Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Rams played the role of Daniel LaRusso by coming out the victor in this one.

BC laments missed opportunities vs. CSU

September, 27, 2014
Sep 27
7:00
PM ET
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- When you add it all up after Boston College's 24-21 loss to the Colorado State Rams on Saturday, you can understand why Eagles head coach Steve Addazio might be a little frustrated.

The 14-0 lead lost, the missed field goal at the end of the first half, the countless tackles missed on defense, the interception thrown in Rams territory early in the fourth quarter. It all culminated in a last-minute heartbreaker as Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson found Charles Lovett wide open in the corner of the end zone for a 12-yard, game-winning strike on fourth-and-10.

[+] EnlargeTyler Murphy
Winslow Townson/USA TODAY SportsTyler Murphy staked BC to the lead with three TD drives before his fourth-quarter interception contributed to Colorado State's comeback.
Your assessment, coach Addazio?

"We had a chance to close the game out, [and] we didn't close the game out. Simple as that," he said. "A very disappointing loss and a tough loss. They made the plays at the very end that needed to be played. We did not. It cost us a game."

Of course, one loss on a 12-game schedule can be critical for any college football team. However, it was the fashion in which BC lost -- all the missed opportunities -- that caused Addazio to question his team's understanding of the stakes at hand.

"This is a devastating deal," Addazio said. "You just hope that somehow in there, there's a way to learn of how fragile it is and how tough it is and why we practice the way we do, why we coach the way we do, to be able to close these games out. When you let them get away, they're gone forever.

"Sometimes I don't think young guys get it," he continued. "I don't think they really fathom that you get 12 shots, and when they're gone, they're gone. ... We had every opportunity to close the game out. We didn't do it, and we've got to learn how to do that. If anything can come out of this, I hope that can come out of it sometime, someday."

The team's first miscue occurred at the end of the half, when Alex Howell missed a 40-yard field goal that loomed large given the final score of the game. After failing to get anything going in the first quarter, BC put together back-to-back 11-play drives down the length of the field to stake themselves to a 14-0 lead.

The Rams came right back to get themselves on the board with a touchdown, but they left 1:31 on the clock for the Eagles to get a crack at upping their lead. The Eagles did just that by getting Howell in range, but the senior kicker missed wide on the opportunity.

"Missing the field gold before the half was critical," Addazio said. "Just more critical points given away."

Then came the defensive breakdown. Receiving the second-half kickoff, the Rams marched 82 yards down the field for a touchdown. The Eagles retaliated with a touchdown of their own, but on the Rams' next possession, they put together a 56-yard drive that ended in a field goal to make it 21-17.

Looking as if they would answer once again, quarterback Tyler Murphy led the Eagles 48 yards into Colorado State territory before he was picked off by Rams defensive back Bernard Blake. The throw was an ill-advised one, with Murphy being forced to scramble and throwing on the run right into the hands of Blake.

"I was trying to make a play," Murphy said in admitting he should have thrown the ball away. "Coach always says, 'Never make a bad situation worse.' That's what I did today, and it cost us."

Following the pick, the Eagles defense finally stopped the Rams on a nine-play drive that ended on downs. But then the offense went three-and-out, which left plenty of time on the clock for Grayson's game-winning, 90-yard drive.

Three scoring drives in a span of four possessions. That's what ground Addazio's gears the most.

"A lot of missed tackles. [We] went back and had a bunch of missed tackles again," Addazio said. "Anytime a team drives the length of the field on you three times in a row, you're going to be on the field. That's what happens."

"No matter what happens on the offensive side of the ball, we have to be there to respond," linebacker Steven Daniels said. "It was our chance, and we didn't get it done."

With a bye next week, the Eagles will have plenty of time to pick apart what went wrong in their loss to the Rams. However, the shelf life of their crushing defeat Saturday will also have an extra week, and the team is left with a sour note to dwell on as they get ready to face conference opponent North Carolina State on the road Oct.11.

"It's a devastating loss. It doesn't help that we're going to have an extra week to think about it," wide receiver Josh Bordner said. "We've just got to get our mind set on the corrections that we need to make, and we need to get ready for NC State."

Rapid Reaction: Colorado State 24, BC 21

September, 27, 2014
Sep 27
4:09
PM ET
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Plagued by an up-and-down effort from both the offense and defense, the Boston College Eagles lost to the Colorado State Rams 24-21 on a last-minute touchdown at Alumni Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

How it happened: If BC quarterback Tyler Murphy was unsatisfied with the team's early offensive effort in their 40-10 win over Maine on Sept. 20, he surely won't be too happy about this one either.

The Eagles went three-and-out on two of their first three possessions, struggling to establish their ground game with only 42 yards on 13 attempts in a frustrating first quarter.

