Outlow bursts onto the scene for BC

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
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
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

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.

Rapid Reaction: BC 40, Maine 10

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Despite a slow start Boston College avoided falling into a (Black Bears) trap against Maine, overcoming a seven-point deficit early, hitting its stride in the second half and gliding to a 40-10 win at Alumni Stadium on Saturday.

How it happened: It’s hard to imagine a game starting any worse than this one did for Boston College.

Coming off their 37-31 upset of then-No. 9 USC, the Eagles were lousy early against FCS Maine.

On the first snap from scrimmage, Tyler Murphy fumbled (recovering his own muff). And on the Eagles’ second series, Murphy was pressured, tried to dump the ball off to Jonathan Hilliman and watched as the pass kicked off the freshman’s hands and landed in Maine linebacker Randy Samuels’ mitts.

To make matters worse, on the ensuing Maine drive BC was flagged for a face mask infraction to move the Black Bears 10 yards closer to the end zone. One play later, Dan Collins hit Micah Wright for an 11-yard score.

That’s 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). The Eagles had outscored the Black Bears 154-3 in the four games since.

Would the Eagles fall into the dreaded trap game after all?

Needing a spark to avoid that fate, the Eagles turned to Murphy once again. BC’s best offensive weapon -- leading the Eagles in passing and rushing through the first three weeks -- Murphy faked an inside handoff, pulled the ball back and took off. He flew through the right side and darted 71 yards upfield for the TD.

And after Maine tied the game at 10 with a second-quarter field goal, Murphy hit a wide-open Josh Bordner up the right hash marks; Bordner slipped one tackler and raced in for a 48-yard TD.

The PAT was blocked -- it was that kind of day -- but BC had a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

What it means: Boston College runs its win streak over Maine to five games, and now leads the all-time series 5-3. The Eagles haven’t lost to the Black Bears since 1915, the year the original Alumni Stadium opened.

Maine has scored just 13 points in the past five matchups, including three in the previous meeting (a 34-3 BC win in 2012).

Up next: The Eagles will host the Rams of Colorado State, wrapping up a four-game homestand in the month of September. Colorado State is 2-1 and will be coming off a bye week when it flies cross-country to take on BC (12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 27, on ESPN3).

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

BC LG Bobby Vardaro gets hurt, exits

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Boston College left guard Bobby Vardaro left Saturday’s game against Maine in the third quarter with an apparent left leg injury.

Vardaro stayed down in pain after the conclusion of a play, with athletic trainers attending to him on the field. After a short delay, he walked off with support.

Left tackle Seth Betancourt slid to left guard to replace Vardaro, and Dave Bowen replaced Betancourt at left tackle.

Vardaro was able to return for at least one play in the third quarter but otherwise remained on the sidelines with the Eagles enjoying a huge lead.

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

A homecoming for UMass receiver

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
Alex Kenney is going home.

That’s an easy statement to make whenever a transfer happens to play against his former team, as Kenney will on Saturday when UMass (0-3) travels to State College, Pennsylvania, to play Penn State (3-0). But in this case it’s doubly true, since Kenney was born and raised in State College.

He became a two-sport star at State College Area High School, being named all-state nine times between football and indoor track, and made a dream come true when he signed on with the Nittany Lions.

“It was an outstanding experience,” he said on a conference call Wednesday. “I got to play alongside a lot of great individuals and great athletes. I learned so much, on and off the field, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity.”

But it didn’t work out exactly the way he would’ve like. The 6-foot, 190-pound speedster left Penn State with 20 career receptions for 197 yards.

“To be 100 percent honest with you, I can’t really say [why],” Kenney said. “I think the coaching staff had another plan. They wanted to go a different route, so I had to seek opportunity elsewhere.”

Kenney believes he’s found that at UMass. He’s living by himself, an experience he’s never really had, and that’s helped him “mature as an individual.”

After three games with the Minutemen, Kenney is still getting his feet underneath him. He has just one catch for 14 yards on his resume, that grab coming in Week 2 against Colorado.

As for playing against the Nittany Lions (4 p.m. ET on Big Ten Network), Kenney said it’s just another game.

