Weekly Preview: Boston College
Image Credit: Baltimore Sun
Opponent: Boston College Eagles (6-4, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference)
Game Date/Time: Saturday, November 23, 2013; 3:30 PM ET
Venue: Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium (54,000)
TV/Radio Broadcasts: Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, Terrapin Sports Radio Network
All-Time Record: 7-3 Boston College
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Terps Run Defense:
Last week, the Terps held Virginia Tech to just 1.4 yards per carry. This week, they will face Andre Williams and the Boston College Eagles, the 21st best rushing team in the country. The Eagles average 217.2 yards on the ground, and Andre Williams is their leading rusher. Williams has rushed for over 1,800 yards on the season, while adding 14 touchdowns on the ground. He scored 5 rushing touchdowns in one game against Army’s porous run defense. But he’s only getting better as the season goes on.
In the month of November, Andre Williams is averaging 7.6 yards per carry over 3 games, leading the Eagles to 3 straight wins. He scored 2 rushing touchdowns in each of those 3 games. He has scored at least one rushing touchdown in 7 of the Eagles’ 10 games so far this season, and in 4 of those games he has scored multiple touchdowns. Williams ran for 339 yards against North Carolina State last week, and 295 against New Mexico State the week before. He is one of the best running backs in the country, and the Terps’ defense will have their hands full against him on Saturday.
Last season, the Terps had one of the best run defenses in the country. Led by defensive linemen A.J. Francis and Joe Vellano, teams who tried to run up the middle on Maryland were turned away easily. But this season’s run defense has taken a bit of a hit with Francis and Vellano’s departures. This year, the Terps rank 32nd in run defense. That’s not terrible, but it’s not where defensive coordinator Brian Stewart wants to be, especially with a defensive line that has stayed very much intact this season.
The most recent depth chart lists Keith Bowers as the backup nose tackle, and Andre Monroe as one of the starting defensive ends. I’m not sure whether this is a permanent move, or whether it’s a strategic move. Boston College is a very good rushing team, so there’s a chance that we could see some 4-3 sets from Brian Stewart’s defense on Saturday. They are normally a strict 3-4 team, but with the injuries at linebacker and the good season that Andre Monroe is having, it would make sense to play in the 4-3 a bit more against a good running team like Boston College. I also wonder if we could see some 4-4 sets from Brian Stewart, forcing the Eagles to throw the ball, which is not their strong suit.
Finally Healthy, C.J. Brown:
C.J. Brown has been banged up a lot this season. After going down in the game against Florida State, he had never really been the same until last week’s game against Virginia Tech. His decision-making abilities were clearly improved, and he was the most comfortable running the ball that we had seen since the Florida State game. He’s clearly healthy and ready to run this offense the way it’s meant to be run.
Brown’s legs were on full display in Blacksburg on Saturday as he ran 23 times for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns. Some of those came on scrambles, but most came from designed read-options, which Brown runs very well. His decisions on the read-option were very good, allowing Brandon Ross to run for 73 yards on just 11 carries. When a team runs the read-option well, you have either your running back or your quarterback having a big day. That’s because the defense has to key on one aspect of the play, allowing the other aspect to have a huge day. We saw this over the Terps’ first 4 games, and we’re seeing it yet again.
C.J. Brown’s running ability takes away from his mediocre passing ability. He threw for just 135 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception on Saturday, but was able to string drives together with his legs. He’s never going to be a great passer, but he’s a good runner, and that’s what Mike Locksley needs in this offense. A quarterback like Caleb Rowe makes up for his lack of running ability with his big arm. But C.J. Brown makes up for his lack of passing ability with his speed and agility. Every quarterback has their strengths and weaknesses, and C.J. Brown’s strengths fit this offense very well, especially when he’s healthy.
Zack’s Keys to the Game:
- Slow down Andre – If the Terps are going to win this game, Brian Stewart needs to find a way for his defense to slow down Andre Williams. One great way to do that is to force Boston College into passing situations early. That will get Williams out of his groove, and force the Eagles to do something they’d rather not do.
- Run the ball – The read-option was on full display in Blacksburg last Saturday, and I expect Mike Locksley to dial up a lot more this Saturday. That may mean that C.J. Brown has a big day, or it may mean that Brandon Ross will have a big day. Either way, the Terps need to be able to run the ball.
- Pressure Rettig – In the event that the Eagles do find themselves in a passing situation, the Terps would be wise to pressure him heavily. As I mentioned, Boston College would much rather run the ball than pass, so pressuring their quarterback will be key.
- Win it for the seniors – It will be Senior Day at Byrd Stadium on Saturday, and 16 of the Terps’ players will be moving on to bigger and better things. A win would be a great send-off gift, especially since it would boost the Terps’ bowl game standing.