FOXBOROUGH — Although they dominated the first half, amassing 276 yards of total offense and having possession for nearly 21 minutes, the Boston College Eagles had little to show for their hard work against the University of Massachusetts.
Except, that is, for a pair of field goals by two senior kickers: a 44-yarder by Alex Howell and a 28-yarder by Joey Launceford.
But second-year coach Steve Addazio knew it was only a matter of time Saturday before his team’s statistical superiority would start to show up on the scoreboard.
“We had dominated the game, but we were only one long ball away,’’ Addazio said. “The message at halftime, was, ‘Hey, keep pounding at the rock because the rock is going to crack.’ We opened the second half with a big drive and the rock cracked.’’
After ending the first half with a missed 44-yard field goal attempt by Howell, the Eagles pounded UMass into submission. They opened the second half by going 75 yards in 13 plays, scoring on a 1-yard plunge by Myles Willis.
With UMass’s defense overtaxed, having been on the field for 23 consecutive plays bridging both halves, BC went touchdown-touchdown-touchdown-field goal on its first four possessions of the second half. That turned a 6-0 lead at the break into a convincing 30-7 season-opening triumph in the “Battle of the Bay State” before a Gillette Stadium crowd of 30,479.
“There wasn’t a lot of fruit for all the work we did in the first half,’’ Addazio said. “But that’s ball. That’s the way it is. We just did exactly what we had to do in the second half.’’
Both teams featured transfers at quarterback, and BC’s Tyler Murphy, a dual-threat QB from the University of Florida, outdueled UMass’s Blake Frohnapfel, a 6-foot-6-inch, 229-pounder from Marshall.
“Their QB was better than ours,’’ said UMass coach Mark Whipple, who began his second tenure with the Minutemen after guiding them to a Championship Subdivision national championship in 1998. “We did not tackle [Murphy] very well.’’
Murphy rushed 13 times for 118 yards and a touchdown and completed 17 of 24 passes for 173 yards and a score. He offset a second-quarter interception with a 43-yard TD pass to Josh Bordner in the fourth quarter. That play answered Frohnapfel’s 77-yard TD pass to Tajae Sharpe for UMass’s only score, with 1:29 left in the third.
“I thought I did a pretty good job with leadership, and that’s something I had been working on all camp,’’ said Murphy. “I’ve just been really nailing away at that. I felt I did a pretty decent job of that today, but there’s still room to improve.’’
Murphy led the Eagles in rushing. He lead them in passing. But he left it to his hefty offensive linemen to lead the team in an exuberant rendition of BC’s fight song, “For Boston,’’ afterward in the visitors’ locker room.
“He did a lot of good things for us,’’ Addazio said of Murphy. “That’s what a quarterback does.’’
Murphy, a 6-2, 213-pounder from Wethersfield, Conn., accounted for 291 of BC’s 511 yards of total offense and 12 of its 30 points.
“We were extremely proud and excited about Tyler today,’’ Addazio said. “He managed the game like a veteran big-time player. He didn’t get rattled on the pick. He was just a leader, strong, and had a great look in his eye. He really managed the game.’’
BC’s defense, which held UMass to 202 yards of total offense (55 rushing), forced a three-and-out on UMass’s first possession of the second half, with Brian Mihalik sacking Frohnapfel for an 8-yard loss on third down. Murphy took over and capped a 10-play, 52-yard march with a 1-yard touchdown on a naked bootleg to the left, giving BC a commanding 20-0 lead.
Sharpe’s 77-yard TD catch on a busted coverage was the lone blemish for BC’s defense, but Murphy made the Minutemen pay on the ensuing possession when he found Bordner on a 43-yard TD strike.
“You know, I don’t want to get into the habit of just relying on my feet,’’ said Murphy, who had his first career 100-yard rushing game. “I just want to take what the defense gives me in the throw game. But sometimes, if a gap opens up and we’re third and short, I just really want to get a first down and give us a new set of downs.’’
After Justin Simmons picked off Frohnapfel (9 of 22, 147 yards, three sacks) and returned it 20 yards to the UMass 35, Murphy drove the Eagles to the 4 to set up Launceford’s 21-yard field goal with 7:35 to go.
“Even down at the end, [Murphy] didn’t try to force it,’’ Addazio said. “He took off with the ball so we could get that field goal that brought us up to 30. That was really intelligent. His growth today was great.’’
As it was for the rest of BC’s team, which grew exponentially from one half to the next.
“We just have to try to get better, we’ve got to try each week to improve,’’ said Addazio, who has a short week to prepare for Friday night’s Atlantic Coast Conference opener against Pittsburgh at Alumni Stadium. “The biggest growth in your football team is the first three weeks, so I feel like we took a positive step, but we’ve got to try and continue to grow.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.