“I think maybe as a younger player it would be more than just a game, but as I’ve become an older player you approach every game with the same mentality,” he said. “Although it is a very special experience, you’ve gotta look at is as if we’re playing Vanderbilt or Colorado.”

UMass hasn’t had it easy, going from facing the ACC (Boston College) to the Pac-12 (Colorado) to the SEC (Vanderbilt) and now to the Big Ten. And though the win-loss record doesn’t reflect it, Mark Whipple thinks there’s been progress.

“Well, we improved in a lot of areas,” he said in his weekly conference call. “We just didn't finish the game in the fourth quarter. It wasn't one person, it wasn’t one side of the ball. It was all three [offense, defense and special teams]. We gave up a blocked punt, missed a field goal at the end, and then gave up a big catch that should have been an interception.”

The veteran coach -- who’s spent a good deal of time in Pennsylvania, since he was an assistant for the Pittsburgh Steelers and son Austin played a year as a walk-on at Penn State -- knows that beating a team the caliber of the Nittany Lions won’t be easy. They rank No. 6 in the country in rushing defense (allowing 65 yards per game) and No. 11 in both total defense (272.3 yards per game) and scoring defense (12.3 points per game).

UMass is tied for No. 91 in scoring offense (25.3 points per game), No. 114 in total offense (306.7 yards per game) and No. 117 in rushing offense (82.67 yards per game).

“They‘ve got a front that allows them to play, they don't have to blitz very much because they can rush the passer and they can play the run and it really, really creates some problems,” Whipple said. “So we're just trying to find a way to somehow make a first down and move the ball a little bit."

Though he looks forward to seeing some of his friends, family and former teammates on Saturday, Kenney said he’s just been focusing on the game this week. But there is one thing that Kenney’s been thinking about a lot.

“A lot of the kids have asked me about the environment, because they’re seen it on TV and they’ve heard rumors,” Kenney said. “I’m just trying to advise everyone to just keep their cool. Although the stadium may look a little intimidating, it’s gonna be all right. We just gotta go out there and execute.”

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

Eagles know upsets can go both ways

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- ESPN’s Football Power Index gave Boston College just a 9 percent chance of beating USC. And we all know how that went. So the Eagles won’t get cocky now that the FPI says they have a 97.1 percent chance of beating Maine on Saturday (1 p.m. ET on ESPN3).

Even before the Eagles flew past the Trojans last weekend, quarterback Tyler Murphy knew something about big-time upsets. He was on the sideline for one last season, while still a member of the Florida Gators.

Georgia Southern wasn’t supposed to have much of a chance last season against the Gators, who had never lost to a team from the Football Championship Subdivision before. But Will Muschamp’s team learned that there’s a first time for everything and lost 26-20.

Murphy sat that game out with an injury, but the result wasn’t lost on him.

addazio It's pretty easy to see that if you don't bring your A-game, if you're not emotionally, mentally and physically prepared every week and you take a really good, solid football team like Maine, they'll come up here and they'll put it right on you.

-- BC coach Steve Addazio
“It’s not a good feeling,” Murphy said. “Even though I didn’t play, just to be there and see how things went down ... We didn’t take care of business early, we let them in the game and they were confident. And by the time it got to the fourth quarter we were in a dogfight and we weren’t able to overcome it.”

In other words, Georgia Southern managed to do just what Steve Addazio is always telling his Eagles to do against more talented opponents: hang tough early, fight hard and hope to get to the fourth quarter with a chance to win.

Maine hasn’t beaten BC in nearly 100 years, its last win in the seven-game series coming in 1915 (14-0 in Orono), and has been outscored 154-3 in the past four meetings (all BC wins). But that doesn’t mean the Black Bears can’t win Saturday.

“They’re good,” BC wideout Josh Bordner said of the Black Bears. “They’re gonna come out fired up. They’re intense. They’re not gonna back down from us. We’re well aware of that and we’ve gotta come out swinging.”

