Pitt and BC know the drill: Stop the run

September, 4, 2014
Sep 4
1:44
PM ET
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- There’s little mystery when it comes to Friday night’s matchup between Boston College and Pittsburgh.

When these former Big East rivals renew acquaintances on national TV (7 p.m. ET on ESPN), the cameras can focus on the big fellas up front.

“Friday night’s game will be controlled or won on the line of scrimmage,” Panthers coach Paul Chryst said Wednesday in his weekly ACC conference call. “I think that’s going to go a long ways. ... Both teams, I would imagine, are going to try to see if they can get the run game going, and you don’t know how many possessions will be in the game.”

“They’re a lot like us,” BC coach Steve Addazio said. “You’re gonna play Pitt, you want to win the game? You’ve gotta stop the run. It’s like us. When you beat BC, it’s because you shut the run down.”

Pittsburgh ran for 409 yards and seven touchdowns in its 62-0 throttling of Delaware in Week 1. The Panthers ran for 1,634 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2013, meaning they produced a full 25 percent of their total 2013 yardage and 35 percent of their total rushing touchdowns in the opener alone.

[+] EnlargeTyler Rouse
Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty ImagesBC' Tyler Rouse should be prepared to run the ball plenty on Friday against Pittburgh.
Chryst also called for 56 rushes in Week 1, which is 10 more than he did in a single game all last season (46 in a 55-53 win over Duke in Week 3).

“I always say a lot, some people run it, some people know how to run it,” Addazio said. “[Chryst] knows how to run it. So we know that this will be a real line-of-scrimmage game, a real physical game. You've got two programs that want to establish the run, two programs that want to play physically on defense, and I think that's kind of the match.”

Only seven teams ran the ball more than Pitt did in Week 1, and BC was one of them. The Eagles ran the ball 61 times and piled up 338 yards and two TDs, including 118 yards and a score by dual-threat QB Tyler Murphy, against UMass.

Chryst called Murphy “a heck of a player” who “obviously can hurt you a number of different ways.”

Addazio emphasized the passing game in practice this week, both because he wants to expand the Eagles’ passing attack and because he wanted to take as much stress as possible off his banged-up offensive line after a physical opener spilled into a short week.

Murphy has been working hard on establishing chemistry with his receivers, including transfer Shakim Phillips, who he targeted, but couldn’t connect with, in the end zone against UMass.

“Any time you’re a quarterback and coaches are putting in some things to help the run game out by taking some shots downfield, you get excited,” Murphy said. “You have to do a good job if it’s not there, don’t force it. Take what the defense gives me, whether that’s checking the ball down, throwing it away or just trying to get back to the line of scrimmage with my feet.

“My job is just to keep us in good situations, keep us out of third and longs and allow us to get first downs and move the chains.”

For linebacker Sean Duggan and the defense, the job this week is to match Pittsburgh’s physicality and find a way to improve to 2-0 on the big stage under the bright lights.

“Conference games are huge, especially the first one because you want to get off to a big start,” Duggan said. “It’s a home game, so that’s big for us. It’s our home opener. Any ACC game you know you need to bring your A-game to the table because every single one of these teams is really talented.”

“We put everything on the table for UMass, and now we have to do the same this week,” Murphy said. “Nothing can change. Since it’s our home opener and there’s a lot at stake with it being our first ACC game, we just really have to lock in and focus.

“It’s gonna be a great atmosphere, we’re gonna have to really just focus on the details and what we have to do to get the job done.”

The Eagles know what they’ll need to do to win this week -- they’ll need to come out ahead in the confrontations up front.

“We were saying the other day, it’s gonna be a war Friday night,” Duggan said. “I think everyone’s kinda getting their mindset ready for that. It’s an old-school game, it’s a line up and hit ‘em type game. It’s definitely fun.”

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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