Five Things We Learned Against Florida State

October 03, 2009 - 8:45 pm

CHESTNUT HILL -- There is a new knight protecting protecting the castle of Alumni Stadium. He is young and bold. He is smart and ferocious. He is Luke Kuechly. The 18-year old freshman was instrumental in Boston College's 28-21 win this evening over ACC Atlantic Division rival Florida State. He made 12 tackles (7 solo, 5 assisted) and made the plays when they need to be made. Take the Eagles second quarter goal line stand, for instance. On second-and-goal from the 1-yard line Kuechly was in the backfield tackling Seminoles running back Lonnie Pryor before anybody knew the ball had been snapped. On third down he teamed up with defensive end Brad Newman to stop them again. Both plays Kuechly was exactly where he needed to be and delivered crushing hits to keep the ball out of the end zone. "That was tremendous. Boy wonder over here made two unbelievable plays back-to-back. He'€™s unbelievable, he really is," senior middle linebacker and co-captain Mike McLaughlin said. Kuechly turned bright red. It must be hard for a true freshman to be getting all this attention, especially considering how unassuming Kuechly is in person. He cannot shy from it though, not when he leads the team with 45 tackles through the first five games and brings pain to ball carriers with such stunning frequency. Oh, and he did it all of it out of position. With McLaughlin returning to the field after battling his way back from a torn right achilles tendon, Kuechly has been pushed to the weak-side linebacker position in head coach Frank Spaziani's defensive scheme. As opposed to backing up McLaughlin in the middle, the coaching staff figured they could move Kuechly to the outside over Alexander DiSanzo so as to get the best players on the field for the most amount of time. One would think that playing the switch would be taxing for a player so young, but Kuechly just did what he does -- make plays. "I think Luke is, and I have to be careful about anointing Luke a little bit, but he has those instincts." Spaziani said. "He sees that stuff and we try not to coach it out of him. Our whole philosophy is to put the guys in the right position and let them makes some plays." With Kuechly, it seems like any position will do him just fine. Last week he delivered his blows on special teams and spelled McLaughlin. This week is was from the weak-side. Yes, Spaziani was actually talking about the defensive scheme. The goal for the Eagles coaches and Kuechly is just to get him into a position where he does not really have to think and just read and react. "You know, we took a little chance putting him over there at weak linebacker. We didn'€™t want him to think and, you know, the whole '€˜think you stink'€™ principle and we didn'€™t screw him up, he played a good game," Spaziani said. It is not yet perfect, but Kuechly looks better every week. He works hard on it. "I still have a lot to learn. I still make mistakes that I shouldn't because I practice them everyday. I try to just forget about it and play the next play," Kuechly said. Spaziani will probably make sure that he does not forget about those mistakes, but he will take Kuechly's performance just about any day. "Well, I haven'€™t seen the film and the tape but I did see a couple things that raised my blood pressure a little bit. But, once again, as I have been saying about Luke, he has some stuff as a football player that you can'€™t coach and we got to try not to mess him up. Make him better." Only five games into his college career, Kuechly has plenty of time to get better. That is the scary part. Here are four other things we learned on a wild day at The Heights . . . The Horse That Draws The Buggy As we announced earlier, we at The BC Blog finally gave sophomore running back duo Montel Harris and Josh Haden a nickname. The Horse in the Double H, Harris, was the driving force behind the Eagles win. He ran the ball 25 times for 179 yards and two touchdowns. That is an average of 7.2 yards per carry. Not too shabby. Yet, it was more than just a dominating performance. Harris put the team on his back at the end of the game and led them to victory. The second half of was a little bit of a déjà-vu for the Eagles. Last week they let a 14-point lead go against Riley Skinner and the Demon Deacons. This week? Same story, different quarterback (see below). That was when Harris kicked it up a notch. Boston College had just averted a mini-disaster after senior running back Jeff Smith lost a fumble on the kickoff after Florida State's tying score. The Seminoles recovered the ball on the Boston College 29 yard line and seemed poised for the go-ahead score. The defense held and FSU kicker Dustin Hopkins missed a 37 yard field goal. The game turned on two plays after that. The first was a third down pass interference penalty on Florida State Jaime Robinson (on Gunnell) that brought the ball to the Seminoles 42. Then, if you were a Florida State fan, disaster. Harris took the handoff from Shinskie and busted through the line, squirted right, broke two tackles and busted to the end zone. He leapt at about the 4 yard line for the pylon and caught it with the nose of the ball. "The offensive line opened up big holes and I was able to get low, break loose and get to