“It’s pretty easy to see that if you don’t bring your A-game, if you’re not emotionally, mentally and physically prepared every week, and you take a really good, solid football team like Maine, they’ll come up here and they’ll put it right on you,” said Addazio.

You can be sure the coach hasn’t missed a chance to hammer that message home this week.

The Eagles don’t want to trip up, like USC did against them and Virginia Tech did against East Carolina.

“We don’t want to do that, we don’t want to be a part of that,” Murphy said. “Maine is a good team. They beat UMass last year, and we were in a dogfight against UMass this year. ... If we don’t show up, we’re gonna get embarrassed and that’s something that we can’t afford," Addazio said.

“We need to get this third win. We have to come with our A-game. We have to prepare better than we did versus USC and we have to play with more effort.”

Addazio has said many times before that coaches don’t really know who their teams are until Week 4 or Week 5 of a season.

“In the first four weeks, you’re trying to find your chemistry,” he said. “You’re trying to find what you do best, what you don’t do so good. And it’s a process and every year it’s different.

“You really don’t know it until you really get against other opponents. And so a lot of times you don’t really hit your stride until Game 4, 5. It’s hard to know until you get tugged on.”

The Eagles have played well in two games, beating UMass and USC. But they played a poor game in a loss against Pittsburgh in between, and they know they can’t continue to sandwich good games with bad ones.

“It happens all the time, that’s why you play the game. You’re not guaranteed a win,” Murphy said. “We’re excited to have another home game and to go out and really prove who we are, because people don’t really know what BC team they’re gonna get -- are we gonna get the same team from Pitt or are we gonna get the same team from USC? So we have to go out with a point to prove this week.”

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

Tyler Murphy off to running start at BC

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
In sports, it’s easy to get carried away.

When the emotion of a game is high, the crowd noise rising to seemingly impossible levels and the stadium shaking beneath the fans’ pounding feet, it’s only natural to take what’s happening to cause such excitement and elevate it to exalted levels.

And sometimes, after the metaphorical dust has settled (next to the discarded popcorn boxes and hot dog wrappers), we realize that what seemed so earth-shaking in the moment is really not significant enough to register on the Richter scale.

But when Tyler Murphy ripped through the USC line this past Saturday night, eluding one would-be tackler and then streaking away from all others for a 66-yard TD to seal the 37-31 upset, the moment was just as significant as it seemed.

The untouched, 66-yard jaunt pushed Murphy’s total rushing yardage for the evening to 191, and his season total through three games to 401 yards.

According to ESPN Stats & Information’s Mary Barrett, Murphy’s three-game total is nearly double the full-season numbers put up by any BC QB since 2000 (see chart).

BC QBs with wheels

The most rushing yards in a season by BC QBs since 2000

Rushing QBs
Year Player Rush yds Games
2014 Tyler Murphy 401 3
2008 Chris Crane 219 11
2001 Brian St. Pierre 217 11
2003 Quinton Porter 159 10
2000 Tim Hasselbeck 141 10

Though admittedly it’s a small sample size, Murphy leads all QBs nationally in rushing yards, and ranks No. 8 overall in total rushing yards (401) and yards per rush (9.55) and No. 11 in yards per game (133.67) despite being tied for No. 56 in attempts (42). BYU’s Taysom Hill is second to Murphy in QB rushing yards (356) but has 20 more attempts (62).

And it’s safe to say that through three games, Murphy is on a pace to obliterate the career rushing record for a BC signal-caller. That’s the career record, never mind the single season record.

Who holds that record now? If you guessed BC’s most famous QB, Doug Flutie ... you’re wrong.

Flutie is second on the all time list with 739 career rushing yards, behind Jay Palazola’s 864 career rushing yards.

Chances are that as the season goes on defenses will stack the box against BC to stop the run, and will keep a close eye on Murphy to try to keep him from reaching the open field. But even if the QB never manages to approach 200 rushing yards in a game again this season, and instead falls closer to his average from the first two weeks (105) over the next nine games he’d be in line for the first 1,000-yard rushing season in BC history.