However, the BC defense kept the Rams at bay the early going, taking advantage of a pass-heavy Colorado State attack that entered Saturday ranked 12th in the FBS, and intercepting Rams quarterback Garrett Grayson twice. Dominique Williams nabbed his first pick of the season, with 8:20 remaining in the first quarter before Bryce Jones made a key pick in BC's end zone with 3:59 remaining. Jones was initially ruled out of bounds before establishing control of the ball, but the ruling was overturned by an official review.

The Eagles then rode that momentum down the field, marching 80 yards on 11 plays, with true freshman running back Jon Hilliman running it in from 4 yards out with 13:43 remaining in the first half. Their second possession of the second quarter was equally successful, kicked off by a career-long 52-yard rush by Hilliman and punctuated by a Murphy 7-yard touchdown run to make the score 14-0.

The Rams scored on a Grayson 21-yard screen pass to Rashard Higgins with 1:31 remaining in the half to get on the board. Given a chance to make it 17-7 at the half, Eagles kicker Alex Howell missed a 40-yard field goal attempt wide right as time expired.

In the second half, the Rams took advantage of consistently poor tackling by the Eagles. They made their way down the field to tie the game on Treyous Jarrells' 6-yard run. BC responded by retaking the lead with an 11-play drive that ended in Hilliman's second rushing touchdown of the day.

From there it was all Colorado State as the next possession ended on a Jared Roberts' 33-yard field goal to bring the score to 21-17. With time winding down in the fourth, Grayson picked apart BC's defense for 90 yards on eight plays, a drive ending in the game-winning touchdown pass to Charles Lovett in the corner of the end zone on 4th andn10.

Once again, the Eagles relied heavily on the running game as Hilliman rushed for 128 yards on 24 attempts and his fifth and sixth touchdowns of the season. Murphy added 79 yards on the ground while airing it out for 169 yards, his second-highest total of the season. He was picked off by Rams defensive back Bernard Blake in the third quarter.

What it means: The Eagles dropped to 3-2 on the season after their first loss to a nonconference opponent.

Meanwhile, the Rams are now 3-1.

Up next: Their four-game homestand now behind them, the Eagles will enjoy a bye next week before heading out to Raleigh, North Carolina, to play conference rival NC State at Carter-Finley Stadium on Oct. 11. The Wolfpack entered Saturday afternoon's contest against No. 1-ranked Florida State 4-0 on the season.

The Eagles are 0-1 in conference play this season. The time of the game remains to be determined.

Eagles need to raise their game vs. Rams

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
10:02
PM ET
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Here’s a riddle for you: How can all of the following be true?
  • Team A scores 10 points
  • Team B scores 40 points
  • All 50 points are scored in the same game
  • Team A beats Team B
It can’t, of course, but that didn’t stop Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy from feeling that way after the Eagles’ 40-10 win over Maine.

“After watching the film and evaluating ourselves, it felt like we lost,” Murphy said after practice on Wednesday. “Even though we won by 30, we didn’t play well at all. They outplayed us with effort. Luckily, we were just the better team.

“We just didn’t really come to play. They did. Luckily they’re a young group of guys and they are a I-AA school. If we were playing anybody better, we would’ve lost.”

On Saturday, the Eagles will play somebody better. The 2-1 Colorado State Rams come to Chestnut Hill, flying high off a bye week in Week 4, to wrap up nonconference play (12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3).

[+] EnlargeSean Duggan
Anthony Nesmith/Cal Sport Media/AP Images "They have a great quarterback, great running back, they play physical up front," BC LB Sean Duggan said of Colorado State. "We're really gonna have to play really well this weekend. "
In their previous game, a 49-21 win over UC Davis, Rams QB Garrett Grayson threw four first-half TD passes and Rashard Higgins finished with seven catches for 147 yards and two TDs.

“They’re a really good team,” defensive co-captain Sean Duggan said. “They have a great quarterback, great running back, they play physical up front. We’re really gonna have to play really well this weekend. They’re good.”

“They’re a well-coached, well-put-together team,” BC coach Steve Addazio said. “They look like they’ve recruited well; really, really impressed with Colorado State on both sides of the ball.”

And the Eagles’ coach isn’t discounting that Colorado State has had two weeks to rest and prepare for BC.

“We’ve played a lot of football, we’ve played a lot of physical football and they’ve had a bye week so I think that’s an advantage for them,” Addazio said. “We’re coming off a bunch of physical games and we’ve had some injuries. We’ve gotta battle through and we’ve gotta have a great week.”

Both teams have had their share of injuries, but that two of BC’s most serious injuries have come on the offensive line (guards Harris Williams and Bobby Vardaro) may be especially significant.

Unlike their mascot, the Eagles have mostly been earthbound to date in 2014. Through four weeks, BC ranks in the top 10 nationally in four rushing categories, and in the top 20 in two more.

