Mercifully, the Hurricanes are back in action tomorrow, resuming conference play against an estranged opponent in the Boston College Eagles. Led by head coach Steve Addazio, the ACC Atlantic Eagles are scrapping to stay in contention for the Atlantic crown with the likes of Clemson and NC State. Similar to the Canes, the Eagles are coming off a bye week. Unfortunately, the Hurricanes have endured an onslaught of criticism based on the offensive performance against Virgina two weeks ago.
With dreams of making it back to Charlotte for the ACC Championship game, Miami needs this win to stay in contention in the ACC Coastal race — and, more importantly, they need to illustrate that the program has not plateaued under the current regime. The answers will be revealed Friday evening at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
Iron Sharpens Iron (One vs One)
Boston College DE Zach Allen vs Miami RT Delone Scaife
Having the week off must’ve been nice, but the Hurricanes don’t get a warm up in their return to action this week. BC’s DE Zach Allen represents a myriad of problems for the Hurricanes’ offensive line. The senior out of Canaan, Connecticut, does not bite on play fakes, keeping gap integrity while letting the play develop. When engaged with blockers, Allen possess the strength to walk lineman backwards into the pocket. He can also employ an array of hand moves, swimming, ripping or bull-rushing his way to the QB. In seven games this season, Allen has 36 tackles, 11 tackles-for-loss, 4.5 sacks and an interception. That doesn’t include three pass breakups, six QB hurries and a forced fumble.
The addition of freshman Delone Scaife to Miami’s starting offensive line was a step in a positive direction. With Navaughn Donaldson sliding to right guard, Scaife not only has a good running mate on the right side, but a guide to anchor the edge of the Canes’ line. He’ll need all the help he can muster against the 6’5”, 285 pound Allen, as well as his running mate, who we’ll discuss later. Expect the Hurricanes to provide some help to Scaife with an assist from a running back, or a double-team with either Donaldson or maybe TE Brevin Jordan. Miami needs to provide some time for whoever is playing QB and, more importantly, win the battle along the trenches to establish a ground game to open up the playbook — or at least get past the introduction portion of the book.
Positional Matchup of the Week
Miami’s Front Seven vs Boston College’s Running Game
The headline of the Eagles’ offense is star running back AJ Dillon. The ACC’s leading rusher last season, Dillon is set to return from a left ankle injury suffered three weeks ago. Despite his two game absence, the six-foot, 245 pound sophomore tailback has already rushed for 652 yards and six touchdowns, adding seven receptions for 25 yards and a TD through the air. If that wasn’t enough, BC trots out No. 26 David Bailey — 6’1”, 245 pounds — to spell the star back. WIth Dillon out of the lineup, Bailey accounted for 112 yards and a TD against Louisville. Senior Ben Glines splits time between RB and WR, yet most of his production comes as a tailback. He has a 5.64 yards-per-carry average and three rushing TDs so far this year.
The Hurricanes’ defense has held up their end of the bargain for the majority of the season. The Eagles represent the biggest test to the Canes’ run defense. So far this season, they’ve limited opponents to just 105.5 rushing yards on average and allowed only five rushing TDs. The Canes will be defending an offense that rushed for an average of 226.8 yards-per-game, 12 rushing TDs and an average of 4.6 YPC in 2018. Whichever unit can play to their strengths should give their team the edge in a competition that is too close to call.
Caneseye Players to Watch
While Canes’ fans fight to get their quarterback on the field, the Eagles have no problems in that regard. Sophomore QB Anthony Brown has been a revelation for BC this season. With tremendous improvement in his production as a passer, reflected by his passing efficiency, the Eagles’ offense has soared through the first half of 2018. Boasting a completion percentage of 58.7, the New Jersey native has passed for 1,238 yards and 14 touchdowns — and had just four interceptions. Listed as a dual-threat QB, Brown has refined his game to stay in the pocket to inflict damage. Brown is capable of using his feet to pick up extra yardage should the opportunity present itself, having rushed for 16 yards on 30 carries.
It wasn’t long ago that Jordan was making big plays for Bishop Gorman High School out in Las Vegas. So, shining under the Friday Night Lights is not unfamiliar to the freshman TE who has inspired the Canes’ offense. Expect Miami to find their playmaking TE early and often as they try to establish some consistency on offense. Jordan has four TDs, two behind WR Lawrence Cager with team lead. Assuming the Hurricanes can buy time for the passer, this is a contest in which Jordan should most definitely take flight.
Much publicity is given to DE Zach Allen, and rightfully so given his projections as as being a first round NFL talent. However, it’s fellow senior DE Wyatt Ray that leads the Eagles with 8.5 sacks. Fans of South Florida High School football should be familiar with the name — after all, he came from local powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas High School. Wearing number 11, Ray has been the ideal bookend for the Eagles with 10 TFL on 16 tackles. While his linemate, Allen, beats blockers with a blend of power and movement, Ray opts to use a good getoff and speed rushes to blow by his matchup. Given the Hurricanes’ propensity to struggle against speed rushers this season, Ray could be in for a productive evening.
The adrenaline of this Miami offense in many respects comes from Dallas. However, in the past two games, DeeJay was limited to 10 carries and 31 rushing yards against FSU, and then 10 carries for 24 yards in the loss to UVA. What’s more concerning is that this spark plug sophomore has only one reception over Miami’s last three games. For the Canes to have some balance, Dallas needs to see a healthy number of touches or targets on offense. This is a player who should be getting the ball anywhere between 10-20 times a game. Whether that means they dust off the wildcat formation that saw Dallas operate as the primary ball handler or split him out wide as a receiver, get the ball to your playmakers.
The 5’10 Trenton, Florida, native leads all Eagles with four interceptions. Cheevers is BC’s best defender in coverage and will likely to see plenty of snaps lined up across from Miami WR Jeff Thomas. A playmaker in all regards, Cheevers has also forced a fumble to go along with his five pass break ups. With Cheevers wearing the jersey No. 4, it means that we’ll all be treated to some 4 on 4 battles in coverage.
Speaking of playmakers, it’s a crime that Jeff Thomas doesn’t see more targets. Forcing the ball to a player simply based on talent doesn’t work all the time, but it’s also hard to tell when you’re unable to get your star receiver the ball on a consistent basis. Does it sound foolish to make this argument despite Thomas leading the Canes with 401 receiving yards and a healthy 23.5 YPC? Probably. It’s up to the coaching staff to put the best players in a position to thrive and, Jeff Thomas checks all the boxes in that regard. Against a BC defense that has picked off 11 passes, allowing just six TDs through the air, the Hurricanes will need to take advantage of the Eagles where the coverage allows — with No. 4 hopefully being the biggest benefactor.
One Last Thing
13 of BC’s 19 rushing TDs this season happened at home.
Before Boston College’s head coach took the gig, he filled the same position with the Temple Owls. In fact, he led the Owls to 13 wins and 11 losses in his two seasons in Philadelphia. Canes fans surely will cringe that Addazio’s predecessor at the position was Al Golden, who went 27-34 in his five years with the Owls and helped bring the program back to relevancy. Let’s just let the dogs lie where they are.
The Hurricanes have owned the majority of games against BC, winning 24 of the 29 meetings. UM won the last game 41-32 in 2012, after losing the 2011 game 24-17. The Hurricanes have won 15 straight against BC between 1985 and 2006. The 2007 Eagles halted the streak with a 28-14 victory in Chestnut Hill.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!