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BC will be tested by Army offense

10/3/2013

NEWTON, Mass. -- Steve Addazio had a decision to make.

This week’s opponent, Army, employs an offense, the triple option, that presents a unique challenge. Part of the problem presented by the Black Knights’ preferred style is cut blocking, in which players block defenders below the waist.

Simulating that style of blocking is both important, especially for players unused to dealing with it, and potentially dangerous.

“Cut blocking is really hard, because defensive linemen start getting chopped and guys start playing really tentatively, which is probably the worst thing you can do but it’s human nature,” Addazio said on Monday. “The problem when you’re preparing for it is, you say ‘We’ve gotta go cut ‘em in practice because they’re gonna get cut in the game.’

“Well I’ve been through all that. I’ve seen you lose guys in practice when you get cut the wrong way. It’s like, ‘Oh, what do we do? Do we not cut and just react in the game?’ Then all of a sudden if they don’t feel comfortable taking on a cut block they can look terrible in the game. These are all the dilemmas that get put forward by this offense. It’s not easy.”

On Monday, Addazio said he hadn’t decided exactly how the Eagles would handle that aspect of the week’s preparation. On Wednesday, defensive lineman Kasim Edebali said the Eagles had been practicing taking on cut blocks this week despite the risk.

“That’s how we have to prepare, that’s how Army plays,” the fifth-year senior said. “I think the coaches have done a great job with it.”

It helps that Addazio has a lot of experience with the wishbone, running it as a player at Central Connecticut, using it as a coach at Western Connecticut and at Cheshire High School and employing variations of it during stops at Notre Dame and Florida.

“Option has always been in my past,” he said. “I really love the option game. I have a lot of time invested in studying it over the years. I’m pretty well versed in that offense.”

While the Eagles don’t run much option -- though quarterback Chase Rettig did run an option play in last week’s loss to No. 8 Florida State -- choosing to fit their offensive style to the current personnel, it’s something Addazio would like to do more of as he continues to shape the BC roster.

For now, though, he’s concerned with stopping the potent running attack Army brings to Chestnut Hill for Saturday’s game (1 p.m. ET on ESPN3). Through the first five games the Black Knights rank first in the country in rushing attempts (299), attempts per game (59.8) and yards (1,627) and second in the country in rushing yards per game (325.4). They have thrown the ball only 59 times, completing 28, and average only 65.6 yards passing a game -- last in the country.

BC’s defense, meanwhile, ranks No. 76 in the country in rushing defense, allowing 167 yards a game through four games. And the Eagles will have to stop the run without one of their top defensive linemen, as junior Mehdi Abdesmad is out for the season with a left knee injury.

“You gotta play assignment football,” Addazio said of defending against the Army offense. “And to be honest with you, we’ve missed some of our coverage assignments in some of our pressure packages that have led to big plays. Now here we play a team that may not be rocking it down the field throwing it, although they do, but it’s a different method of real assignment football.

“We want to be multiple but we’ve gotta be able to hold our assignments or these teams make you look foolish. All of a sudden the fullback is going for 80 or they pitch the ball for 70. That’s the challenge. That’s what concerns me.”

Edebali said the Eagles have been upbeat this week, and learned a lot about themselves from the 48-34 setback against FSU this past weekend.

“I think some people were surprised how good we can be,” the co-captain said. “It just showed we had an overwhelming energy going on, especially in the first half [against the Seminoles]. That’s what we need all the time. We can’t let go of that kind of energy. We need to play hard, play fast and play physical and we can compete with anyone.”

While the offensive game plan against the Noles placed an emphasis on taking care of the ball and leaned on the run game, things may open up a bit against the Black Knights.

“Clearly last week we wanted to close the ranks, slow the game down, punch them in the face,” Addazio said. “And clearly we want to stay on the field this week, as well, but we may look to attack them in a lot of different ways.

“The thing you gotta be careful about this week is when you have the ball you gotta hang onto the ball because they have the ball they do hang onto the ball. ... But I think you do have to take advantage of the whole field.”

In other words, the Eagles’ offense will try to give the Black Knights’ defense a decision of its own to make.

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