BC is third in rushing attempts (213) and yards (1,345), fifth in yards per game (336.3) and tied for sixth in touchdowns (13). The Eagles are 12th in yards per attempt (6.3) and tied for 19th with a long run of 71 yards.

“We take pride in our power game, obviously,” center Andy Gallik said. “And despite the recent success that we’ve had so far this season, we’re still working on the details. We’ve had mistakes across the board, just as anybody has in any offensive philosophy.

“We’re still working, still grinding and getting better every day with our power game.”

But with just 124.3 yards passing per game, the Eagles rank No. 122 nationally in passing offense. The Rams, meanwhile, rank No. 11 with 340.0 yards per game in their first three contests.

“They have really good skill positions and they’re pretty technical up front. We have to play our best ball,” safety Sean Sylvia said. “We can’t come out flat like we did against Maine. We’ve just gotta give ‘em a solid four quarters. We’ve gotta execute at a very, very high level, and good things will happen when that happens.”

The Eagles are determined to make one thing happen.

“It’s important that we come out fast and start fast, especially on offense,” Murphy said. “They’re very explosive on offense, on their side of the ball, so they can put up points quickly. And they have enough experience and a lot of upperclassmen on defense where, if we do fall behind, they’ll make it tough for us to get back into the game.”

With a bye waiting for them next week and ACC play looming beyond that, the Eagles need to play better this week than they did last week for a simple reason.

“Four-and-one,” Murphy said, “looks a lot better than 3-2.”

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

BC O-line patched by youth

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
5:41
PM ET
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Myles Willis said it best.

“We have a lot of youth in our skill positions,” Willis said as the Eagles headed for their opener. “But you’d much rather have it that way than [have it] flipped and have a young O-line and old skill position players.”

There are underclassmen all over the BC depth chart, but not at offensive line. The youngest players listed there, Jim Cashman and Frank Taylor, are juniors. The rest are seniors or graduate students.

The starting five in the first four games has been made up entirely of grad students, because even though right guard Harris Williams went down in the opener he was replaced by Aaron Kramer -- another O-lineman with a degree in hand.

But when left guard Bobby Vardaro went down in the third quarter against Maine, Steve Addazio turned to another young player to fill the void. In went Jon Baker, a true freshman from Millis, Massachusetts, into a rotation with Dave Bowen (a senior).

“We’re playing a lot of young guys right now,” Addazio said on Monday. “And our veteran offensive line is starting to take some hits right now. So now we’ve got a true freshman playing on the offensive line. So we’ve gotta hold this thing tight to the vest.”

[+] EnlargeAndy Gallik
Fred Kfoury III/Icon SportswireBC center Andy Gallik says, "The way for offensive linemen to get better is to just keep on playing every single play."
Baker isn’t on the depth chart, but if Vardaro isn’t recovered in time to play against Colorado State on Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3) the freshman may be back on the field. Which is a place center Andy Gallik couldn’t have imagined himself back in 2010.

“When I was here as a freshman, there was no way I would’ve been able to play on the offensive line here,” Gallik said. “The type of dudes that we had -- [Anthony] Castonzo, [Thomas] Claiborne, [Emmett] Cleary, all those guys.”

All three of those former BC O-linemen have played professionally since leaving the Eagles, led by Castonzo going to Indianapolis in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft.

“You kinda had to earn your keep, and there was so much talent,” Gallik said. “But because of all the injuries [this season], [Baker’s] been kinda forced to jump in earlier than he was supposed to. He’s got a lot to work on.

“But despite him being a freshman, he did show a lot of promise. He’s a powerful, tough kid. That’s something that, when you have an interior offensive lineman, that’s what you’re looking for. That’s not something you have to coach. It’s just all the technique and detail and things that he’ll get better at as time goes on.”

Now that he’s seen the field, Addazio said Baker has to play.

“By necessity, we brought Jon Baker along really slow,” he said of the 6-foot-3, 281-pounder. “We felt he was ready to go and by necessity we had to play him. Now that we’ve played him, we’ve gotta play him because we’ve gotta get him game-ready for this season and next season.”

The Eagles have topped the 300-yard rushing mark in three of four games and exceeded 400 yards in two in a row.

They used 452 and 413 yards of rushing to top the 500-yard mark in total offense in wins in successive weeks against then-No. 9 USC and FCS foe Maine. And this weekend’s opponent is ranked No. 106 nationally in rushing defense, the Rams allowing 212.3 yards per game on the ground.

Meanwhile BC is averaging 336.3 yards per game, fifth nationally.

The Eagles want to diversify their offense, incorporating more of Tyler Murphy’s arm into the game plan, because they know defenses will stack the box to try to stop the run. But no matter who’s on the offensive line, and how old they are, they’ll always try to establish the run.

