Third Down Defensive Woes Keeps Eagles Offense from Soaring in Loss to Wake Forest
By James Hunter Somers
Boston College’s performance Saturday poked some doubt into Wake Forest’s sizzling 4-0 start to the season. Unfortunately, however, the final score told a different story as the Eagles defense could not keep the Demon Deacons off the field. In an evenly-matched contest featuring impressive showings from AJ Dillon and John Lamot, Jamie Newman and his Wake Forest squad were simply dominant on third down.
After losing the coin flip, the Boston College offense got off to an uncharacteristically rocky start. To avoid a recurrence of Dillon’s ferocious start to last year’s game where he racked up 50 yards and a score before two minutes had ticked off the clock, Dave Cohen’s defense looked to stop the run early. Dillon found nowhere to run on consecutive runs. Clearly frustrated in the pocket, Anthony Brown forced a throw to his receiver, resulting in his first interception of the year.
Wake Forest’s ensuing opening drive gave the Eagles a taste of what was to come. Relying on the tough tailback Cade Carney and the legs of quarterback Jamie Newman, the Demon Deacons marched all the way down the field. The series of delayed handoffs and spread option plays proved to be a great test to the inside linebackers. Unable to get a stop, the Boston College defense gave up a short punch-in touchdown to Carney with 9 minutes left in the first.
Another brief offensive possession by Boston College set up Wake’s second methodical scoring drive. Carney rolled over the Eagles defense on the 10-play drive before finally meeting resistance in the red zone. Dave Clawson’s commitment to the run resulted in three more points, bolstering the early Wake Forest lead.
Over the remaining quarter and change, the Eagles put together a resurgence, bringing the game to a 17-17 tie by the half. A powerful 33-yard run by Dillon completely ignited the running game. The three-headed monster of Dillon, David Bailey and Zay Flowers piled up almost 100 yards over the 13-minute window. Reminding Wake Forest of how potent Steve Addazio’s offense can be when the play-action pass is working, Boston College bounced back with 17 points in the second quarter. When Wake Forest elected to stack the box, they were quickly reminded that Brown has the arm strength to make the open passes and the elusiveness to create room for his receivers.
On the flip side, Wake Forest watched their lead fade away. If not for Newman’s heroics with a 30-yard scamper and beautiful 50/50 pass to the reliable Sage Surratt, Wake Forest likely would have gone into the second half down by seven. Instead, excited chatter filled the air as both teams headed into their locker rooms to prepare for the second half. On the heels of its threatening run game and clicking special teams, Boston College had quickly gotten back on track following a concerning start.
Boston College’s commanding defensive stand coming out of the half would turn out to be a tease. Riding the positive momentum of the quick three and out, Dillon rumbled down the field, setting the team up in the end zone. However, for a drive with so much potential, the red zone play calling reminded the fans of the struggles that have kept the Boston College offense from truly taking flight. Steve Addazio elected to keep the offense on the field for fourth-and-3, instead of having Aaron Boumerhi come on for a 38-yard field goal attempt. This move quickly backfired, as Brown threw his second pick of the game and season.
With a string of strategic drives and third-down conversions, Wake Forest slowly puts the game away. Simply put, the Boston College defense found little success keeping the opposing spread option attack off the field. Despite career days from Max Richardson and John Lamot, who combined for a whopping 30 tackles, Newman and Carney steadily moved the chains and kept their offensive drives alive.
The story of the third quarter was the Eagles inability to capitalize off of big breaks. Coming off the heels of a few big runs, Newman looked to make a splash play downfield. In what seemed to be a huge change in momentum, Mike Palmer made a jump on the ball, intercepting it at Wake’s 15-yard line. However, the Wake Forest defense put together a nice answer and forced a turnover on downs after a mishandled snap on a field goal attempt.
— BC Football 🏈 (@BCFootball) September 28, 2019
Following unsuccessful drives by both teams, Boston College’s defense seemed to have another big play with a little over 11 minutes left in the half. Under pressure, Newman lost control of the ball, coughing it up to the opposing defense. Still, Boston College could not catch a break. The refs ruled the play an incomplete pass, and this made way for a deep touchdown pass to Scotty Washington.
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) September 28, 2019
In reflection of the success Boston College found in the closing minutes of the first half, the offense marched downfield. While the Philly Special reenactment was fun to watch, it came with too little time left on the clock. As Boston College continued to soften on third down, Wake Forest lumbered down the field for the final minutes of the game.
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) September 29, 2019
Overall, the game featured big plays on both sides of the ball and by both teams. Adding to his impressive resume, Dillon eclipsed 100 rushing yards for the 15th time in his three-year career at Boston College. Pressure rides on the veterans to get the team in gear to face yet another conference rival when the team travels to Louisville for a 12:30 game next Saturday.
Fly Eagles Fly!