The off-week assignment for the Boston College Eagles defense was to watch the Florida State-Clemson game with a keen eye on the play clock. More times than not, the Tigers were in a rush to get their plays off, snapping the ball with as much as 20 seconds left on the clock.
“It was fireworks,” said linebacker Nick Clancy. “They were pulling out all the stops. Two wide receiver passes. They weren’t afraid to use their skill positions and that’s what they’re good at. Their speed guys, their skill guys are extremely talented, and they’re going to use that against us, I know that.”
In the early stages of the season, Boston College has seen Miami and Northwestern try to speed them up with no-huddle attacks, but the catch-me-if-you-can offense is something Boston College players will have to brace themselves for again with Clemson this weekend.
“They’re a high-tempo offense, a lot like Northwestern,” said linebacker Steele Divitto. “They ran a lot of plays but it was very high-tempo, a lot in a row. Within 20 seconds they’re snapping the ball again where most teams they’re snapping it with 10 on the play clock. So this whole week has been high tempo and getting the pace down so we’re familiar with it during the game.”
In order to prepare, they’ve been running a practice routine that defensive coordinator Bill McGovern dubbed “Racecar,” where the scout team offense goes hurry-up, running each play rapid-fire to get the defense in the habit of running to the ball at all times.
The approach started with the season-opener against the Miami, knowing Hurricanes would push the tempo. Miami was able to run off enough big plays to bury the Eagles and now Boston College expects more teams to follow their lead.
“If they see on film that we’re susceptible to big plays against a hurry-up offense, then even if they’re not a hurry-up offense, maybe they’ll try it, see if they can get an edge on us,” Clancy said. “So we kind of opened up a can of worms so to speak against Miami. So I think from here on out we’re sort of expecting teams to go no-huddle against us. The biggest thing with ‘Racecar’ is that team want to get you on your feet and when teams think you’re tired, that’s when guys lose focus. By basically doing it in practice, high-tempo, high-pace, forcing us to focus on our assignments in practice. It’ll transfer in the game.”
Between running back Andre Ellington (who leads the ACC with 95.8 yards per game), quarterback Tajh Boyd (who’s fifth in the conference in passing), and wideout DeAndre Hopkins (who’s averaging 101.8 yards per game), the Tigers’s threats are everywhere, and when he was asked what it would take to slow down them down, Eagles coach Frank Spaziani joked, “Bad weather.”
“They’ve got a lot of weapons and they pose a lot of challenges at all the skill positions,” Spaziani said. “Big-league wideouts, big-league tight end, big-league quarterback, big-league running backs. They’ve got it all and they know how to use them. There’s a tremendous challenge. There’s always things you can do, and it’s about executing them.”