the pylon as fast as I could," Harris said. Ball game. "Montel did what we expected him to do, as Josh did I believe. I have not looked at the stats, looked very quick out there but Montel got a majority of the snaps and made some nice plays. As they both did. They are good backs," Spaziani said. Harris almost gave it back though. His very next run was a 39 yard scamper that ended with a fumble with about a minute-and-a-half to play. He was saved by his left tackle Anthony Castonzo who recovered the ball. Harris is small (5-foot 10-inches, 200 pounds) which makes him quick. He can also be powerful, like he said about "getting low." It gives him leverage in scrums but also can make him a touch fumble prone. It is something that Spaziani does not want to see -- "I thought he was going to the end zone but he forget something" -- but, like Kuechly, he will take a mistake if it gets him 179 yards. Well, as long as they get the win. Shinskie Proves Adept The big thing for Shinskie to prove today was that last week was not a fluke, that he can play at a consistent level, limit mistakes and help the team drive the ball. Shinskie's numbers were not spectacular, but they were steady -- 12 for 21, 203 yards, 2 touchdowns. Most of that was done in the first half, where Shinskie went 9 for 13 for 180 yards and the two scores. The big play came on the third down after the goal line stand in the second quarter. The Eagles had run the ball twice for one yard to set up a third-and-9. Shinskie dropped back, looked down the right sideline and launched the ball to Colin Larmond, Jr. for what turned out to be a 62 yard completion to the Florida State 25. Shinskie managed the drive well and completed it with a 3 yard pitch-and-catch to Gunnell to make the score 14-3. "I think we just found an identity on offense," Shinskie said. "We go out there and are just a little more pepped up. We have guys being more vocal in the huddle and on the practice field. I think our offense finally found itself." Perhaps that is part of Shinskie finding his way on the football field. He is becoming a decent field general and making some big plays when he needs to. That is really all that Spaziani can ask of his true freshman quarterback. Like Harris, Shinskie almost gave the ball away at a critical juncture. Two plays before Harris's winning run he miss-threw a ball that Florida State cornerback Greg Reid had in his hands for a sure interception. But the Reid could not hold on and Shinskie lived to tell the tale. Spaziani said a couple of times in the post game news conference that the Eagles are a "work in progress." Shinskie is as much as anybody, but the last two games the progress has been forward. Secondary Having Trouble This is the second week in a row where a good ACC quarterback orchestrated a second half comeback against Boston College. The problem is not so much a matter of not having talent at cornerback and safety. Marcellus Bowman, Wes Davis and Isaac Johnson are fine players (Bowman had 8 tackles on the day, Davis 7), it is just that their opponents have adjusted to the Eagles looks and picked them apart. "Let me say this. They are big league receivers over there and quarterback and they got us in some space. We are who we are, we tried a couple things a little bit different," Spaziani said. Football is like any sport. If you give the opponent time and space, they will eat you alive. In the second half of the last two games the Eagles secondary got exploited by giving up too much time and space and subsequently they gave up big yards and big scores. Part of that is definitely the fact that the opponents have been behind and forced to throw the ball (hence wearing down the secondary a touch). Yet, a trend is emerging that could cost the Eagles a game down the line. "I have to give them some credit too on it but we certainly want to be better," Spaziani said.  "We have to be better. They have a lot to do with it, those guys are pretty good and we are still trying to feel our way to get whatever rush we need to get, we are trying to create it and they made some plays too. A couple of those passes they caught, they executed and made the catch. We like to think we can make that play too, but we didn'€™t. We'€™ll keep working on it." Speed Not A Factor Much was made before the game about Florida State's speed and the problems it could pose for Boston College. Well, the Eagles did not seem to mind much about the opposing speed. That could have had something to do with the wet field, but, except for Seminoles receivers Richard Goodman and Bert Reed, two very fast players, Boston College handled it well (Goodman finished with 9 receptions for 105 yards, Reed with 7 for 107). Florida State ran a spat of end-arounds, sometimes with double pitch options, like the two-point conversion they made to tie the game. Yet, for the most part Boston College was able to sniff them out and limit the damage. Not that Florida State was completely unsuccessful, but the Eagle were not limited by the speed the way they were against the Clemson Tigers, when nothing went right at all. The handling of the speed was as much a part of the players making plays but also the coaching staff putting them in the right positions. They stayed their bases and, for the most part, let the play come to them.