2011 Football Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Boston College

, TechSideline.com, on October 19, 2011
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  • Date: Saturday, October 22nd, 2011
  • Time: 3:00
  • TV: RSN (affiliate
    list
    )


If you think Virginia Tech is the most banged up team in the ACC, then you
haven’t read about Boston College. The Eagles have lost Montel Harris, who was
on pace to become the ACC’s all-time leading rusher, for the season. Their best
defensive tackle, Kaleb Ramsey, has also been lost for the year.

As a result of injuries, the Eagles will start a true freshman and a
r-freshman at defensive tackle. They will start a true freshman at strong
safety, and a r-freshman at free safety. Both backup defensive ends are true
freshmen. Both backup cornerbacks are true freshmen, as is the backup weakside
linebacker. The BC defense is so young that they make Bud Foster’s group look
like senior citizens.

Offensively, five of BC’s top 10 offensive linemen are r-freshmen. Their
quarterback is a true sophomore. Their running backs are sophomores. Overall,
this is probably the most inexperienced team Virginia Tech will play all season.

As a result the Eagles are 1-5, with their only win coming over 1-AA UMass.
They were beaten handily by Clemson and UCF, but they had close losses to
Northwestern (24-17), Duke (20-19) and Wake Forest (27-19). 1998 was the last
season Boston College didn’t make a bowl game. With road games against Virginia
Tech, Notre Dame and Miami remaining, as well as a home game versus Florida
State, that 12-year bowl streak is destined to come to an end this year.

Head coach Frank Spaziani is a good coach and a good fit for the BC program,
but it would be hard for anyone to overcome so many injuries and so much youth.


BC Attrition

Player

Role

Status
Montel Harris Starting RB Injured
Ifeanyi Momah Starting WR Injured
Kaleb Ramsey Starting DT Injured
Nathan Richman Starting OL Injured
C.J. Jones Starting CB Injured
Okechukwu Okoroha Starting Safety Left Team
Dominick LeGrand Starting Safety Left Team

That’s a lot of good players. The Eagles have been close in enough games
where they can reasonably say that they would be 4-2 right now if all those guys
had been playing. However, depth is hard to come by at Boston College, and
losing so many starters will lead to losses.

The Boston College Offense

The Eagles have lost their best running back for the season, their
quarterback is a true sophomore, they lack talent at receiver, and their
offensive line isn’t as good as it has been in the past. All of that is a recipe
for a bad offense, which is exactly what Boston College has.


The Boston College Offense

Category

Stat

Rank
Rushing 118.17 ypg 94
Passing 199.67 ypg 88
Total 317.83 ypg 105
Scoring 19.5 ppg 105
Pass Eff. 110.02 104
Third Down % 37.93% 80
TFL 6 per game 70
Sacks 2.33 per game 83

Boston College can’t run it, they can’t pass it, and they can’t keep
defensive players out of the offensive backfield. The Eagles have yet to score
20 points against 1-A competition this season … even Duke, ranked #93 in total
defense and #89 in scoring defense, held them under 20 points.

Much of BC’s struggles on offense come from quarterback issues. Chase Rettig
(6-3, 212, So.) won the job as a true freshman in early October last season, but
that was more due to poor play from Dave Shinskie (6-4, 220, Jr.) and Mike
Marscovetra (6-4, 203, Jr.) than his own ability. Rettig did a decent job, but
for the BC offense to be good he needs to be better than decent.

For the season, Rettig has completed 53.4% of his passes for 1,181 yards,
with six touchdowns and five interceptions. He has been sacked 14 times in five
games, and he doesn’t have great talent at wide receiver to work with. Rettig
also doesn’t get any help from the running game, which averages just 3.6 yards
per carry on the year.

Bobby Swigert (6-1, 184, So.) leads the team with 30 catches, but he’s not a
big play threat. Swigert averages just 9.5 yards per catch. Colin Larmond (6-3,
202, r-Jr.) is BC’s most physically gifted receiver. He has 22 catches and two
touchdowns in 2011 while averaging 17 yards per catch. He had four catches for
64 yards and a touchdown two years ago in Blacksburg, but missed all of last
season with an injury.

Alex Amidon (5-11, 185, So.) and Jonathan Coleman (6-4, 208, r-So.) will also
play for Boston College, though they have combined for just 13 receptions so far
on the season.

Because of their lack of receivers, the Eagles will use their tight ends.
Chris Pantale (6-6, 251, r-Jr.) and Lars Anderson (6-3, 236, r-Sr.) are capable
receivers. Pantale has 10 receptions for 80 yards, while Anderson has added five
catches for 31 yards and a touchdown.

Boston College relies on their ability to run the football. The passing game
works off of a successful running game. So far in 2011, the Eagles haven’t been
able to run the football. Star tailback Montel Harris is out for the season, and
even backup Andre Williams (6-0, 222, So.) is banged up with an injured ankle.
Williams is a quality back who has run for 325 yards on the season, an average
of 4.7 yards per carry. However, he isn’t likely to be 100% against the Hokies.