And Murphy is confident that the BC O-line will adapt to the losses it’s suffered.

“Guys are battling and doing a great job up front,” Murphy said. “Those guys are willing to compete every day, no matter where you put them. They’re all unselfish and they’re workers.”

Gallik had high praise for Kramer, Bowen and Baker -- all guys who have plugged holes on the line due to injuries. He said the line is in good shape, injuries and all, and that all the O-linemen are looking forward to trying to keep up the lofty numbers the offense has posted to date.

And despite the well-worn tenet that offensive linemen need more time to mature before they’re ready to play at the college level, just like the rest of the team, BC’s young offensive linemen may be pressed into service this season.

“The way for offensive linemen to get better is to just keep on playing every single play,” Gallik said. “You make mistakes, you correct ‘em and you keep going. The best thing you can do is just have more and more experience and you’ll be better down the line.”

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

Littlest Eagle continues to inspire

September, 24, 2014
Sep 24
6:32
PM ET
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- JB Harvey set his feet, shoulder width apart, put his left hand on the ground and glared up at his opponent.

After holding the three-point stance for a beat, he exploded out and up, throwing his hands into her midsection in perfect pass-blocking form.

Caroline, 7-year-old JB’s older sister, didn’t move much, but that’s OK. Clearly, the youngest member of the Eagles has been taking notes during his trips to the school once known as O-line U.

Drafted by Boston College two years ago through Team Impact, a nonprofit that pairs children facing serious illness with college teams, Harvey probably won’t be one of the massive linemen paving the way for 400-yard rushing days.

“He’s a beautiful young kid, and he’s fully capable of doing everything,” BC safety Sean Sylvia said after practice Wednesday. “And it’s sad to know that against his control he’s going to lose all muscle function. We can do so much [physically] as athletes ... so it does put it in perspective.

“Because we take it for granted that we come out [to the field] every day and he would probably die to be out here every day doing the same thing.”

JB has Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a rare, progressive and ultimately fatal disease that occurs only in boys and affects roughly one in 3,500. DMD is caused by a defect in a gene on the X chromosome that renders the body unable to produce dystrophin, a protein that helps build muscle.

So unless there’s a breakthrough in research soon, a wheelchair is likely in JB’s future. Most boys with DMD don’t make it past their 20s.

This weekend, when BC hosts Colorado State (12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3) the coaches on both sidelines will be wearing a patch on their sleeves to help raise awareness of DMD as part of Coach to Cure MD.

JB and his family will be introduced to the crowd, and the smallest Eagle will come away with another moment he’ll hopefully never forget.

For the past three years, JB’s been a member of the BC football team. He has his own locker and uniform. He’s often spotted on the sidelines before games at Alumni Stadium.

“He definitely can’t keep up physically with other boys his age, but has a nice group of friends,” his mom, Elizabeth, said. “He still does hang out with the team, although we don’t attend as many practices as they are in the morning and he has school.”

That’s one of the big changes in JB’s routine since former coach Frank Spaziani was fired and Steve Addazio was hired to replace him -- the former preferred afternoon sessions, while the latter likes to practice in the morning. And JB can’t cut classes in first grade for practice.

That just means the Eagles have to be more creative, assistant athletic director for student-athlete development Alison Quandt said. Since JB can’t be at as many practices -- which are more intense and include more “football words,” which doesn’t necessarily mean on-field terminology, according to his mom -- the Eagles make a point to invite him to other things, such as Friday walk-throughs, family dinners and mass on game days.

“Steve and the staff and the guys are really the ones who drive the bus,” Quandt said. “They’re the ones who create that relationship.”

JB had a conversation with new quarterback Tyler Murphy earlier this season, and he told his mom he thought that was very cool.

Murphy said the same, calling JB “a cool guy” and saying meeting JB made him remember “you can’t take things for granted.”

When JB turned 7 on Sept. 15, he blew out the candles on a football-themed cake.

And, of course, he got plenty of "Happy Birthday" messages from his teammates. Elizabeth Harvey set up Facebook and Twitter accounts for JB to stay in touch with the Eagles, and at least a half dozen took the time to send him a message on his big day.

Cornerback Justin Simmons was one of them:



As was offensive graduate assistant Nick Charlton:



Quandt, who facilitates most of JB’s visits with the team, said that to see the effect the little guy has on the big guys all you have to do is look at the players’ faces when he’s around -- whether it’s at practice, at dinner or on the field prior to kickoff.

“To see the players’ faces, in a really intense time,” she said, “their faces kind of light up when they see this little tow-headed kid, who’s kind of running around and who doesn’t appear to have a care in the world but has this cloud hanging over him.”

