November 7, 2007

Receivers were bright spot vs. FSU

Boston College's perfect season ended in a 27-17 loss to Florida State in the rain on Saturday night. And while the passing game didn't click perfectly, the wideouts led by Brandon Robinson kept the Eagles in the game. EA's Nick Balk breaks down the grades.

Quarterback: B-

Matt Ryan threw for over 400 yards, but it was not one of his best performances of this season. BC's unwillingness to run the football certainly did not help Ryan because he was forced into leading a one-dimensional offense. Florida State was able to control BC's short passing game, and even though Ryan was able to throw over the top successfully several times, his mistakes were what ultimately cost the Eagles the game. Three interceptions (although one of them was not his fault) and two consecutive penalties for illegal passes when BC was in the redzone were errors that allowed Florida State to maintain their stranglehold on the scoreboard. Ryan's throws also seemed disrupted by the wind, but his counterpart, Drew Weatherford, was able to complete almost sixty-five percent of his passes.

Running Backs: B-

There is not much to grade the running backs on this week as Andre Callender and L.V. Whitworth finished the game with only 38 yards on 11 carries. Passing on almost every down was a crucial error. Had BC mixed a few more runs into the gameplan, even if they were draws and counters out of the three wide receiver formation that BC utilized so often, the Eagles would have kept FSU off-balance defensively and would have kept more of a control on the clock. The defense was on the field for more than their share of the game (35 to 25 minutes), and were clearly tired in the fourth quarter, as FSU completed slant after slant. While the running backs are not to blame for the playcalling, they are to blame for their dropped passes. Callender dropped several, although he did receive a 52 yard pass which accounted for most of his 74 receiving yards. Eagle fans should expect more from the running backs against Maryland, because they have been very solid all season.

Wide Receivers: B+

Brandon Robinson had an excellent game for BC. His statistics-7 receptions for 163 yards-do not fully explain how well he played. He was a vertical threat for the Eagles when it seemed that Florida State's sole focus was to stop the short-passing game. He had two terrific diving catches, both of which showed the type of athleticism that had been missing from the BC offense for much of Tom O'Brien's tenure. Rich Gunnell also was a viable long-ball threat, catching a 42 yard bomb from Ryan among his three catches. Kevin Challenger, on the other hand, struggled. He caught three passes for 42 yards, but had several drops and a fumble. He has been a very steady receiver for BC over the last few years, but if he is unable to get his act together soon, the coaching staff should seriously consider decreasing his playing time and increasing the playing time of Clarence Megwa, Justin Jarvis, and even Billy Flutie. This way, the young receivers will have a chance to develop.

Tight Ends: A-

The tight ends did a good job against Florida State. Ryan Purvis had 6 catches for 59 yards, and Jonathan Loyte contributed 2 catches for 10 yards. They were not asked to run-block much because BC only ran the ball eleven times. The tight ends have been solid this year and have been utilized very effectively.

Offensive Line: B+

The offensive line played its best game in weeks against Florida State, and it is a shame that their efforts were wasted. While they are still a work in progress, the fact that Florida State was unable to record a sack on 53 passing attempts demonstrates the job that the O-line was doing protecting Ryan. Gosder Cherilus regained his focus and avoided committing an excessive number of mental mistakes as he did in previous games. This group seemed to be rejuvenated, and if they can continue playing well for the rest of the season, BC's offense will be in an excellent position to score a lot of points.

Defensive Line: B

The defensive line provided a solid but unremarkable performance. On one hand, Florida State only averaged 2.6 yards on 31 carries. On the other hand, little pressure was generated on Weatherford. This is in part due to the fact that many of Weatherford's passes were out of his hand quickly, particularly later in the game. The coaching staff repeatedly lined Kevin Akins up on the line in obvious passing situations, but he was not able to generate any pressure.

Linebackers: B+

The linebackers were again excellent in run-support, but they were not able to come up with a game-changing turnover. This is the strongest unit of the defense, and the team has come to rely on their big plays. Jo-Lonn Dunbar's high ankle sprain should be of great concern to Eagle fans, both because of his ability and because of the fact that he is a leader on the field.

Secondary: B-

Make no mistake about it, Weatherford torched the BC defense. However, the secondary is not all to blame. Florida State was given the quick slant all night long, as the corners were playing well off the receivers. It seemed that the coaching staff was extremely worried about giving up the big play over the top, and they did not think that Weatherford would be able to nickel-and-dime all night without turning the ball over. In fact, this is exactly what happened. It would have been nice to see the occasional blitz from the secondary, particularly from a weak-side cornerback, but the coaching staff stuck with their gameplan of keeping the defenders at home. The bright spot in the secondary was Jamie Silva, who contributed a whopping 16.5 tackles. Unfortunately, many of these were on FSU receivers running free with the ball.

Special Teams: B

The Special Teams again were a relative non-factor in this game, as each team was able to neutralize the other side. Steve Aponavicius missed one field goal in the poor conditions, but his counterpart, Gary Cismesia, missed two. BC resorted to squib kicking because of the weather and to avoid a long return, which is understandable. Both teams consistently started with the ball between the 35 and 40 yard-lines after opposing kickoffs. Johnny Ayers was again quite good, averaging almost 45 yards per punt in the inclement conditions. Dejaun Tribble, once again, did not contribute in the return game.

You can e-mail Nick at Nicholas.balk@gmail.com

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