As a result of those injuries, Rolandan Finch (5-10, 209, r-So.) could be the
majority of BC’s carries against Virginia Tech. He has run for 174 yards in five
games this year and averaged 4.2 yards per carry in the process.

No matter who is playing tailback for the Eagles, they haven’t been able to
get a lot running room. BC is known for big, physical and good offensive lines.
This season the line hasn’t been particularly good, though they are still have
very good size at the tackle positions.


The BC Offensive Line

Pos.

Name

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.
LT John Wetzel 6-8 303 Jr.
LG Bobby Vardaro 6-5 301 r-Fr.
C Mark Spinney 6-4 282 r-Sr.
RG Ian White 6-5 288 r-So.
RT Emmett Cleary 6-7 300 r-Jr.

There isn’t a lot of starting experience in that group, and there are four
r-freshman backups as well. This offensive line is not deep, and not as talented
as what Boston College is used to.

The Eagles have a lot of bad combinations on offense right now: a young
quarterback, lack of talent at wide receiver, injured tailbacks and no depth on
the offensive line. It is understandable why their offense has struggled so much
this season.

The Boston College Defense

The BC defense hasn’t been much better than their offensive counterparts.
They rank very low in most of the major defensive statistics.


The Boston College Defense

Category

Stat

Rank
Rushing 157.5 ypg 68
Passing 261.83 ypg 101
Total 419.33 ypg 95
Scoring 25.67 ypg 58
Pass Eff. 132.28 74
Third Down % 43.02% 80
TFL 5.83 per game 62
Sacks 1 per game 105

The BC rushing defense has gradually improved as the season has progressed,
but they are still allowing 419 yards per game as a team, opponents convert a
lot of third downs, and the Eagle defense hasn’t been able to get to the
quarterback.

BC’s strength on defense is at linebacker. Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly
(6-3, 235, Jr.) is arguably the best linebacker in the country. He has 99
tackles on the season through just six games, including 7.5 tackles for loss. He
has an interception as well, and though he plays on a team that isn’t
successful, that doesn’t take anything away from Kuechly. He could start
anywhere.

He is joined by weakside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (6-1, 212, So.), who
is a very productive player in his own right. He was a freshman All-American
last season, and so far in 2011 he has 56 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and
three passes defended. Pierre-Louis is an athletic linebacker who can run. Like
Kuechly, he has been starting since he was a true freshman.

The final linebacker is Steele Divitto (6-3, 225, So.), who is a good player
in his own right. Divitto is third on the team with 36 tackles, including 2.5
tackles for loss, a sack and an interception. Overall this is a very good group
of linebackers for Boston College. Unfortunately, they don’t have a lot of help
in front of them or behind them.

The Eagles start r-freshman Dominic Appiah (6-5, 286, r-Fr.) at one defensive
tackle spot. True freshman Max Ricci (6-4, 330, Fr.) starts at the other spot.
True freshmen Brian Mihalik (6-8, 233, Fr.) and Mehdi Abdesmad (6-6, 264, Fr.)
are the backups at defensive end. True freshman Spenser Rositano (6-1, 200, Fr.)
is slated to start at strong safety this week, while r-freshman Sean Sylvia
(6-0, 196, r-Fr.) will start at free safety. Both backup cornerbacks, Al
Louis-Jean (6-2, 183, Fr.) and Manny Asprilla (5-10, 170, Fr.), are true
freshmen.

Defenses don’t get any younger than this BC defense. They just don’t get much
production from their defensive linemen and defensive backs. Defensive end Max
Holloway (6-2, 253, r-Jr.) is an exception, with five tackles for loss and two
sacks on the year. Holloway is a very solid player who will likely play almost
every snap for BC, because the Eagles don’t have anyone behind him that they can
trust.

Cornerback Donnie Fletcher (6-1, 195, Sr.) is one of the best cornerbacks in
the ACC, and Jim Noel (6-4, 185, Jr.) is capable of making plays at the boundary
corner spot. Cornerback hasn’t been a problem for the Eagle defense, but safety
has been a major issue. The Eagles are starting two freshmen this week out of
necessity. Hampton Hughes (6-3, 200, r-Jr.) is a former walk-on who had been
starting, but BC just needed more talent on the field, even if they are
freshmen.

Though the BC defensive line is very young, the Eagle defense is most
exploitable at the safety positions. With the way Logan Thomas and the Virginia
Tech wide receivers have been playing recently, you’ve got to like their matchup
in this game. However, don’t look for BC to play nearly as much man coverage as
Miami and Wake Forest. The Eagles will primarily use Cover-2, Cover-3 and even
Cover-4 zones. That’s what Frank Spaziani and BC have done for years against the
Hokies, and with so many inexperienced defensive backs they’ve got even more of
a reason to employ that strategy this year.