Senior cocaptain Sean Duggan has a lot on his plate this season. He’s the starting middle linebacker, so he’s worried about making defensive calls and getting his teammates into the right spots to stop the opposing offense. He’s trying to be a leader, showing the younger players on the team how things should be done.

But he’s all too happy to take time out of his day for JB.

“He’s been an inspiration since the second he walked in the locker room,” Duggan said. “He’s a great kid. He’s something to play for every Saturday.”

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 happy to be home

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
2:34
PM ET
Sometimes a near-miss, that heartbreaking loss that was this close to being a win, can serve as a springboard.

But after its last-second, 34-31 loss at Vanderbilt, UMass took a leap off the board and did a faceplant this past weekend against Penn State 48-7.

First down: Mark Whipple said it was pretty simple.

"After watching film, [it was] about what I saw on the sideline: Penn State blocked and tackled, and UMass didn't,” the UMass coach said in his weekly MAC call with reporters. “They’ve got a good football team, really good defense and a great quarterback. They were everything we thought they were gonna be.”

UMass gave up 464 yards of total offense (236 passing and 228 rushing), six touchdowns (one passing, five rushing) and one turnover (a fumble). The Minutemen produced just 13 first downs (to Penn State’s 23), 3 yards rushing (on 28 attempts) and didn’t score until Blake Frohnapfel hit Tajae Sharpe for a 77-yard TD in the fourth quarter, down 48 points.

“We really did not play, didn’t compete like I would have liked to see,” Whipple said, “but I think Penn State had a lot to do with it, so my hat’s off to them and their coaching staff."

Second down: No one is happier to wave goodbye to nonconference play than the Minutemen (well, apart from maybe their fans).

After four games against Power 5 opponents, UMass is giving up an average of 38.25 points per game while scoring just 20.75. The Minutemen are giving up more than three times as many rushing yards per game (220.5) as they’re producing (62.75).

So what have you learned about your team so far? Whipple was asked.

"We're not ready to play in the Big Ten, the SEC, the ACC or the PAC 12, so that’s why we’re 0-4. [But] we've had a couple shots at it,” he said, referring to 11-point leads UMass couldn’t hold against both Colorado and Vanderbilt. “We'll see if we can play in the MAC now. We’ve got a huge test this week against Bowling Green. Our guys have gotten better, we’ve gotten better and it’s probably not reflected in the score Saturday, but we’ll just try to move forward."

Third down: The Minutemen are preparing for their first game at McGuirk Stadium in Amherst since moving to the FBS level prior to the 2012 season. They played all their home games at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough in 2012 and 2013.

Whipple has his fingers crossed that playing in Amherst again gives his team a boost when it opens MAC play against Bowling Green (2-2) on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN3).

“It's another new scenario for us. Most of our players have not played a home game here, most of our coaches haven't coached a home game here, so I hope it will be an advantage,” he said. “It seemed to be an advantage when I was here the first time. I think not having to get on a bus and go two hours to play a home game will help us.”

Out: With the homecoming game drawing nearer, even the mascot is putting in extra work to be ready:



So the extra work probably won’t help much on the field. At least it can’t hurt.

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

Three-and-out: Eagles readying for Rams

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
2:52
PM ET
Steve Addazio wasn’t happy with the start, but liked the finish in BC’s 40-10 win over the FCS Maine Black Bears on Saturday.

“We made some very lackadaisical, foolish mistakes early,” the Eagles coach said in his weekly news conference on Monday. “I wasn’t real pleased with the first half, but it gives you something to really coach hard about right now in terms of the corrections there that we have and the preparations for playing a really, really good Colorado State team.”

The Rams (2-1) come to Chestnut Hill this week for a 12:30 p.m. ET kickoff (ESPN3) in the Eagles’ last nonconference game of the season.

First down: With a third of the season now behind them, Addazio was asked how he feels about where the Eagles (3-1, 0-1 ACC) stand this week.

“I think if you said to this point, we’re 3-1 with an opportunity to get our fourth win we’d all feel like, ‘You know what, that’s not a bad place to be,’” he said. “Obviously you’d like to be undefeated. But we have a chance to get win No. 4 right now.”

The coach insists that’s all it is -- a chance. And that’s how he’s presenting it to his players.

“We’re gonna have to fight against a really good football team who has had a bye week,” Addazio said. “They’ve had a chance to rest, they’ve had two weeks to prepare for us and they’re a good football team. We’re gonna have to really battle.”

Second down: Injuries are starting to pile up for the Eagles’ offensive line, with starting left guard Bobby Vardaro the latest to go down. Starting right guard Harris Williams was lost for six to eight weeks in the opener against UMass.

“Bob Vardaro is unknown,” Addazio said. “He’s questionable for sure. Day by day, we’ll kind of see how he’s coming along. But he’s a tough guy and it’s nothing serious, so hopefully the next couple of days will allow him to get back.”