When BC coach Steve Addazio was asked about Murphy’s performance on his weekly ACC conference call on Wednesday, he gave the Florida transfer and Wethersfield, Connecticut, native the highest praise an Eagles player can hope for.

“He's competed really hard in every game,” Addazio said. “He's been a dude. I mean, he's a guy that carries his team. He's a leader. He’s got a great look in his eye. It's whatever it takes to win. Kind of get on my back, so to speak.”

And that means Eagles fans have good reason to be carried away with Murphy so far this season.

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

BC receivers eager for piece of action

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Not long after Boston College upset then-No. 9 USC on Saturday night, the euphoria still in the air, Charlie Callinan got an unexpected text message -- one that stood out from all the congratulations and well wishes by friends and family.

It was from quarterback Tyler Murphy, who had just finished rushing for a career-high 191 yards but already was looking down the road.

“We were all watching film and Tyler actually sent me a text and said, ‘Let’s get it going next weekend,’” Callinan said after practice on Shea Field on Wednesday. “We need to elevate our game if we want to win these games. The run game will take us so far, but the great teams can run it and pass.”

Though the Eagles ran the ball for 452 yards and five scores against USC’s previously unimpregnable run defense, they threw for only 54 yards. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Callinan, a redshirt freshman, had one of BC’s five receptions against the Trojans for 8 yards.

But Callinan’s signature play so far is probably the blocking he did upfield to help Sherman Alston score a 54-yard TD on a reverse.

If the Eagles are going to build on their big win over the Trojans, they’ll need their wideouts to be known as more than just good blockers (though obviously that doesn’t hurt).

[+] EnlargeTyler Murphy
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaEven after BC's upset of USC, Tyler Murphy was focused on improving the Eagles' passing game. Murphy threw for just 54 yards against the Trojans.
That’s where the text from Murphy comes in.

“We haven’t connected at the rate that we wanted to,” Murphy said. “Those guys are being unselfish and still going down and blocking downfield to open things up for guys, including myself when I’m running the ball. I just wanted to make sure that they knew that wasn’t going unnoticed and that as a quarterback and running backs we’re not taking that for granted.

“We just have to keep working on it. There will be games when teams take away the run and we have to make plays. So as long as we keep working and preparing, we’re going to be ready.”

Through three games, BC is ranked No. 11 nationally in rushing offense (310.67 yards per game) but No. 121 in passing offense (120.3 yards per game).

It’s not that coach Steve Addazio and offensive coordinator Ryan Day don’t want to throw the ball more -- they would love to. But so far, the wideout corps hasn’t proven it’s ready to take advantage of the opportunities it’s been presented.

There have been a number of catchable passes dropped, including one each by Callinan and Dan Crimmins against USC.

“I believe in our receivers, I really do,” Addazio said this week. “And we spend an awful lot of time on that. It’s just when you’re not making routine plays ... I’m also responsible to make sure that we put our kids in a position to win the football game. And I thought we did that Saturday night.

“We’ve got to get going here. Because we’ve got more talent now. But you’ve got to make the plays. You either do or you don’t. It’s as simple as that. You want to get more balls? Catch more balls. And we’ll throw more balls.”

The receivers heard that message loud and clear.

“It’s true, we’ve got to be more consistent,” Crimmins said. “I would be the same way, I wouldn’t call something if I don’t think it’s going to work. As a unit, I think we’re hungry, we’re hungry to be great. I know we want opportunities, we’ve just got to keep working.”

Crimmins, a 6-5 junior from New Jersey, believes the wideouts are getting close.

“Obviously it’s something we’ve got to improve on,” he said. “As receivers, we’ve got to catch the ball better. That starts with myself. I feel like every day we’re getting better, and we keep putting great concepts and stuff like that in for the game but we’ve got to execute in practice so the coaches have confidence in us on Saturday.”

If the numbers are to be believed, Maine will present a good barometer for the BC passing game on Saturday. The Black Bears have allowed 167 yards per game (ranked No. 29 nationally in the FCS) and just one passing TD through their first two games.

“We’re just going to keep working, we’re going to keep nailing away at it and keep watching the film and things will start clicking for us,” Murphy said. “We’ve got Maine this week, and this is a good time to focus on that and try to get better.

