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In-Depth: Boston College Gets Etienned

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Runbalaya!

NCAA Football: Boston College at Clemson
This happened far too much against BC.
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

This will not be a pretty review. I’m pretty disgusted with that performance on Saturday (fair warning).

And look, I understand win and survive (plenty of teams were just trying to win yesterday), but this game was tied in the fourth quarter to a mediocre Boston College team by most metrics (I understand scores are relative, but still they got beaten 34-10 by a Wake team that just beat App State 20-19). I’m happy to be 4-0, but that game felt like Clemson wasn’t playing up to its talent level.

This game showed our warts, which is a very good thing. I don’t believe we just were sleepwalking and then flipped a switch in the 4th, unless you are saying that the switch was one single player, Travis Etienne is his name. Praise Rumbalaya/Runbalaya (written in alphabetical order and a TM, registered trademark of ShakintheSouthland and requires express written consent for usage of such name without penalty of prosecution, etc etc). This team has work to do before the toughest game on the schedule next week against VaTech.

Yes. You can insert any amount of coach speak you want here (tough to win in the ACC, that was a good BC team, give them credit, tough out, got to be grateful just to win, etc.) and I agree with Venables that there is nothing wrong with winning ugly, but this was not a good BC team.

Dabo. My national championship winning coach. Don’t substitute in a game until you are up by two touchdowns (at least two scores). You do this every year and it is disconcerting every year. It sends the wrong message. Meaningful snaps can be had later in games—mid second quarter and the third quarter even.

I want to remind everyone that the coaches did not insert Etienne in the 4th Quarter to take over the game. A minor injury to Choice led to Etienne being inserted and taking over the game. A freak injury led to the fruition of the #FreeTravis movement. He kinda singlehandedly beat BC.

ESPN, your camera angles were nauseating.

Offense

This was a suspect offensive gameplan. The BC defense is slow. Their team speed is below average. I really don’t want to hear that BC changed their looks from man to zone with two high safeties. It is not like that is some reinvention of football (unless the answer is that KB is just that limited in what he can do, then we all need to readjust expectations—but look at the list of things we didn’t attempt below).

We didn’t challenge the defense over the top. We didn’t attack the middle of the field. We didn’t have a single jet sweep to loosen up the middle by attacking the perimeter. We had one sprint option (not well blocked or executed) and that was it. No passes to the RBs in the flats. No play calls that took advantage of the aggressive attacking on the bubble screen (sorry blocking by the WRs on those). Really no down the field passing to speak of (does a two high safety look mean we aren’t going to throw at all?) in the game. Did we save everything for VaTech?

Cain barely got any targets. Caught three balls for 25 yards and his one deep ball was into double coverage (that he beat), but was overthrown. RayRay McCloud was invisible on offense. Two catches for -2 yards. Can we get the ball to him in space? We didn’t get our best playmakers the ball. No explosive plays until Etienne decided enough was enough.

Kelly Bryant regressed into the QB he was for much of the Spring. Not trusting his reads. Some shaky accuracy, high throws and putting the ball in jeopardy. His release seemed to have more of a wind up today then other games. He didn’t let his turnovers beat him though. He kept responding—that is important. But can we stop with any KB is better than Watson comparisons (or the laughable Heisman chatter). He is a really inexperienced, young player. The question is whether this was a return to the KB norm or an aberration. The lack of pocket poise and awareness is a troubling recurring trend. A lack of quality protection from his offensive line is a troubling recurring trend (they aren’t horrible but the right side is getting beaten too often).

The exotic looks are going to come in spades next week against VaTech and Bud Foster. Got to get him prepared for those looks and the pressure on the road. Bryant was 17 of 26 for an average of 5.4 yards (yikes) and a QBR of 34.5. Bryant also fumbled. On his two interceptions one was a ball where his arm got hit, those you can live with, but the other was a really poorly thrown ball that was way off the mark and high to Renfrow. Somehow Renfrow was able to tip the ball, but that resulted in an easy interception.