Addazio said Vardaro got “rolled up on” against Maine, suffering a left leg injury. The grad student -- who had started 37 straight games for BC -- briefly returned to the game against the Black Bears before watching the fourth quarter from the sideline.

Senior Dave Bowen and freshman Jon Baker stepped in for Vardaro against Maine and fared well, the coach said, and more young players may be pressed into service if Vardaro misses time or another injury strikes up front.

Third down: It’s the last thing on Addazio’s mind, but the Eagles are apparently on the minds of at least a few voters two weeks after their upset of then-No. 9 USC.

BC got 19 votes in AP Top 25 poll in Week 5, down from 22 in Week 4, and seven votes in the USA Today coaches poll, up from four in Week 4.

Out: Not that he needs more validation, but Tyler Murphy got some anyway this week.

The BC QB was awarded an ESPN ACC Helmet Sticker on Monday for his performance versus Maine.

Here’s what Matt Fortuna had to say:


Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy: Stop the presses: Murphy failed to rush for 100 yards. He did net 99, though, along with two rushing touchdowns, including a 71-yarder in the first quarter. And he completed 11 of 18 throws for 130 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Murphy has proven to be an invaluable addition to the Eagles, as he stretches the field and makes them so much less predictable. BC rushed for 413 yards in its 40-10 win over Maine, eclipsing the 400-yard rushing mark for the second straight game and eclipsing the 300-yard mark for the third time in four games. The Eagles' 549 yards of total offense marked the third time they eclipsed that mark this year as well. So much of that comes back to the man under center.


Murphy now has 500 yards (10th nationally) and five TDs (tied for 11th nationally) on the ground, with eight games left to play.

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

Outlow bursts onto the scene for BC

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
7:20
PM ET
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Marcus Outlow dropped his head, and gave it a little shake.

The reporter's question wasn't entirely out, but the true freshman didn't need to hear the whole thing.

"Eating me as we speak," he said.

With the Eagles up 33-10 early in the fourth quarter, the 5-foot-10, 207-pound running back had two shots at the end zone from the Maine 3-yard line. He gained 2 yards on the first, but was stopped just short of the goal line. And on the second, he tried to power it through the middle but was stopped again.

Then Outlow had to watch as Tyler Murphy finished off the drive with a dive over the line and in, producing the game’s final points in the 40-10 decision that pushed BC’s record to 3-1 on the young season.

"This is something I’m not gonna forget until I get that next opportunity next week,” Outlow said after the game. “It’s definitely gonna eat at me, but it’s gonna be good eating at me. It’s gonna stay in the back of my head, and I know the next time I get the opportunity I better get it in."

He may not have scored, but Outlow did pretty much everything else.

Despite not getting a carry until the fourth quarter, Outlow powered his way to 107 yards on 14 carries -- a 7.6-yard average, with a long of 27 -- and helped move the chains and kill the clock on the victory. In the process, he became the first true freshman to break the 100-yard mark since Montel Harris had 116 yards against Maryland on Nov. 29, 2008.

“I was excited for Marcus Outlow to get a chance to get out there,” BC coach Steve Addazio said. “He’s got really good talent. We were dying for him to have a chance to break on the scene. I thought he did a great job breaking on the scene today.”

Outlow was the first recruit to sign on in the Addazio era, buying in even though the three-star recruit from Norwich Free Academy (Norwich, Connecticut) had interest from a number of big-name schools including Clemson, Florida and Ohio State.

He’d seen limited action in the Eagles’ first three games, as sophomores Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse and fellow true freshman Jonathan Hilliman got the lion’s share of the work. That changed in the fourth quarter Saturday, as he had 14 of the team’s 21 touches in the period.

“It feels great, man. I’m just so blessed to get the opportunity,” he said. “I’ve been waiting my time, rooting the guys on that got in there before me. But I always told myself, once I get that chance I’ve gotta seize the moment and go capture it. So I’m just so thankful and blessed I was able to convert and take full advantage of my opportunities.”

His first opportunity Saturday actually came in the passing game. Murphy stepped up in the pocket to avoid pressure and spotted Outlow open up the left sideline.

“He was able to create some separation, I put it up for him and he went up and got it,” Murphy said.

The leaping, 28-yard grab -- the first of his career -- set up a first-and-goal from the Maine 4, which Hilliman turned into a touchdown on the next play.

The Eagles just missed having three 100-yard rushers against Maine, with Outlow (107) a hair ahead of Murphy (99) and Hilliman (98). Though the backfield is getting crowded, it’s a good problem to have and Addazio sounds confident that Outlow will find a place in it.

“He’s got tremendous hands, he’s got great power and he’s got a lot of make-you-miss,” Addazio said. “We’ve been saying right along we think Marcus is the real deal. It’s just a matter of, you can only bring so many guys along so quick.”