“Maine is going to come in and really stack the box and try to stop the run. It’ll be a good test for us to really see where we’re at.”

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

Harvard hoops in line for future success?

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
It’s a simple question with a complicated answer: Which college basketball programs will have the most success over the next three seasons (2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17)?

ESPN Insider recently set out to find an answer to that question, asking a panel of experts -- including Paul Biancardi, Jay Bilas, Eamonn Brennan, John Gasaway, Jeff Goodman and Andy Katz -- to rate programs on a scale of 1 to 10 in five categories: coaching, current talent, recruiting, program power and stability.

The result is the Future Power Rankings, the 25 teams most likely to have success in the immediate future.

There were a number of surprises, but perhaps the biggest one is Harvard coming in at No. 20 (Insider subscription required) -- ahead of teams such as Pittsburgh, Memphis, Georgetown and VCU.

Here’s what John Gasaway sees as the dilemma when it comes to Tommy Amaker and the Crimson:

Harvard, Yale and Princeton once dominated college football, but following World War II the Ivies made a considered decision to opt out of college sports' (already) rapidly escalating arms race. Now Amaker has transcended that decision rather surprisingly and spectacularly. But can Amaker -- or any coach -- really stay in these rankings at an Ivy League school?

Gasaway isn’t the only person wondering if the Crimson will be able to stay in the CBB Future Power Rankings. Seth Greenberg, for one, believes the Crimson (Insider) were ranked too high to begin with.

The former coach and current ESPN analyst explained his reasoning in part by saying the following:

Harvard coach Tommy Amaker has done an incredible job. His teams are well-coached, aggressive, talented, athletic, tough and confident. Amaker has also been good at identifying qualified student-athletes who can compete at a higher level. Over the past two seasons, the Crimson boast wins against Cincinnati and New Mexico in the NCAA tournament. It speaks volumes to Amaker's work. However, it’s hard to see the Crimson as a future top-20 program, considering the small pool of potential prospects and the small margin of error in the evaluation process.

The Crimson have played in three straight NCAA tournaments, winning a game in each of the past two, and return the core of last season’s team -- led by point guard Siyani Chambers and do-everything guard Wesley Saunders. The 2014-15 Harvard season tips off Nov. 14 at Lavietes Pavilion against Cambridge rival MIT.

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

Addazio gives Crowther's parents game ball

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16

Following Boston College’s upset victory over No. 9 USC on Saturday night -- during which the team paid tribute to former BC lacrosse player Welles Crowther, who was killed saving lives in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- coach Steve Addazio presented a game ball to Crowther’s parents.

“We celebrated this game because we celebrated Welles. We celebrated him as a BC man,” Addazio said in front of his football team in a video posted by BC on Tuesday (above). “We celebrated his selflessness, and his ability to put other people ahead of himself. Service to others, it’s what our university stands for. Someone who had an opportunity to do something for other people and he paid the ultimate sacrifice to do that.”

BC honored Crowther by putting red bandanna patterns on its helmets, cleats and gloves and on gear worn by the coaching stuff. The red bandanna was Crowther’s signature, and something he was wearing as he saved the lives of a dozen people in the South Tower of the World Trade Center before he was killed in its collapse.

Crowther’s father, Jefferson, said receiving this football meant even more to him than the Emmy presented to him for ESPN’s OTL segment -- “The Man In The Red Bandanna” (video below) -- which told the story of Welles’ heroism of Sept. 11.

“For you guys to present this to us tonight is incredible,” he said.

After Jefferson mentioned how much he liked the way the cleats looked, one of the BC players -- Manny Asprilla -- gave him the shoes off his feet.


Three-and-out: UMass makes changes

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
Three weeks in, and we’re at two heartbreaking losses for UMass and counting in 2014.

The Minutemen went to Nashville on Saturday and led Vanderbilt for most of the afternoon before giving up two fourth-quarter TDs -- including one on a blocked punt -- to lose the lead and then missing a 22-yard field goal to tie and losing 34-31.

