Five Things We Learned: The Road Blues

October 10, 2009 - 4:08 pm
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There were not many people who expected Boston College to travel to Virginia Tech and come out with a win against the fifth-ranked Hokies. They probably did not think it would be quite so bad. For the second time this season, the Eagles took their show on the road against an Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division opponent, and for the second time, they were manhandled en route to a lopsided loss. The Hokies came away with a 48-14 victory Saturday afternoon in Blacksburg, Va. The Clemson Tigers are a decent team, but they might as well be earth-dwellers in comparison with Virginia Tech. Coach Frank Beamer's group is fast, strong and mean. The Eagles were picked apart from the very beginning of the game by redshirt freshman tailback Ryan Williams and Michael Vick aspirant Tyrod Taylor, a junior quarterback. The speed was just too much for the young Eagles defense. On the first drive of the game, Williams had five carries for 46 yards and mashed up Boston College like pig intestines through a sausage grinder. That was just the start, as Williams would finish the day with 18 carries for 159 yards and a touchdown, good for 8.8 yards per carry. The lesson here was not so much the deficiencies of Boston College; we know by now that this is a middle-to-above-average team this season, but rather that the Hokies are head and shoulders above the rest of the mediocre teams in the ACC. No other team in the conference has played as tough a schedule as the Hokies. Really, no other team had the nerve to schedule such tough opponents, except for maybe Miami, which squeaked by Oklahoma last week. Virginia Tech started the season against BCS championship contender Alabama, suffering a 34-24 loss before coming back to rip off victories over Nebraska, Marshall, Duke and Miami. There are not many teams outside of the SEC or USC that see that kind of competition ('Bama, Nebraska, Miami) in three of the first five games. The Hokies tested themselves early and came out of the gauntlet at 4-1 and have set themselves up for another ACC championship run and BCS bowl berth. Compare Virginia Tech to Boston College, which faced cupcakes and candy in its first two games against Northeastern and Kent State before the loss to Clemson. In the last two weeks, BC eked out wins against middling ACC opponents Florida State and Wake Forest before returning to Blacksburg for today's beat-down. If Virginia Tech was just another ACC also-ran destined to be the best of the mediocre teams in the conference, then today would have been different, a much more competitive game. Really though, Virginia Tech is a worthy top-five team with national title aspirations. Boston College, well, is not. Besides learning just how good Virginia Tech really is, here are four other things we learned Saturday: THE BC OFFENSE IS NOT VERY GOOD ON THE ROAD The first half of this game was almost a replica of the Clemson game, with the exception that Virginia Tech scored touchdowns where the Tigers kicked field goals. Both times the Eagles have gone south to rowdy, loud stadiums (Lane Stadium is particularly hostile) they have come out less than flat. Awful might be a better word. The only way Boston College was able to have any positive yardage at the end of the first half was because sophomore running back Montel Harris had a 6-yard run near the end of the second quarter to bring the total up to 2 yards. Freshman quarterback Dave Shinskie also had a bad case of the 0-fer's. Only one of his first-half passes was caught. Too bad it was to Virginia Tech cornerback Rashad Carmichael, who took it 21 yards the other way for a touchdown. Other than that, Shinskie was 0-9 and underthrew, overthrew or flat-out missed his targets. It got so bad that in the middle of the second quarter BC coach Frank Spaziani took almost his entire first-team offense out of the game and replaced it with the second unit and 18-year old true freshman quarterback Mike Marscovetra. Marscovetra paid for that with his body as he was flattened by Tech defensive ends Nekos Brown and Jason Worilds (more on that below). Shinskie and the first team would return on the next series but did not play any better than before. Shinskie still is adjusting to life back in football after his professional baseball career ended, but he has proven twice now that he cannot handle road pressure against big and speedy teams. He has a pretty steep learning curve in that aspect, but with road games coming against Notre Dame, Virginia and Maryland, he will need to learn quickly. THE OFFENSIVE LINE ALSO IS NOT GOOD ON THE ROAD You have to feel for Shinskie. As long as you do not feel LIKE Shinskie, after the beating he just received. The offensive line failed the Eagles again on the road, proving the linemen also have a steep learning curve when it comes to defending against top-notch pass rushers in hostile environments. Against Clemson it was the "Bamberg Bookends" of Ricky Sapp and Da'Quan Bowers. Against Virginia Tech it was the fearsome duo of Brown and Worilds. Any time Shinksie wanted to step into a throw, one of those two were there for the big hit right after the ball was released. When Marscovetra was in the game, he felt the same wrath. It was not until the second half that the offensive line was able to get the running game going at all. Montel Harris finished the game with 11 carries for 41 yards. True freshman Rolandan Finch ended up with eight for 14 yards and Josh Haden had five for 8. With the losses suffered by the quarterbacks, the BC rush total of the day was 43. For a team looking for an upset on the road, that is a low total and is very indicative of the way the game went. MARSCOVETRA WAS DECENT IN GARBAGE TIME Midway through the third quarter, Shinskie and the rest of the first-team offense got the hook for good. One would have thought, the way the beginning of the season had played out, that redshirt freshman Justin Tuggle would have gotten the call to get his head bashed in by the Hokies. Instead, Spaziani elected to go with the 18-year-old Marscovetra. Marscovetra was decent against the Hokies' second- and third-team defense. He completed the first touchdown pass of his career, a 62-yard bomb to Colin Larmond Jr., early in the fourth quarter for Boston College's first score. He added a fourth-and-goal touchdown toss to tight end Lars Anderson from the 1-yard line with 33 seconds left for the final margin. Perhaps it was a shift of the depth chart for Spaziani or maybe he just wanted to get the freshman's feet wet. Either way, Marscovetra was the only decent spot for the Eagles on a difficult day. Marscovetra finished the day 10-of-16 for 114 yards and the two touchdowns. RYAN QUIGLEY MAY HAVE A CASE OF THE YIPS BC punter Ryan Quigley was busy. He had nine punts that totaled 350 yards, for a 38.9-yard average. But it seems that Quigley has lost his early season magic. He had a stretch when he was able to consistently put balls within the 20-yard line and set opponents back against the wall. He was not able to put ball inside the 20 at all against Virginia Tech, nor did he register a touchback. Quigley's kickoff to open the game was a squiggley liner that ended up out of bounds for a penalty. On a couple of his punts he shanked the ball off the side of his foot for low yardage. After his great start to the season, Quigley has come back down to Earth in the last couple of games, with his shank-off-the-side problem causing headaches for the BC defense in the last three games.