Pete Sampson: Obviously it’s been a rough season for Boston College, but let’s start with the defense. What is Steve Addazio’s blueprint on that side of the ball? Boston College ranks Top 5 in every major category and No. 1 against the run.
Joe Jacobs: They just put a lot of guys in the box and just have man-to-man in the secondary, but they’ve kind of struggled with that recently with teams figuring out how to exploit the Boston College defensive backs. Mainly the goal is just to stuff you on the run and load up the box. The linebackers are good and the defensive line is strong. So they’ll take those guys, get them up at the line of scrimmage and leave three or four defensive backs to cover the rest of the field.
PS: Who are the biggest keys to making that work in the front seven?
JJ: Defensive ends Mehdi Abdesmad and Harold Landry really anchor the defense with Matt Milano at linebacker tying it all together. Abdesmad is a slower defensive lineman, but he’s 6-foot-7, 286 pounds and can hold up two guys. He’s sort of like a Vince Wilfork type of player, just with a lot less talent, in terms of how he affects an offense. He lets the linebackers make plays. The Boston College defensive line holds the corners well and that lets the linebackers get into the backfield. There are three guys with at least 10 tackles for loss in the front seven. Linebacker Steven Daniels leads the team with 13 tackles for loss and five sacks.
PS: Has this defense been a surprise to you? Did you see this level of efficiency coming?
JJ: I’m a little surprised that they’re ranked so high. But honestly, they haven’t been playing great teams. Clemson beat Boston College 34-17 and was up 34-10 in the fourth quarter. I think that showed where Boston College is against better offenses. I think Notre Dame will score at least 20 points against Boston College. This is a good defense, but it’s not a great defense against good teams.
PS: The quarterback position. How did Boston College get to the point where it’s starting a freshman walk-on?
JJ: It’s a tough story. Starter Darius Wade broke his ankle against Florida State and was lost for the year. When that happened, Boston College didn’t have another quarterback available with any real experience. It was between Jeff Smith and Troy Flutie, who’s the nephew of The Man here.
Flutie really struggled with his opportunities and couldn’t take the job away from Smith, even though Flutie had at least a little bit of experience. Smith is the faster quarterback, but he didn’t have much knowledge of the system and eventually he took the job from Flutie after three poor starts. But Smith picked up a concussion against North Carolina State, which gave the job back to Flutie. Again, he struggled.
That got Boston College to freshman walk-on John Fadule. This is a kid that had a scholarship offer to play at Harvard and he’s local. He wanted a shot at Power 5 football. He’s really only been a quarterback for two-and-a-half years now. But starting with the third drive against North Carolina State he sort of took over. But with the offensive line struggling – replaced all five starters last off-season – and the running backs hurting with two lost to injury, there wasn’t much he could do. The offense has been abysmal, that’s one word you could use.
PS: Where are they at running back right now with starting Jon Hillman lost for the year?
JJ: At times they’ve only had two running backs healthy. Now running back has 50 carries on the season and it’s gone from Marcus Outlow to Tyler Rouse to Hillman. They’ve had guys who just haven’t lived up to expectations, not that the offensive line has helped. And with the passing game as bad as it’s been teams know they just have to shut down the Boston College running game and that’s it.
PS: So let’s say this game gets tight in the second half. What has to happen for Boston College?
JJ: Fadule has to play out of his mind. He wanted to play Power 5 football out of high school and that’s why he came to Boston College. He’s got to be able to find receivers deep and show that he’s a dual threat on the ground. But for Boston College to win, it has to make this very, very defensive and shut Notre Dame down. Maybe they get a pick-six or return a fumble for a touchdown and keep the game low scoring, hold Notre Dame to field goals. But Fadule has to find some plays to open things up.
PS: Do you get much sense about how big this game is for Boston College? Does the season going so poorly mute any enthusiasm?
JJ: I think this is going to be Boston College’s bowl game, that’s really how they’re treating it. It’s nationally televised, at Fenway Park, and Boston College isn’t going to a real bowl game. So this is basically their Super Bowl. Yeah, there’s Syracuse the next week, but Syracuse is already out of it too. This is an opportunity for Boston College to make a statement like the one it made against USC last year. Boston College only got a few thousand tickets for this and everyone is going to be watching. But people here really believe it’s going to be a blowout for Notre Dame.