What happened immediately after Blake Lucas' kick sailed wide left may turn out to be the enduring image of UMass' season, barring a turnaround.

As the Minutemen kicker stood dejected, Commodores lineman Adam Butler threw his arms in the air in celebration right next to him. Spotting Lucas, Butler dropped his arms and gave Lucas a quick hug.

It's been that kind of year for UMass (0-3).

First down: There will be changes on special teams for the Minutemen.

On Tuesday, the school announced that special-teams coordinator and inside linebackers coach Ted Daisher has been dismissed. Head coach Mark Whipple will oversee the special teams for the duration of the season.

And on the depth chart for this weekend’s game at Penn State, the Minutemen list Lucas or freshman Matthew Wylie at place-kicker.

Second down: Starting running back Jamal Wilson, lost to an ankle injury in the first quarter against Vandy, may have dodged the worst damage.

"It’s maybe not as bad,” Whipple said in his weekly MAC conference call. “I don't think he’s gonna have to have surgery, so we’ll just kinda play it by ear. He won't be ready this week so that’s kinda the focus. We have to see where it’s at."

With J.T. Blyden also injured, Lorenzo Woodley led the Minutemen in rushing against the Commodores with 22 carries for 43 yards and two TDs. He also had a Blake Frohnapfel pitch kick off his hands and tumble into the UMass end zone where Butler recovered it for a Vandy TD.

“Lorenzo Woodley was the best option and he did some good things,” Whipple said. “Jordan Broadnax was the next guy, so it looks like those two guys, and J.T. ran around a little bit [Sunday] night. Those are the guys we've got."

Regardless of who starts at running back on Saturday, the Minutemen have their work cut out for them. Penn State ranks sixth nationally in rushing defense (allowing just 65 yards a game) and 11th in both total defense (272.3 yards per game) and scoring defense (12.3 points per game).

“I'm not sure if we had Jim Brown we'd be able to run the ball against Penn State's front anyway,” Whipple said with a laugh, “so there's other concerns that way."

Third down: Receiving fullback/tight end Rodney Mills had a big day against Vandy, finishing with three grabs for 76 yards and two scores.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound junior leads the team in receiving TDs, with three.

"He's a really good football player and we knew that in the spring right away,” Whipple said. “He could play defense for us, he's a good special-teams player. Not a real big guy, but just a good football player that’s got some suddenness to him, captures the ball well. We've got to try and get him the ball a little bit more because he makes the most of his opportunities and that's a nice thing to have.

“We play him at fullback, we play him at wideout, and we play him at the `U' position and move him around. So we will continue to do that and try to get him a few more touches."

Out: Wideout Alex Kenney, a graduate student transfer, is listed as one of the starters for Saturday’s game.

Why is that notable?

Because Kenney transferred to UMass from Penn State, where in three seasons he caught 20 passes for 197 yards. So while he has just one catch for 14 yards this season, Kenney will get the start for the Minutemen against his former team.

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

Asprilla gives cleats to Crowther family

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. –- Manny Asprilla wasn’t looking for any gratification when he approached the father of the late Welles Crowther with a pair of his cleats following Saturday night’s 37-31 upset of No. 9 USC. In fact, the Boston College cornerback didn’t even introduce himself.

"I just shook his hand and gave him the cleats," Asprilla, an Everett native, told ESPNBoston.com. "He was surprised at first, like 'Oh, this is for me?' I said 'Yeah', shook his hand and then I went to his wife and did the same, shook her hand."

[+] EnlargeManny Asprilla
Anthony Nesmith/Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesEverett native and Boston College cornerback Manny Asprilla gave his cleats to Welles Crowther's parents after his terrific performance in the Eagles' upset of USC on Saturday night.
The Eagles, of course, were playing with plenty of emotion before a red-clad crowd at Alumni Stadium that night, pounding away at the Trojans for their first upset of a Top-10 team as an unranked squad in 12 years. BC dedicated the game to Crowther, a former lacrosse player, in honor of the 13th anniversary of his death in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Crowther became a hero that day for running back into the South Tower of the World Trade Center to help a dozen people escape, including carrying an injured woman down 15 flights of stairs. Since that day, he’s been known as “The Man In The Red Bandana” (see video above).

