Boston College Preview: Riley Skinner And Wake Forest

September 23, 2009 - 6:11 pm
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CHESTNUT HILL '€” The shadow of Death Valley may still haunt Boston College, but now it's time for a Wake. The Eagles return to Alumni Stadium Saturday afternoon with the goal of moving on from the beat-down they received at the hands of the Clemson Tigers last Saturday. The best way to do that? Take it out on the next opponent, Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons open their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule after three straight home games to start the season. They dropped the first against Baylor before coming back to beat Stanford and in-state rival Elon the next two weeks. Baylor and Stanford are not grandma's homemade toaster strudels, so the Demon Deacons have been tested early enough for Boston College to quantify what kind of skill level it will see this weekend. The scouting report for Wake Forest focuses on one name: Riley Skinner. The redshirt senior quarterback may be the best quarterback in the ACC, and he certainly has the attention of the BC defense. "To me you have to understand the type of animal you are playing every week, that's really important.," BC senior middle linebacker and co-captain Mike McLaughlin said. "He'€™s one of the most accurate. He'€™s one of the best, if not the best, in the ACC. If you understand that and have respect for it then you are going to practice like [he's the best]." Skinner has the acclaim. He has the arm. What he does not have? A lot of success against Boston College. With Skinner calling signals, the Demon Deacons are 1-2 against the Eagles. He has thrown seven interceptions, with five of them coming the last two years, both Boston College victories. In total, Skinner is 57-for-88 for 482 yards with three touchdowns against BC. The Eagles, with coach Frank Spaziani previously serving as the defensive coordinator, schemed well against Skinner. It has not been easy. Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe is known as a crafty manipulator on both sides of the ball, showing opponents different looks on series en route to 28 wins over the last three years. Among ACC teams, only Boston College (30) and Virginia Tech (31) have won more games in that span. Grobe puts Skinner in position to succeed on just about every play and, more often than not, the quarterback has responded. Yet, the Eagles seem to have his number. "That'€™s because we have a lot of respect for him like we do all of our opponents," senior strong safety Marcellus Bowman said. "Especially Riley, though, we know he'€™s a great player. Every day in practice we go out with the intent of, you'€™ve got to stop him first and then worry about everybody else second. We'€™ve been able to draw up some good game plans against him and stop him from making plays against us." So, McLaughlin and Bowman know they will have their hands full. It is McLaughlin who could tip the scale in the Eagles' favor. The linebacker will be playing his first game of the season after coming back from a right Achilles injury he suffered during conditioning exercises in march and will resume his role as the quarterback of the defense, a place that true freshman Luke Kuechly has manned admirably in the first three games. McLaughlin has seen Skinner three times now and has a pretty good idea of what to suspect. "So if you'€™re moving your guy, moving to your receiver thinking that, OK, Skinner is going to be back there, so this ball is going to be delivered now," McLaughlin said. "So, preparing against the best, that'€™s really the best way to do it. Just to know that you are going against the best and go out on Saturday and see what happens." For his part, the surging Bowman seems to have spent a lot of time in the film room poring over video of the Demon Deacons' first three games to see what kind of new wrinkles Grobe will have for Boston College. "Every year he comes with something different. This year he'€™s come with kind of like a wing-T kind of offense," Bowman said. "He'€™s got a lot of formations that will give you headaches, but when you break it all down, it'€™s all about reading the keys. The keys will tell you what to do, and you just play football from there on." Wake Forest is not all about Skinner, though. The Demon Deacons are an experienced team with 31 players who are either in their fourth or fifth seasons in the program. Of the 24 players on the two-deep depth chart, Wake only has four who have not been redshirted. Ten of those players are redshirt seniors. With the sneaky Grobe employing players well-accustomed to his system, Boston College will need to keep its focus to emerge with a victory Saturday. Reading the keys and keying on Skinner. With the way the Boston College defense has been playing this year and the Eagles' recent success against Wake Forest, they should be feeling confident they can get back to the .500 mark in ACC play. Offense Looking For A Comeback The Boston College offense was abysmal against Clemson last week. This week the Eagles are looking to get back on track and prove they are legit against another tough ACC opponent. "The offense has a lot to prove," sophomore running back Montel Harris said. "I think it was 54 total yards? It'€™s kind of embarrassing, so we've got to come out and show everyone that we have a high-powered offense." The key to getting back on track will be the offensive line. The highly touted group has yet to get in a rhythm this year, and it was a series of mistakes on its part that contributed to the Eagles' long day in Death Valley. "There were guys not blocking their assignments," senior center and co-captain Matt Tennant said. "We still weren'€™t having guys target the right people, and that is somewhat my fault for not setting the offense the way it needs to be, and it sort of is guys not knowing their assignments in and out." Grobe and company will try to make life as confusing as possible for the group. The Wake Forest defense is known for shifting around pre-snap and taking as long as possible to commit to its positions to flummox opposing offenses. It presents a peculiar challenge for Tennant and his linemates. "It is a little bit of pressure," Tennant said. "You have to understand that you have to block the person in this position or if they are moved over you have to be able to block them in two different ways so the calls may be different. You may not be able to get the call, you just have to understand that if he is here you are going to block him there, if he'€™s not you are going to have to block him in a different way." The scouting report on Boston College is pretty simple: Stop the run and make rookie quarterbacks Justin Tuggle or Dave Shinskie beat you. Therefore, the goal for the Eagles offense will be to control the line of scrimmage and get Harris and fellow sophomore running back Josh Haden uncorked to take the pressure off the inexperienced quarterbacks. This is easier said than done, of course. Every team in the ACC will be looking to overload the box, at least until Boston College proves it can throw the ball effectively. "[Clemson's defenders] knew what they were going to do, they knew they were going to try to stop the run and force us to pass," Tennant said. "It is what any team would do, you know, young quarterbacks that haven'€™t taken a lot of collegiate snaps. That is what any team would do." To get the ball moving again, BC will have to cut back on its mistakes. The Eagles are not too worried, at least not yet. They feel that if they can focus on the task ahead of them, everything will work out just fine. "I definitely feel like every [mistake] that was made is correctable," Tuggle said. "It's more like little focus mistakes. You just have to go out there and there are things you know you just can't do. Sometimes things just happen and you keep moving on."