Breaking Down the Opponent: Boston College

A return to the run, a new role for Robinson and defending Montel Harris.

With Clemson behind them, Boston College becomes the main focus of the Terrapins this week as they try and capture their second conference win on the road. Sound familiar?

The Eagles, notorious for the defensive reputation, will flaunt the third-best unit in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and tops against the run. Opposing running backs have managed to gain a mere 2.8 yards per carry, reaching the end zone just five times.

“You’re going to take what they give you, be patient and work the ball down the field,” Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien said. “We’re going to have to be tough inside the tackles, be able to pound it a little bit, loosen them up because they’re too good of a team to be one-dimensional and beat them.”

Establishing the running game will be essential for Maryland. In their two road games this season, they’ve averaged 5.5 yards on the ground, including a -10-yard effort against the Mountaineers.

However, it’s important to understand that in both games, the Terps found themselves trailing by significant margins, and were forced to attack through the air in an effort to play catch-up. Against West Virginia, a 21-0 deficit at halftime led to a passing offense that led to two touchdowns. In Death, however, O’Brien’s 27 pass attempts led to a different result.

“If I can just limit my turnovers and mistakes, we can have enough playmakers to have a chance to win in every game,” O’Brien said, in reference to the first three interceptions thrown in his young career.

Along the offensive line, much of this week game planning will revolve around the linebacking duo of Luke Kuechly and Mark Herzlich. Kuechly is the nation’s leading tackler, averaging over 13 tackles per game, with a 20-tackle performance against North Carolina State earlier this season. His counterpart, Herzlich, was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008.

Tight end Matt Furstenburg said the linebackers are at the heart of the Boston College defense, and limiting their effectiveness will be a key.

“It’s going to be tough especially for the tight ends, but I think we need to got to an emphasis to take them out of the game to have success on offense,” Furstenburg said.

After seeing just a handful of snaps against Clemson, offensive coordinator James Franklin expects Jamarr Robinson to be an X-factor going forward. The electric quarterback, known for his speed, could provide an element of surprise in the Terps’ passing game, according to Franklin, who is noticing defenses prepare for the run whenever Robinson enters the game.

“We also wanted to mix [in] some passes,” Franklin said. “We should get some really good passing situations because people are going to overplay the run. We want to make sure we’re balanced when Jamarr goes in.”

Regardless of any added elements in the playbook with Robinson, or a running back pitch pass, the Terps will stick to the fundamentals against a solid Eagles’ defense. Recapturing the running game and protecting the ball will be the team’s main objective. Patience, focus and execution, according to O’Brien, will also play a large role.

Defending Montel Harris

Limiting DeAndre Ellington to 46 yards on the ground is one thing; it’s another to try and slow down the Atlantic Coast Conference’s leading rusher.

Junior running back Montel Harris, fresh off a 191-yard performance against Florida State, has once again proven to be the Eagles’ workhorse. The Doak Walker Award and Maxwell Award candidate looks to continue his torrid pace against the Terrapins Saturday.

“I’m expecting them to run the ball and run it well. The best way to get your young quarterback settled is to run the ball,” defensive tackle A.J. Francis said, suggesting the team will utilize Harris is power runs, stretch runs and draw plays to get him involved. “They’re going to do everything they can to get the ball in Montel Harris’ hands because he’s the best player on the team.”

Gravitating towards Harris is simply embodies the reputation of a Frank Spazziani-coached team – hard-nosed. And with a tough, physical game on the horizon, the Terps are ready to make a statement.

“They’re going to come out; they’re going to play physical football,” Francis said, alluding to the Eagles’ loss to Florida State at Alumni Stadium Saturday. “The best way to win a fist fight is to punch a guy in the mouth first.”

Despite Harris’ heroics, the Boston College offense has struggled this season. Injuries to the wide receiving core and instability at the quarterback position have the team ranked at the bottom of the ACC in total offense, managing just nine touchdowns and 86 first downs.

Freshman quarterback Chase Rettig was anointed the starter Oct. 2 versus Notre Dame before leaving the game with an ankle injury. After receiving the nod to go against FSU, the youngster completed nine passed for 95 yards.

Defensive coordinator Don Brown said the performance provided stability for the Eagles’ offense. But with a rookie quarterback, pressure will be the key, and he will refer to last week as an example.

“We harassed [quarterback Kyle] Parker. Obviously his day was nothing special. In terms of execution of the defenses, in terms of our physicality at the point of attack,” Brown said. “We’re doing a lot of stuff and we’re executing it all pretty well. There are some things that you can hang your head on and build upon in that effort.”

As the 4-2 Terps face off against 2-4 Eagles, Francis believes the team is focused solely on winning. They’re making nothing ifs or buts about playing up at Chestnut Hill, because at the end of the day, only the temperature might be different.

“The field’s still the same length, the ball’s still the same shape, the quarterback still says ‘hike’ – the game doesn’t change at all.”

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