BC honored that legacy on Saturday by putting red bandanna patterns on the players' helmets, cleats and gloves, as well as coaches' pullovers. Following the win, head coach Steve Addazio gave the game ball to Crowther’s parents, Allison and Jefferson, and let them speak to the team.

That was when Asprilla noticed Jefferson eyeing everybody’s cleats. And so he only did what he thought was most fitting.

"I just felt like, not that I didn’t need them or deserve them, but me having them after a couple years [the meaning] would just die away," Asprilla said. "What the red bandanna cleats stood for, I felt like they would have a longer emotional effect on him and his family, so I just decided he deserved the cleats."

Three-and-out: BC moves on from USC

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
The big upset didn’t end until late Saturday night, and technically the postgame interviews didn’t wrap up until early Sunday morning.

Yet, just a few hours later, Boston College players were back at practice in helmets and shoulder pads.

If that’s all you knew about the situation, you would think the Eagles had been the ones getting upset instead of the ones doing the upsetting of then-No. 9 USC. Why else would they be back at work so soon after such a cause for celebration?

Because that’s how business is done under Steve Addazio, and the Eagles had to put in their work before they did their final toasting of the 37-31 triumph over the Trojans (with a team dinner at a downtown Boston steakhouse).

“If you can’t enjoy the great moments, then to me you start to lose sight of what you’re doing,” Addazio said in his weekly Monday news conference. “And I know the paranoia of the whole thing, that, ‘Well, yeah, maybe USC celebrated too much [after beating Stanford the week before].’ And OK, yeah, you might be right.

“But you’ve gotta get your team wired so they know how to enjoy those moments -- not too much, but enough -- and then you’ve gotta be ready to get back to work.”

Addazio hopes he has a team that can strike that balance, but he’ll find out for sure after the players return from their off day Monday.

“The simple answer is, we’re gonna go like hell on Tuesday,” he said. “And our staff is gonna go like hell. That’s the simple answer of what we’re gonna do.“

First down: College football coaches, as a personality type, trend toward the perfectionist.

Addazio is no different. Consider one of his opening remarks from Monday’s session:

“The overarching theme was we had to win up front. And we did, on both sides of the ball. And our kids played with really great energy and great passion. They’re a really good football team. So you walk away from that game and you’re extremely ecstatic, about how your guys responded and how we played.

“And I look at it and I’m like, ‘I wish we would’ve played that same way a week ago.’ And then I also look at it and I say, ‘Let’s make sure we don’t end up having this conversation next week about how we didn’t play with that same energy.’”

Clearly, Addazio isn’t over the 30-20 loss to Pittsburgh. And he’s certainly not looking past this weekend’s opponent, Maine, even though the Black Bears hail from the FCS.

“Maine is a highly capable team that can come in here and beat us in our home stadium,” he said. “And that’s a fact. I know exactly who we are. And for us to have success, we’ve gotta play at a high, high level or we’re not gonna be better than anybody.

“I’m glad I got it figured out; now we gotta make sure the kids got that figured out.”

Second down: How impressive was BC’s upset win Saturday night? Impressive enough that not one, not two, but three Eagles were named to the ACC’s Player of the Week list.

Tyler Murphy was named ACC Offensive Back of the Week, Andy Gallik was named ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week and Josh Keyes was named ACC Linebacker of the Week.

Murphy did most of his damage on the ground, rushing 13 times for 191 yards and a 66-yard TD to seal the Eagles’ win. Gallik was part of an offensive line that paved the way for the Eagles’ 452-yard rushing performance and a 506-yard total for the game -- BC’s second 500-yard outing of the season. And Keyes had one of the Eagles’ five sacks and 5.5 tackles for a loss.

Third down: The Sept. 27 game against Colorado State, which will wrap up BC’s four-game homestand this month, will kick off at 12:30 p.m. ET. Television coverage of the game has yet to be announced.