“Marcus has done a great job. He stepped up big time for us,” Murphy said. “Young guys on this team have done a great job stepping up. Last week it was Sherm [Alston], Hilliman did a great job stepping up.

“Anytime we get these young guys going, they’re very talented and it just goes to show like Marcus did today that next week it might be someone else.”

It’s clear that Addazio is very excited about all the young players’ potential, Outlow included.

“He’s been telling me for a while now that I can be a very, very special player,” Outlow said. “And just [to] keep my head on straight and stay positive and kinda work with him. And that’s what I’ve been doing.

“Today he called my number and I got the opportunity and I made it. Now, we’ll see what happens.”

And after a week of that missed scoring chance eating at him, you can bet Outlow will be hungry for another chance.

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 powers past Maine

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
6:04
PM ET
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- They say size doesn’t matter, but whoever “they” are must not play football.

The Eagles had a major size advantage on offense on Saturday afternoon. BC’s offensive line averages 6-foot-5 and 298 pounds, while Maine’s defensive line averages just 6-2 and 276 pounds.

It showed.

[+] EnlargeMyles Willis
Winslow Townson/USA TODAY SportsIan Silberman (75) and the Eagles' O'-line paved the way for Myles Willis (23) and a slew of BC ballcarriers against Maine.
First down: In the second half, BC’s sheer size and strength started to wear down the undersized Maine defense.

After the defense forced a three-and-out to start the third quarter, offensive coordinator Ryan Day rode freshman back Jonathan Hilliman to a 15-play, 74-yard drive that the 6-foot, 215-pounder capped off with a 2-yard plunge.

The TD was on Hilliman’s eighth touch of the series.

And when Alex Howell’s kickoff pinged off the legs of a Maine player and kicked right to John Johnson, giving the Eagles the ball right back, the offense kept the pedal on the metal.

Hilliman grabbed 5 yards, Myles Willis scampered around the left side for 15 and then, on a third-and-7 from the Maine 32, Tyler Murphy stepped up to avoid pressure and make a play through the air. He hit freshman back Marcus Outlow deep up the left side, the 5-10, 207-pounder outleaping a defender and coming down with the ball at the 4.

Hilliman took care of things from there, getting tripped up in the backfield but keeping his feet long enough to stumble over the goal line for his second TD of the day. And in the fourth quarter, Outlow got a chance to show what he could do running the ball and finished with 14 carries for 107 yards, eight more than Murphy (13 carries, 99 yards) and nine more than Hilliman (21 carries, 98 yards).

After the 40-10 win, BC coach Steve Addazio talked about the impact his two freshmen backs made.

“I’m very excited about our future with these young players,” Addazio said. “They’re exciting. And I think that’s the best feeling, [the best] takeaway I have.

“We got Jonathan going, now we’re getting Marcus going. And we’re just trying to expand it.”

The Eagles had 64 carries for 413 yards (a 6.5-yard average) and four scores, two each for Murphy and Hilliman, and chewed up 38:50 in time of possession.

Second down: The numbers are good, but that doesn’t mean things were perfect for the BC defense.

Maine finished with just 139 yards of total offense, just six first downs and 21:10 of possession. But the Black Bears very nearly scored two touchdowns, when Dan Collins found Jeremy Salmon running wide open behind the Eagles’ D. Salmon hauled in the pass and would’ve scored if Josh Keyes hadn’t been able to run him down from behind and limit it to just a 67-yard completion.

“We can’t let the tight end be scot-free down the field like that, 45 yards behind everybody,” Addazio said. “There are times when [the defense] looks really good. But we’ve gotta even that out.”

Third down: If there was one thing the Eagles didn’t need, it’s another injury on the offensive line.

So when left guard Bobby Vardaro went down in the third quarter, clutching at his left knee, the coaching staff could be excused if they held their breath initially.

Vardaro has been an iron man for BC, starting 37 straight games dating back to 2011 when he was a redshirt freshman. He was helped off the field by athletic trainers, who removed his left knee brace, added a wrap to the knee and then replaced the brace. After testing the leg out on the sideline, Vardaro returned to the field later in the quarter for at least one play.

The coach didn’t have an update after the game.

“I hope he’s OK,” Addazio said. “Obviously he’s gonna be dinged up here. We were able to get him back in the game, but he was limping pretty good after the game. I’m concerned. We’re getting thin now. We lost one guard [Harris Williams], now this is another guard. So that’s a concern.”

Out: Hey, at least they didn’t put in a score.

Perhaps presuming a bit too much, the BC game notes handed out pregame had the Eagles coming out on top before kickoff:



And though the Eagles didn’t start strongly, they recovered in time to avoid the dreaded “game notes” jinx.

