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Thursday, August 20, 2015

BC’s methodical rushing attack wears UMass down

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Boston College rumbled and tumbled to a victory in the most grueling and surgical of manners.

The offensive strategy employed by the Eagles on the Massachusetts football team came without the flair of most modern day, spread style offenses. Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy threw for just 173 yards in the 30-7 victory over the Minutemen and was as much of a threat with his legs as he was with his arm, even on passing plays.

Instead, it was as repetitive as it was effective.

The Eagles dialed up run play after run play, alternating between read-option handoffs, interior runs and jet sweeps. At the conclusion of the game, Boston College had totaled 338 yards on 61 rushing attempts. In comparison, UMass rushed 22 times for just 55 yards.

From the sideline, Minutemen coach Mark Whipple observed an abundance of tired UMass defenders.

“I think our defense is just worn down,” he said. “We don’t have enough bodies at this point. (Boston College) had 45 plays in the first half.”

The first half acted as the tone setter, a message from the Eagles that the run game wasn’t going away.

Boston College possessed the ball for 20 minutes, 49 seconds, dwarfing UMass’ meager 9:05 mark in the first half. In just 30 minutes of play, the Eagles had racked up 211 rushing yards and already carried the ball 29 times.

The Minutemen employed their base 3-4 defensive front for the majority of the game and outside of a select group of defensive subs, featured the same rotation of players. UMass failed to generate enough presence along the line and didn’t have the flexibility to showcase different combinations of players. As the game wore on, the Eagles continued to rip off chunks of yardage against an exhausted tired defense.

“That’s who we got,” Whipple said. “We’re a (Division) I-AA team with some I-A players, a number of scholarship guys. That’s just what it is.”

The play of Murphy appeared to frustrate the Minutemen the most. A graduate student transfer from Florida, Murphy is much more potent with his legs than with his arm, stymying UMass on multiple occasions.

Murphy led the Eagles with 118 rushing yards on 13 carries. A bulk of Boston College’s offense came from the shotgun, as Murphy lined up with a running back next to him and ran the read option, a play designed for the quarterback to decide whether to keep the ball or hand it off based on the positioning of defensive players. Murphy was deceptive in his decision-making and found success getting around the edge of the Minutemen defense.

“He did a good job,” Whipple said. “They did a good job, they did what they wanted to do and we didn’t stop them. And we didn’t make enough plays on offense to stop that kind of offense.”

Initially, UMass remained competitive despite a significant Eagles advantage in yards. Boston College led just 6-0 at halftime after the Minutemen thwarted touchdown attempts with their back to their own end zone, instead forcing the Eagles to kick a pair of first half field goals.

UMass safety Joe Colton – who stood out with 13 tackles in the game – lamented the defense’s inability to make quick stops.

“Yeah, it’s frustrating when they’re getting chunks of yards going all the way down the field,” he said.

“And then you decide to stop them inside the 20 (yard line), that’s frustrating and it wears you down. And you keep going out there and just, it’s a pain in the ass. It’s our fault, it’s our own fault. We have to stop them earlier.”

As the Minutemen wore down, the Eagles took advantage, scoring on their first two drives of the second half and opening up the game. The size and experience of the Boston College line – it featured five players who entered with 84 career combined starts – took control of the line of scrimmage in the second half.

After the game, both Whipple and Colton highlighted a lack of complementary football by the Minutemen. The defense couldn’t follow UMass’ first score of the day with a stop and the offense couldn’t muster any drive longevity to aid a tiring defense. It’s something the team will work on as it prepares for Colorado next Saturday.

“I don’t know if there’s a total trust between both sides of the ball and we’re working on that,” Whipple said.

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at mchiarel@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli

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