The Rams are 2-1, after beating UC Davis 49-21 on Saturday, and will be coming into the matchup off a bye week. Senior QB Garrett Grayson has his Rams ranked No. 14 nationally in passing yards per game (340.0) through three weeks, passing for 993 yards and eight TDs.

Out: A look at the Eagles’ upset of No. 9 USC, in animated form (via Chris Morris):

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

Addazio's call for all-out effort answered

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Steve Addazio had a simple request for his team prior to Saturday’s nationally televised, prime-time matchup against No. 9 USC.

“I said to our team going into the game, ‘All I ask is we play with relentless effort. And we play really, really hard. … and have faith. Have faith in each other,’” Addazio said. “And they did that. They responded.”

Did they ever.

The Eagles ran the ball 54 times for 452 yards and five TDs in the 37-31 upset. Quarterback Tyler Murphy may have finished just 5-for-13 passing for 54 yards, but those totals are deceiving. He had a number of catchable balls dropped, and made more than enough plays with his feet to do what he set out to do: move the chains, keep the clock running and put points on the board.

BC’s new signal-caller finished with 13 rushes for 191 yards, including one that shook Alumni Stadium to its foundation.

With the Trojans finally waking up after the Eagles scored 24 straight points, Cody Kessler marching them down the field and hitting Nelson Agholor for a 10-yard score to bring USC within six at 30-24, the Eagles needed an answer. There was still enough time left, four minutes and change, for the Trojans to rally if the hosts couldn’t respond.

So, as he did all night, Murphy took things into his own hands. On second-and-4 from the BC 34-yard line, Murphy took the snap, stuck the ball into the gut of running back Jonathan Hilliman and peeled off. Two Trojans defenders, screaming into the backfield, bypassed Murphy and wrapped up the big back at the line of scrimmage.

But Murphy had fooled everyone again, and the ball was still in his hands.

“The front line did a great job,” Murphy said. “I made one guy miss and I saw the end zone.”

The fleet QB burst through the line, sped past the stunned Trojans and sprinted straight up the field for a 66-yard score that had the 41,000-plus in attendance so fired up the stands shook.

“It’s been a long journey,” Murphy said in the interview room after the Eagles had been mobbed by fans on the field. “It means a lot to me. It’s pretty easy on my half because when you have guys that are willing to work and willing to sacrifice for each other, it makes it easy for the quarterback.

“We really just try to stick together as a team and outplay teams and really put everything on the line on every play.”

The Eagles certainly outplayed their more talented opponent Saturday night, the Trojans struggling on special teams (with a muffed snap on a punt, a shanked punt on another), biting on play-fakes on defense and struggling to string drives together against BC’s aggressive defense.

A key stat? The Trojans finished with 29 carries for a grand total of 20 yards rushing.

“They could not run the ball six inches against us tonight,” BC defensive coordinator Don Brown said. “If you can’t stop the run, then you can’t take all the shots that we’re taking and do all the stuff that we want to be able to do on third down.

“The reality of it was, that’s an outstanding skill group [for USC]. Even during the game, I was kind of like, ‘Wow, did you see how fast he came across that field?’ But our guys, the arrow’s up on our guys now.”

“Tyler Murphy played like a big-time player here tonight,” Addazio said. “We sacked ‘em. We harassed ‘em. We played relentlessly on defense. This is our first win over a top 10 opponent in 10 years. We just kept coming and kept playing. And I’m most proud of that.”

But because he is who he is and because the season’s far from over, Addazio praised his team in one breath but also cautioned it against a letdown next week against Maine.

“This game doesn’t make a year, but it’s certainly a great springboard as we move forward to wipe that taste of a week ago out,” he said. “But college football is unforgiving. You’ve got to get ready next week because you’re right back in it.

“You honor and celebrate the wins, and then you get back to work.”

Fresh off a career day, Murphy sounded ready for more.

“It just goes to show that we’re a team that when we’re at our best, we’re tough to beat,” he said of the upset. “Our job is to bring that each and every week. So we have to refocus and have a good week of practice because the same thing can happen to us next week.

“It’s a big win for our program and we’re taking things in the right direction.”

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