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

After sloppy start, BC outruns Maine

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
5:52
PM ET


CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- It’s one thing to know what you need to do, but it’s another thing entirely to actually do it.

Coming down off their 37-31 upset of then-No. 9 USC, the Eagles talked all week about needing to work harder, focus tighter and prepare better for Saturday’s game with Maine. They couldn’t afford any drop-off and couldn’t stomach playing at any less than their best.

Then the game kicked off, and the Eagles started like SD TVs in the new millenium: flat.

“We certainly didn’t come out of the blocks very well,” coach Steve Addazio said. “We were lethargic and made a bunch of mistakes.”

[+] EnlargeTyler Murphy
Winslow Townson/USA TODAY SportsIn BC's first two series, Tyler Murphy fumbled and was intercepted, but he put the bad start behind him to run for 2 TDs and throw for another.
Tyler Murphy collided with an offensive lineman and fumbled on the first snap from scrimmage, and though he recovered the ball, he lost 5 yards to set up a second-and-15 and establish a dismal tone.

And when, on their second offensive series, Murphy was sacked on first down and pressured again on third down, the QB tried to force things. With Black Bears draped across his legs, Murphy tried to dump the ball off to running back Jonathan Hilliman. But the pass skipped off Hilliman’s hands and was intercepted and returned to the BC 20.

To make matters worse, on Maine’s resulting drive, the Eagles were flagged for a face mask infraction that moved the Black Bears even closer to pay dirt. The visitors took advantage. Dan Collins hit Micah Wright on a short pass, and Wright beat Manny Asprilla to the end zone for an 11-yard score.

It was the first touchdown Maine has scored against BC since 1915, when the Black Bears got their previous win in the series 14-0 in Orono.

“Sloppy as sloppy can be. We were afraid of this,” Addazio said. “We were afraid coming into this game after that tremendous emotional high a week ago. You’re just set up for that. No matter how much you say ... you just are set up for that kind of half. It’s not acceptable, and it’s my job [to avoid it]. That’s just the facts. It wasn’t like we didn’t address it. It wasn’t like we weren’t all over it.

“I think I told Brad, ‘Somehow, someway, this will be hard.’ And sure enough ...”

The Eagles needed a boost -- something to wake them up -- and they got it on a fourth-and-1 from their own 46. Hilliman got the call and pounded the ball forward for the first down, which kept alive the drive that ultimately produced a 40-yard Alex Howell field goal for the Eagles’ first points.

Pumped up, the BC defense got in Collins’ face and forced two incompletions to produce a three-and-out.

“We kinda started very slow. We had that first drive where we let up the touchdown,” linebacker Josh Keyes said. “[Then] we really just got back to doing the things that we do best. We started just playing fast and aggressively strong, and we were able to stop the run.”

Then Murphy added to his season highlight reel.

Faking a handoff to Hilliman, Murphy tucked the ball away and ran right. He scooted through two defenders and sprinted into daylight. Twelve seconds and 71 yards later, he was in the end zone, and the Eagles -- and their fans -- were finally awake.

“We knew they were almost in the same situation we were in last week against USC,” center Andy Gallik said of Maine. “They’re a good football team. ... They’re tough guys, and they were relentless. They kept coming after you. But we kept hammering away at them, and we got the game into the fourth quarter and ran away with it.”

Riding their big freshman back, the Eagles ground out a 15-play, 74-yard drive that Hilliman capped with a 2-yard plunge for a touchdown. After recovering an unexpected onside kick, the hosts piled on with a six-play, 55-yard drive that ended in another short Hilliman TD.

The scores were part of 30 unanswered points for the Eagles, as they overcame their slow start and took care of business with a 40-10 win.

“That’s something we’ve gotta figure out and fix,” Murphy said of the false start. “I thought we were focused, but we needed to come out with a little more energy.

“We’re happy we were able to get away with a victory. There was a lot of buzz going around with last week’s win, and now that that’s died down I feel like we can really focus and get back to what we do best. We’ve got a big game coming up against Colorado State.”

BC finished with 413 yards rushing and crossed the 400-yard mark for the second time in four games this season. Maine, meanwhile, finished with just 16 yards rushing and 123 yards passing, more than half of which came on one 67-yard completion in the second quarter.

“This is football, [and] there’s ebbs and flows and ups and downs in football,” Addazio said. “You’re trying to level ‘em out. But I learned a long time ago, man, cherish the wins. You start not cherishing the wins and you start nitpicking too much on that, you’re missing the boat there.”

Then, in true Addazio form, the coach used his next breath to make sure his team -- now 3-1 on the young season -- doesn’t rest on its laurels.

“Having said that, what needs to be fixed needs to be fixed,” he said. “We just made too many stumble-bumble errors in there. I thought we had a sloppy day. And we’ve gotta get that fixed. That won’t suffice next week. “

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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