What We Learned from UMass

Heavily advertised on the Green Line, the “Battle of the Bay State” was more of a tune-up game than anything else for BC.  It was our first look at a very different team from last year, with Murphy at the helm and almost an entirely new supporting cast at the skill positions.

BC won the game pretty comfortably but not quite as convincingly as one would hope. Most importantly, QB Tyler Murphy looked good.  Aside from one ugly interception where he left a pass almost a foot behind his intended receiver, he showed that he could do what was expected of him: control the pace of the game with a very methodic read-option style, keep plays alive with his feet, and not make crucial mistakes.

It remains to be seen how he will react when the run game fails and we inevitably find ourselves behind in a game, but for now, he’s our guy.

Though Murphy was accurate, completing 17 of 24 passes for 173 yards and a scoring a touchdown, the limits of the passing game were evident as none of the receivers established themselves as a deep threat.  There is plenty of size at the receiver position, though there is a clear lack of speed and reliability we have become so accustomed to with Alex Amidon hauling in passes over the last four years. (Side note: I saw Amidon working as a lifeguard in the Plex the other day and it nearly broke my heart, guy should be in the league.)

This year's receivers will have to step up and give Murphy some help if we want to have a shot against a powerful Pitt defense that only gave up 57 yards and caused three turnovers in a 62-0 trouncing of Delaware.

As in the past, the run game is still our bread and butter. If we are successful in the run game, we will always have a chance to win.  Murphy adds a new dimension to this year's team with his dual-threat ability to run and pass, as he was the leading rusher in the game with 118 yards and a touchdown.  Sophomore RB Tyler Rouse got the most carries with 19 for 87 yards while sophomore RB Myles Willis was close behind with 16 for 57 and a touchdown.

The offense added some new wrinkles to the traditional power style, utilizing the jet sweep and running a lot more out of the shotgun, keeping the defense wary of Murphy. It relied heavily on getting outside into space against UMass with the speed of Willis and freshman WR Sherman Alston; however, starting with Pitt, ACC defenses will be much faster and less easily fooled by the misdirection in the BC backfield.

On the other side of the ball, the front lines looked stout.  The defense held UMass scoreless until a big play late in the third quarter.  Stopping the big play will be key for this defense.  Too many times in the past has BC been right in a game only to have the momentum blown open by a breakdown in the secondary (e.g. UMass’ 77-yard touchdown).

Pitt is a run-first team that will try to pound it right through the defense. They rushed for 409 yards against Delaware and RB James Conner picked up 153 of those, along with 4 touchdowns.

However, BC matches up well with Pitt as our defensive strength is up front.  BC’s secondary looked shaky against UMass, but Pitt quarterback Chad Voytik completed only 10 passes in his first start and his best receiver Tyler Boyd left the game in the second quarter with a dislocated finger.  Friday night under the lights in Alumni will be the most pressure Voytik has ever faced. While we definitely did not see the best of BC against UMass, this team has a shot to really turn some heads.  This four game home stretch will make or break our season, as it will only get harder.  If we can play smart and not give up the big play against Pitt and take advantage of a USC program in turmoil, we will be in great position to start the season 5-0 and maybe even ranked.

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