His first ball to McCloud on a bubble screen was really on him and not on Renfrow. Hunter could have held a better block but the passed sailed, was slow and made it so the play never had a chance. Those are handoffs, can’t have those kinds of throws. On the next drive, third and two, KB threw another bad ball way out in front of Renfrow, causing him to collide with McCloud. Neither are great blockers so the passes must be crisp and accurate.

CJ Fuller fumbled for a second time this season. That fumble could have changed the game. His first fumble swung momentum to Auburn and he got incredibly lucky Richard grabbed the ball out of the BC player’s hand. It could have given BC the ball at the 13 minute mark in the 4th Quarter. Instead, on the next third down in the drive Diondre Overton convert on 3rd and 9 and Clemson scores, giving the team much needed breathing room. That was a clutch sideline catch in a pressure situation. Overton should see more reps. Cornell Powell caught a good ball as well. Renfrow was again solid.

I felt like we rotated the offensive line too quickly. Get some continuity and respect the opponent if you are saying they are such a great team. Landry is a great player, but the right side of the line was bad. That is 10 sacks on Kelly Bryant (a combination of sacks on him and the line) tied for third most among P5 schools according to David Hale of ESPN. I don’t agree with the designation of the Oline as a player of the game.

Special Teams

Lots of things to address. The kickoff coverage team needs to understand that the ball is going to be short most of the time. CAN WE NOT FIND SOMEONE TO KICK INTO THE ENDZONE?? Got to cover better, gave up two long runs to a mediocre athlete.

Punt coverage wasn’t much better. Spiers still isn’t great at keeping shorter kicks from going into the endzone. We outkicked the coverage once today.

Why is Amir Trapp in punt protection—he gives a free release to his man most of the time. These are the details that our coaching staff doesn’t fix in the name of player development.

The kicker can’t miss extra points. Alex Spence missed one—he can’t do that. I realize field goal kicking is going to be difficult, but we have to hit all of our extra points.

Defense

The defense won the day. But the BC offense is atrocious. The Dline played really well for almost the entire game. The offense turned the ball over and put the defense in bad situations and they responded.

I don’t understand the obsession BV has with Jalen Williams. I do not understand it at all. Dorian got hurt and someone needed to replace him, but Williams struggles. He doesn’t get off blocks and misses assignments. For example, on the first drive at the 13:48 mark, Williams doesn’t get out on the lumbering RB Hilliman who catches a ball for a first down (those were really the only major yards gained on the entire drive). JD Davis played a good number of meaningful snaps and Chad Smith didn’t (despite playing well in past games). I don’t understand that decision either (JD has improved, but still is really stiff and struggles in coverage, missed his gap on the run that set up the BC TD at the 3:48 mark in the 3rd Q).

I know Tanner Muse was coming off of a targeting penalty and maybe playing more tentatively (he is also a young player too), but the missed tackle on 3rd and 6 at the 11:28 mark in the 4th Q was indefensible. Just get the guy out of bounds or wrap up. Poor technique, hitting too high. He also missed a tackle after going for the hit on BCs giant TE early in the game.

But I also didn’t see guys rallying to the ball and gang tackling nearly enough overall.

I thought Isaiah Simmons continued to argue for more playing time with his play. I might suggest he play even more Nickel, Dime, and SAM. Simmons does need to come down with an easy pick six (too much boxing glove drill?). Really encouraging to see two interceptions.

The loss of Trayvon Mullen to concussion would be a huge loss for this defense. Edmond is recovering from injury and not as physical as Mullen. Fields wasn’t in pads during the second half of the game and groin injuries are tricky to recover from, especially for a DB. Luckily AJ Terrell is good. But he may be forced to start at boundary against VaTech. We have no remaining depth. It is scary seeing Trapp playing meaningful minutes. Very glad K’von Wallace is going to be at CB. Those VaTech passing game will stress the secondary.

Other than an offsides on the first drive, Austin Bryant continues to play like an NFL first rounder. I’m getting worried about Dexter Lawrence and his toe injury. The foot continues to bother him. Would it hurt the ACC refs to call holding once in awhile? Dline was solid and I was glad to see Huggins getting more snaps. Jabril Robinson is proving me wrong with his added weight gain.

VaTech is a win and survive game. Right now I see this as the hardest game remaining on our schedule.