Thursday, September 20, 2012
Eagles' rush attack hits wall
By Jack McCluskey
NEWTON, Mass. -- For a team known as physical and blue-collar, the numbers were unacceptable.
Twenty-one carries for 25 yards, an average of 1.19 yards per carry.
"Yeah, absolutely," BC head coach Frank Spaziani said when asked if jump-starting the running game will be a focus during this bye week. "We were disappointed in how we ran the ball, obviously, last week."
BC RB Deuce Finch gained just 19 yards on 8 carries and lost a fumble on Northwestern's 4-yard line.
The Eagles are averaging just 2.99 yards a carry, tied for 108th in the country.
Left tackle Emmett Cleary said he was frustrated by the line's performance against Northwestern.
"We took too long to kind of catch on to what they were doing," he said. "Something we normally pride ourselves on is we're a smart bunch of guys, we sniff stuff out and we get it blocked up. For whatever reason, we missed too many blitzes and cut some guys loose, so the running backs didn't even have a chance.
"It's not like we're getting overpowered up front. It's not like we're that technically deficient. It's just we gotta have all five guys on their jobs. The holes are there. We watched the film and there's gaps, it's just one guy leaking off late and making the play."
Cleary's teammates don't put the failures all on the offensive line's shoulders.
"I think the guys up front have done well so far this year," quarterback Chase Rettig said. "We have this off week so we're gonna use it to our advantage, work on just getting a lot of reps for our running game because we're gonna need to be able to run the ball against Clemson."
"I don't think really you can pinpoint it down to one thing," wideout Alex Amidon said. "It's just a couple of things that have gone wrong that we just need to fix in practice. There's nothing wrong with the personnel; I think it's definitely fixable.
"I think you'll definitely see the running game improve vastly from where it's been so far."
Spaziani is optimistic that focusing on fundamentals will bring about the positive change that's needed.
"Everything is fixable," he said. "The problems we're having aren't ones that can't be fixed."
Though fumbles have been a problem for the Eagles this season, including a costly one against Northwestern when Rolandan Finch turned it over on the Wildcats' 4-yard line, Cleary said he doesn't think the issues will linger.
"Motivation's not really an issue," he said. "It's always on to the next play. It was a big play and I know [Finch] was disappointed about it, but he's going to make some very important contributions to this team this season. He can't be thinking about what happened or any of that. And he knows that.
"He's had huge games for us before, and so I fully expect him to come back with an extra little chip on his shoulder and just run over some people next week."
And while the work will be shared this week, Cleary believes he knows who needs to carry the biggest load.
"At the end of the day," he said, "the responsibility for running the football lies on the five guys up front."
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.