Five Things We Learned As BC Bounces Kent State

September 12, 2009 - 4:29 pm
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"Thunder! Thunder or we will fire on you!" In the old army parlance of determining allies from enemies, Boston College thundered. Kent State never flashed. Down the visitors went. The Eagles cruised to another victory at home against an opponent from a middling conference as they upended the Kent State Golden Flashes, 34-7, at Alumni Stadium Saturday afternoon. The competition represented a significant step up from last week's opponent, Northeastern, and Boston College showed that it can stick with a game plan and execute it to stymie its opposition and thus bring victory to Chestnut Hill. "It was, obviously, a good win," BC coach Frank Spaziani said. "We did a lot of things right, got to evaluate a lot more. Saw some things that we need. We're making progress. Hey, listen, we're 2-0 '€¦ so that's where were at. The kids should be proud of their effort and we'll go from there." The offense made some strides on this chilly, wet afternoon, but it was the defense that captured the day. The Eagles defense has gotten turnover-happy. When Spaziani was the defensive coordinator for BC '€” a post he held for 10 years before taking over the reins as the top man '€” his defense consistently ranked at the top of the nation in the turnover category. Last year, Spaziani's crew tied with Florida for the top spot nationally with 26 interceptions. Since the start of the 2000 season, the Eagles have amassed 168 picks, ranking them third behind only Virginia Tech and Oklahoma. It seemed odd last week when the Eagles failed to create a turnover in their 54-0 romp over Northeastern, though it can be understood as Spaziani kept the defense vanilla to help true freshman linebacker Luke Kuechly, who is learning to call the plays on defense. This week the defense showed its bounce, forcing Kent State into three turnovers, resulting in 17 points. It was on from the start. In the first quarter Boston College got to Kent State sophomore quarterback Giorgio Morgan as junior Mike Morrissey stepped into the passing lane to tip the ball on an out route. Redshirt freshman Nick Clancy backed up Morrissey on the play and clutched the ball for his first career interception. The Eagles turned the opportunity into points when Dave Shinskie hit Rich Gunnell in the flat for a 21-yard touchdown strike. Entering the third, it was time for Boston College to put its foot to the Golden Flashes' throat. Kent State's first two possessions of the third quarter resulted in turnovers. First was an interception by sophomore Dominick LeGrande (his first career interception), which led to another Gunnell touchdown reception. Then came a fumble recovery by Kuechly that set up a 33-yard field goal by Steve Aponavicius to cap the Eagles' scoring for the day and make the score 34-0. "Yeah they got a couple, created a couple turnovers, absolutely," Spaziani said. "I was hoping they'd get the doughnut at the end there, but, you know, we are a work in progress over there also. They did fine and there were some areas where they need work, but they'll see it and we'll work from there." Here are the four other things we learned from another dominating performance at Chestnut Hill '€¦ Captain Gunnell Stands Tall Rich Gunnell can do it all with a ball in his hands. He just needs to get it. Last week the senior wide receiver and team captain was the man on special teams, continually giving the offense great field position and even breaking a punt return into the end zone. Yet, he did not have a reception. This week was a different story. Gunnell was marginalized in the kicking game (two punt returns for six yards) but was a force in the offensive scheme with six catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Gunnell played it down when asked about not catching a ball last week, saying that "whatever helps the team, I'm down for." Perhaps there was another reason, though. Spaziani may have thought to save the bullets of his star wideout while integrating other receivers into the offense, players such as Clyde Lee, who had a decent game against Northeastern (three catches for 32 yards). To get the quarterback tandem of Justin Tuggle and Dave Shinskie on track, it was time to unleash Gunnell on the Golden Flashes' defense. Spaziani knows he can count on the quiet senior leader. "Rich is a captain," Spaziani said. "He's a quiet guy. You can count on him. He made a couple of nice catches. We need guys like that with senior leadership to step up and play. They don't necessarily have to be rah-rah and things like that. You just have to make catches and play like he's been playing." Tuggle to Gunnell is starting to look like a pretty good combination. After LeGrande's interception, the Eagles took over on the Kent State 36. It was a drive of fits and starts. Tuggle