In outlining his plan for victory, Boston College football coach Steve Addazio has espoused the importance of meeting two objectives above all others: “You’ve got to be able to play great defense and you’ve got to be able to run the ball.’’
In last Saturday’s 30-7 season-opening victory over UMass at Gillette Stadium, the Eagles handily met those goals.
BC’s defense held the Minutemen to 202 total yards (55 rushing) and recorded three sacks and one interception, while the offense ran 86 plays and rolled up 27 first downs and 511 total yards, including 338 rushing. The Eagles controlled the ball for 42:11 compared with 17:49 for UMass.
And yet for all the superlatives, something seemed to gnaw at Addazio.
“We are a real strong, physical, kind of a move-the-ball-down-the-field team,’’ Addazio said. “But I would like to see if we can create big-yardage explosives.’’
And by that, Addazio meant plays such as Tyler Murphy’s 43-yard touchdown pass to Josh Bordner, which gave BC a 27-7 lead eight seconds into the fourth quarter.
While plays such as that were few and far between — Murphy completed 17 passes to six receivers for 173 yards — Addazio was hoping to incorporate more of a “vertical throw game’’ when the Eagles host Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams Friday night.
Although Addazio was pleased with BC’s rushing effort, as Murphy (118 rushing yards) became the first quarterback in BC history to rush and pass for more than 100 yards in the same game, he felt there was an element to the offense that had yet to be fully developed and implemented.
“I think the piece I’d like to continue on is the vertical game . . . get the ball down the field,’’ the coach said. “We are capable of doing that. So we are working on that. We have skill and ability [in the receiving corps], but we are young.’’
With a short week to prepare, the Eagles made the passing game a point of emphasis during practice.
“It was good to establish the run game, because first off, our plan to win is to run the football,’’ said offensive coordinator Ryan Day. “That’s what we really had to establish, especially with so many young guys in the game early on. You could see later on in the second half we were able to hit some play-action passes when they started to play the run.
“That’s the philosophy, but we’ve got to be explosive in the pass game if we want to score a lot of points this year. So that’s something that we’ve talked about and working on, but obviously balance is key for us.’’
Murphy’s dual-threat capabilities on the read-option no doubt will give the Eagles added offensive options.
“Tyler is a weapon for us,’’ Day said. “He adds a whole different element to this thing for us. He obviously shows that he can beat you with his feet and that he can beat you with his arm, as well. On those drives where he does that we can be explosive and that’s what we’re trying to build on.’’
Said Murphy, “Any time you’re a quarterback and the coaches put some things in to open up the run game by taking some shots down the field, you get excited. But if it’s not there, don’t force it. I’m just going to have to take what the defense gives me, whether that’s checking the ball down, throwing it away, or just trying to get back to the line of scrimmage with my feet. My job is to just keep us in good situations and keep us out of third and longs and get first downs and move the chains.’’
The challenge the coaching staff has faced in its expansion of the passing game has been the integration of a talented group of freshman receivers, among them Thaddius Smith and Gabriel McClary, both listed as backups to Bordner.
“We’ve got a lot of talent, especially in those younger classes,’’ Day said. “When those guys show us they can do it in practice, then we’ll put them in the game. But we’re not going to put them in just because they’re young at their position. But those guys are talented and they’re weapons for us.’’
While he recognizes the upgrade in talent at receiver in time will enable the Eagles to take more downfield shots, Addazio says he will stick with the running game as his preferred mode of transport to victory.
“Will we be able to have our way with everyone in the conference this year? No, that won’t happen,’’ Addazio said, acknowledging the graduation of 2,000-yard rusher Andre Williams. “So our play action is critical to us and we have to enhance our drop back. I’m not an idiot. I get it.
“We’d like to get more balance. We’d like to grow in certain areas, but the No. 1 priority is to win. If I can win, 7-6, I’m good. Sail on to Week 3. I don’t look for style points or stats.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MBVEGA.