Special Teams

Boston College has a couple of solid guys in the kicking game. Ryan Quigley
(6-3, 188, Sr.) is averaging 39.4 yards per punt, which might not seem like a
great number. However, only four of his punts have been returned this year. He
has three punts of over 50 yards, and 19 of his 31 attempts have resulted in
fair catches.

Nate Freese (6-0, 181, So.) is 9-of-12 on his field goal attempts this
season, with a long of 52 yards. He has a strong leg, but he’s still a young
kicker and can be somewhat inconsistent.

On the other hand, Boston College has been terrible in the return game. Bobby
Swigert is averaging just 4.2 yards on his punt returns, while BC as a team
averages only 19.6 yards per kickoff return, which ranks 99th in the nation.
Look for Spiffy Evans (6-0, 173, Fr.) and Tahj Kimble (5-11, 210, r-Fr.) to
return kicks. With two freshmen returning kicks, there is even a lot of youth on
BC’s special teams.

Virginia Tech’s special teams have stabilized recently. Michael Branthover
has taken over the punting duties, and he is averaging 42.1 yards per punt, and
three of his nine attempts have gone for longer than 50 yards. Cody Journell has
not missed a field goal attempt since the Marshall game. The Hokies also have
superior athletes on the return teams.

Overall, you have to give Virginia Tech the advantage on special teams in
this game.

Final Thoughts

Remember a few years back when Boston College was such a terrible matchup for
Virginia Tech? B.J. Raji, Ron Brace, Matt Ryan, all of those linebackers …
those guys really gave the Hokies hell.

Not so much these days. BC’s talent has dropped off, and to make matters
worse, their best players are now getting hurt. There’s not much Frank Spaziani
can do except recruit better, which is difficult in the northeast.

The last two Virginia Tech-Boston College games have been totally one-sided.


Last Two Games with BC

Year

VT Pts.

BC Pts.

VT Yds.

BC Yds.

VT TO’s

BC TO’s
2009 48 14 441 163 1 3
2010 19 0 343 250 1 3

Avg.

33.5

7

392

206.5

1

3

The Hokies didn’t even play well last year and still managed a 19-0 shutout
win on the road. The last two BC teams also made bowl games, while it’s pretty
clear that the 2011 team will not. This the worst Boston College team in a long,
long time.

On the other hand, if there is anyone anywhere who knows how to coach against
Virginia Tech, its Frank Spaziani. He’s competed against the Hokies for many
years at UVA and Boston College, and he and his coaching staff had an extra week
to prepare. I expect the Eagles to be ready to play.

In the end, I don’t think it’s going to matter very much. BC can prepare as
much as they want, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are starting four
freshmen on defense, including both safeties. It doesn’t change the fact that
they are banged up on both sides of the ball, and it doesn’t change the fact
that the Hokies are clearly the better team.

I see BC putting up a bit of a scrap early, but they simply don’t have enough
firepower to hang with the Hokies for four quarters.

Chris’ Prediction: Virginia Tech 34, Boston College 7

Will Stewart’s Take: It’s been a weird ride for the Hokies against Boston
College. From 1994-2002, the Hokies went 8-1 against the Eagles, outscoring BC
253-132 (average score 28-14). From 1996-1998, BC mustered just 14 points
against the Hokies in three games.

On Tech’s way out of the Big East, Boston College shocked the Hokies with a
34-27 win in Lane Stadium in 2003. That was the first game of a disturbing 2-4
run against the Eagles from 2003-2008. At one point, BC beat the Hokies three
straight times in the regular season, from 2006-2008. That included two painful
losses in Chestnut Hill and an extremely painful loss in 2007 in Lane Stadium,
in the Matt Ryan Game. That game pitted the #2 Eagles against the #8 Hokies in a
14-10 classic that may have prevented the Hokies, who finished #3 in the BCS
that year, from making the 2007 BCS title game.

Fortunately for Tech, as the Hokies were struggling against the Eagles in the
mid-2000s, they beat BC twice in the ACC Championship Game, in 2007 and 2008.
Those two games probably kept Tech fans from going insane. BC certainly had
Tech’s number for a while.

The scales have tipped back in the other direction the last two years. Tom
O’Brien left the Eagles after the 2006 season to go to NC State, and Jeff
Jagodzinski did the jig in Boston for the next two years. Frank Spaziani took
over in 2009, and perhaps not coincidentally, the Hokies have annihilated BC in
the last two seasons, 48-14 and 19-0.

If the Hokies show up motivated for this one, it could be just as ugly, or
uglier, than 2009 and 2010. Statistically, this Boston College team is
atrocious, and their record will be their worst since 1995-1998, when they won
4, 5, 4 and 4 games. BC has gone to a bowl every season since 1999, but it won’t
happen this year. This is a really bad, injury-riddled, young team.

Again: If the Hokies show up, they should flatten Luke and the Fighting
Kuechlys.

Will’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 34, Boston College 6

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