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Virginia Tech Hokies vs the Boston College Eagles: Our ACC Opener

The Hokies meet up with Boston College at 3:30 on Saturday. While a good game won't erase the issues of the last two weeks, it would go a long way to repairing some reputations. Looking at BC, this season and what we might face.

Cam Phillips grabs a pass and runs in the 2015 BC game at Chestnut Hill
Cam Phillips grabs a pass and runs in the 2015 BC game at Chestnut Hill
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

My father taught me a valuable lesson about rough days, bad outings, and major foul ups.  Take a shower, get some sleep, and come back at it in the morning.  He didn't mean just sort of forget about it and move on.  He meant that after some rest that it was time to get back at the problem that you messed up so badly, fix it, make sure that you don't repeat it again, and then move on.

Without dwelling in the recent past; or living there, the problems that were identified in games one and two must be rectified.  It's also useful to remember that every sports talking head, junior analyst, or discussion group is going to live in the past for you.

Two games and ten fumbles later have provided more than enough poison ink for their pens.  Those pens are going to be out for the game with Boston College on Saturday.  We have a 3:30 kick-off which means a respectable regional audience and the mouths will be running.

Boston College is our opening salvo in a long slog through the ACC this season.  It's a slog because of the rough parity that the teams in the coast seem to be sporting over the last several seasons.  Since Tech's loss in its last ACC championship game in 2011, the division just looks like it has settled into a struggle best described by "parity and awe".  No team has a total advantage over any other team and even the division cupcakes have worked to shed that status.  Duke is actually going to host a Pro Day this season.

Let's check some information from Hokie Sports to see what the history between the Hokies and the Eagle comes down to:

Total number of games in the series:   24

Tech's Record:    16-8

Home:   6-4      Away:   8-4    Neutral:   2-0

Record at Lane Stadium:   6-4  -a reminder that they have beaten us at home... Matty Ice... Matty Ice...

Televised Games:   16-8 Again.. Matty Ice




Score (VT-Opp)



Sat., Oct 31, 2015

Chestnut Hill, Mass.

W, 26-10



Sat., Nov 1, 2014

Blacksburg, Va.

L, 31-33



Sat., Nov 2, 2013

Chestnut Hill, Mass.

L, 27-34



Sat., Nov 17, 2012

Chestnut Hill, Mass.

W, 30-23 (OT)



Sat., Oct 22, 2011

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 30-14



Sat., Sep 25, 2010

Chestnut Hill, Mass.

W, 19-0


Since 2010, we have played four games in Chestnut Hill, and only two at Lane.  The series, even though it seems to be a long one, really has only happened over the last 25 years.  It's not enough time to develop into a traditional rival, but the record of late shows that BC is more than capable of rearing up and biting us, hard.   The bites have come more often lately, with a very rare set of back to back losses in 2013 and 2014.  We all know and feel those close fought games because neither team was performing particularly well in those seasons.  Last year's win was a major face saver.

Overall, though Tech has been putting up better numbers in the match up; basically we have come away with 2 out of 3 for the series. That is, as the infamous, ‘they' say; old news.  That's in the past, and BC is a different team this year.  We covered BC a bit in a summer preview.

What we couldn't see at the time was the current situation.  First, BC lurks at the bottom of the high flying Atlantic Division of the ACC.  Their tour in Purgatory has only been worse than ours.  Their ACC season opened against Georgia Tech, and up until late in the second half, BC actually controlled most of the momentum on the field.  GT had to scramble to make up ground to nip the Eagles by a dreary old fashioned football score of 17-14.  The next game BC gathered itself and put up 24 giving up only 7 against the University of Massachusetts.  While you might sort of chuckle, UMass is a Division 1 FBS team, and BC had to work to win that game.

Take a look at Yahoo Sports for a detailed breakdown of BC's first two games' statistics.

As predicted in the preview, Patrick Towles is starting at quarterback.  There is little doubt that Towles is a big improvement over the Eagle quarterbacks of the last couple of seasons.  He has some decent running help, and some serviceable receivers.












Patrick Towles











Towles's numbers suggest that over two games, BC is running a modest passing game with mid length passes.  He's got as many picks as TD's and at two, the number of scores doesn't really put a dent in the significance of the picks.  He's only been sacked once, which means one of two things; he runs out of trouble, or his offensive line is pretty good.  I am thinking that it's more the former than the latter.

BC is going to have to run the ball, well, to beat us.  Towles is their number two rusher and accounts for one of their three rushing touchdowns








Jon Hilliman








Patrick Towles








Towles is going to be dangerous for a Hokie Defense that has extreme difficulty defending against running Quarterbacks.  See Jawhar's excellent analysis about how Tech's defense is missing critical key pickups on option read plays.  In order to stop these rips from happening the Defense must key the quarterback on every play; and then use a different player to key the runner.   One defender keying the quarterback or the running back results in a 50/50 shot of which few offensive coordinators will avail themselves time after time.  The 2 yard gain or loss is always balanced out by the 16 yard gash.

There is a limit as to how much crow one can eat, and at the moment most Hokies are a bit tired of picking black feathers out of their teeth.  The equation is going to be simple this weekend.

Move the ball on offense in a balanced attack that approaches 50% pass/run ratios.  Yes, you read that right.  We need to move the ball downfield and score points.  The new Fuente offense works better when it goes fast, and swaps in short to medium passes for new football schedule (5-7 yards per down) instead of option pitches.  Just ask Bill Walsh how that works.   We still need to run to balance and also to take advantage of key reads at the line of scrimmage; but there were entirely too many tanked draw plays last week.  Tech needs to get Evans moving in the pocket to get him some better read perspective and some better options.

The Defense must get organized to defeat the Read/Option play and the Quarterback draw.  If we don't get that fixed, it's going to cripple the entire season and make it even more necessary for Fuente/Cornelsen to call riskier plays.

The penalties must stop; PERIOD!  No more procedural mistakes at the line!  No more bone headed holding or illegal blocking!  And ESPECIALLY, no more disastrous selfish hot headed undisciplined personal fouls!

Of course the major thing to fix is the fumbling problem.  It's not cute anymore; we are now the most fumble prone college football team in the division.  Fixing the fumbles is difficult.  You can point bloody fingers at the coaches, the training, the uniform material, the weather; whatever.  Eventually the fumbling problems come down to the players and their situational awareness while handling the ball.  That is an individual player discipline issue, and the only people who are going to cure that problem are the players themselves.  Jerod Evans, Cam Phillips, C.J. Carroll, and Travon McMillian should all be seriously aware of what's at stake.  I don't imagine that their practice week was very easy.  They are all quality players and they know what's at stake.  There is also an ancillary issue of what to do when the ball hits the ground.  There seemed to be very few football fundamentals on display last Saturday.  A repeat of five fumbles will guarantee that BC clocks us a good one this season.

And that's where it sits.  Hokies win if they play their game, gets their defense stopping the Read/Option, stop the penalties, and most of all keep control of the football.  We'll be looking for linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka and defensive end Ken Ekanem to get the issue under control.  There are other players on the field who need to step up, but in Foster's defense they are the key players for getting the QB on the ground before damage is done.

Boston College has a chance to win this football game.  We are more evenly matched than we'd like to admit.

It's time to prove something to ourselves as much as the sports world.