Thursday, October 10, 2013
BC prepping for explosive Clemson offense
By Jack McCluskey
Sean Sylvia was up late, though the BC free safety knew he had practice early the next day.
Was it sleeplessness, caused by the upcoming matchup with Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and the rest of the explosive Clemson offense?
Was the 6-foot, 208-pound junior tossing and turning, trying to figure out a way the Eagles (3-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) could stop the Tigers (5-0, 3-0 ACC), who are entering Saturday's game (3:30 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN2) averaging 44.2 points per game (third in the ACC, 13th nationally), from running up the score?
Clemson QB Tajh Boyd presents a big challenge to BC's defense.
No, the Dartmouth, Mass., native was just glued to the TV as the Red Sox beat the Rays in Game 4 of the ALDS.
"I watched the game. Die-hard Red Sox fan, always have been," Sylvia said after practice Wednesday. "They're my favorite team in Boston, so I've gotta root for them."
BC coach Steve Addazio has praised No. 3 Clemson all week, calling Dabo Swinney's team one of the finest in the country.
"This is a really dynamic offense with dynamic players," Addazio said. "You see them on film, a lot of these guys are running free in the secondary ... so you just can't let that happen.
"Obviously the best recipe is to jump out early and get going strong. That's your best recipe against a great team, especially on the road. You need to get out early, you don't wanna be coming from behind now. That just makes the task harder."
Sylvia said the plan is to force Boyd, the 2012 ACC Player of the Year, to throw short when he wants to throw long.
"The challenge is just containing him and not allowing those chunk plays that we've allowed all season," he said. "If we can force him to check it down, check it down, that's not part of their game plan. They want to get those big shots. So if we can force them to sustain drives and maybe force something down the field we'll be in good shape."
Boyd is coming off a big day, throwing for 455 yards and five touchdowns in Clemson's 49-14 win over Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. Three of Boyd's five TDs were for 40 yards or more, including a 91-yard scoring pass to Watkins and 42- and 60-yard scores to junior Adam Humphries.
"You have to get off the field on defense," Addazio said. "You give this team too many cracks, they're gonna hit it. They've got enough talent. You've gotta get them off the field. You've gotta get your share of three-and-outs on them. And that's hard to do."
It's especially hard to thrive in an environment like the one the Eagles will walk into in Death Valley. The Clemson fandom makes it hard on visiting teams, rattling many an opposing offense and pumping up their own playmakers with the tremendous volume of their voices.
"I guess it's supposed to be a big, orange Tiger," running back Andre Williams said. "They're athletic on offense, they've got some great players. It's the same talent level as Florida State and I think we're gonna approach it with a similar game plan and just make sure the offense can stay on the field and put up points when we get the opportunity."
Williams led a smashmouth BC attack in Week 6 against Army, piling up 263 yards and five TDs on 30 carries. The senior back enters the game against Clemson leading the nation in rushing yards (153.6) and attempts (26.6) per game.
But if BC can't stop, or at least slow, the Tigers' attack, chances are the Eagles won't have the luxury of relying on that power run game.
Sylvia, for one, believes the Eagles have the personnel to counteract Boyd and his high-powered offense.
"We're gonna go out and give it our best shot to try to keep him in the pocket," he said. "Teams haven't been able to do it all year, so we have a big test ahead of us. We know that and we're just gonna give it our best shot. There's nothing else to do.
"I mean, God, it's gonna be a big challenge but we're excited for it. I'm amped up to go down there and take another shot at it."
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.