took a sack that set up a third-and-17. It looked as though the drive would fizzle out there, but Tuggle was able to step up and step into a throw on the right sideline that Gunnell was able to wrestle away from Kent State defensive back Josh Pleasant for 20 yards and a first down. On the next set of downs, Tuggle saved the drive again by getting the ball to Gunnell on a third-and-13. The duo finished it off with a 6-yard touchdown pass that made the score 31-0. "I think this team today was talented, but we played really well," Gunnell said. "We came in with the mindset saying we are going to defend our home turf. It doesn't matter who our opponent is, we'll respect them but we'll go out and play our game. I feel that we are a lot more comfortable going next week to start ACC play." Defensive Coefficient The BC defense may be young, but it is starting to look pretty good. The hype coming into the game was Kent State running back Eugene Jarvis, the nation's leader in all-purpose yards after a 265-yard performance in Week 1. Boston College held him to 17 yards on 10 carries. Jarvis did not get many carries in the second half as the game was out of reach for the Golden Flashes and they probably did not want their star running back hurt playing meaningless minutes on a wet field. Overall, the Eagles held Kent State to 60 yards rushing and only 179 offensive yards for the entire game. After converting their first three third-down conversions, the Golden Flashes converted just one in their next 13 chances. The Golden Flashes ruined Boston College's bid at pitching two shutouts to start the season when they scored a touchdown with 2:15 left in the game. Yet, the Eagles started the season with 117 minutes and 45 seconds of shutout ball and had not allowed a point going back to last year in 121:11. The touchdown was the first they gave up to an opponent since last year's ACC championship game against Virginia Tech, a total of 194:02. "That's always our goal, and we slipped up a bit at the end," Kuechly said of not getting the shutout. "That's one thing we've got to fix." Well, Kuechly cannot expect a shutout every weekend. Touchdowns happen, it is inevitable. The Eagles can just hope to keep them on the lighter side, especially entering ACC play against Clemson next weekend. "I think each week we will be progressing forward," Kuechly said. "We'll take a look at the tape from today and see what we have to improve on." The Montel Harris-Josh Haden Duo Needs A Nickname This really was not much of a game to showcase the sophomore running back tandem of Montel Harris and Josh Haden. It was much more of a long ball type of day, with both Tuggle and Shinskie hitting receivers deep to set up scores. That does not discourage Harris, who gained 68 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown. "It wasn't like last week, not a lot of big holes," Harris said. "Do what I can do with a little bit of running room whenever I get through the holes." The offensive line may not have gotten the big holes, but Harris and Haden tried to make the best of them when they were there. Haden had eight carries for 30 yards. The offensive line should not be a concern for the Eagles as they project to put at least two of their five into the NFL. Yet, last week Spaziani said he did not like the "push" that the line got, though he said he did see improvement Saturday. Said Spaziani: "You have to be able to control the ball. You have to be able to stop the run. You have to be able to run. Today I saw some better things. I heard some clicking." Harris gave the credit to Kent State. "Got to give credit to the Kent State defensive line. They were getting some fire off the ball,"  Harris said. "Got to work on firing off the ball and not letting defensive lines get underneath the pads and penetrate. That's what happened a lot, but the offensive line still did a good job." Harris also said that his tandem with Haden does not yet have a nickname as they are going with the classic "1-2 punch" for now. Check back at the BC Blog for updates when a more suitable term emerges. Ryan Quigley Is Good At What He Does Boston College sophomore punter Ryan Quigley once again was quite good at what he does. Twice against Kent State he spotted punts within the 5-yard line and for the season he has done it four times. Five of his 11 punts on the year have been downed inside the 20-yard line. Quigley's boot was not quite as powerful as it was last week when he averaged 49.4 yards a punt, but he did have a respectable 40.5-yard average on six attempts. That is an understandable drop-off considering the slick footing on the wet field turf. If the Eagles can get the punter-returner tandem of Quigley and Gunnell working on full cylinders the entire season, it will alleviate the pressure on the young defense and the offense.

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