Prister’s Preview: ND vs. Boston College

Brian Kelly’s tendency is to attack when the Irish are trying to secure a spot in a championship game. Look for an aggressive ND against undermanned Boston College.

BOSTON COLLEGE HEAD COACH

Steve Addazio (3rd year at Boston College) – Addazio, 56, began his college-coaching career at Syracuse, where he served as offensive line/tight ends coach from 1995-98. That led him to Notre Dame as Bob Davie’s tight ends/tackles coach from 1999-2001.

After a two-year stint as Indiana’s offensive line coach, Addazio joined forces with Urban Meyer at Florida from 2005-10, eventually ascending to assistant head coach and offensive coordinator while instructing the offensive line.

Addazio landed his first head-coaching job at Temple, where he fashioned a 13-11 record with the Owls in 2011-12. Now in his third season at Boston College, he is 17-19, including back-to-back 7-6 campaigns in 2013-14.


KEY PERSONNEL

• LB-Steven Daniels (Sr.) – Boston College’s leading tackler with 70 stops, a team-leading 15 tackles for loss and six sacks. The team’s No. 2 tackler in 2014 with 72.
• DE-Harold Landry (Soph.) – Named ACC defensive player of the week for his performance against Florida State with 11 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
• LB-Matt Milano (Jr.) – Another member of Boston College’s standout linebacker core. A weapon in the Eagles’ blitzing defense with a team-high 6.5 sacks. Has recorded two of the team’s three blocked kicks.
• NT-Connor Wujciak (Sr.) – Elder statesman of the Eagles’ defensive line who was a third-team all-ACC selection in ’14.


WHAT BOSTON COLLEGE DOES WELL

• All things defense: Boston College is first among 128 FBS programs in total defense (236.5 ypg.), rush defense (71.7 ypg.), yards per rush (2.12) and yards per play (3.90). In eight games against FBS competition, the Eagles have held five teams to less than 100 yards rushing, including 98 to Florida State, 33 to Duke, and 33 to Wake Forest.
• Upset Notre Dame: Notre Dame holds a 13-9 advantage in the series with Boston College, but when the Irish are ranked among the nation’s top 5, the Eagles are 2-0. Boston College upset undefeated and the No. 1-ranked Irish in Notre Dame Stadium in 1993, 41-39. Nine years later, Tyrone Willingham’s undefeated Irish lost to the Eagles, 14-7, also in Notre Dame Stadium.
• Block punts: Boston College has three, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

WHERE BOSTON COLLEGE STRUGGLES

• All things offense: Boston College has scored just 56 points in seven ACC games (8.0 average), including seven points in the first quarter, 10 in the second, 17 in the third and 22 in the fourth. The Eagles have scored seven touchdowns in seven ACC games. Nationally, the Eagles rank 127th in total offense, 123rd in passing offense, 120th in scoring offense, 125th in third-down conversions and 126th in first downs. No team in the country has allowed more than Boston College’s 90 lost-yardage plays on offense.
• Finding a quarterback: Thirteen FBS teams have played four quarterbacks this season, but only two have had four different players start at quarterback – Fresno State and Boston College. The fourth in line – current starter John Fadule – is a freshman walk-on.


KELLY’S CALL

“Well-coached football team. Steve does a great job. Lot of respect for Steve Addazio and what he’s done. He’s created a football team that plays with some grit, determination and toughness. It’s a tough football team. It’s a young football team, but one that brings along (Addazio’s) personality and style. They’re clearly dealing with the loss of a quarterback and making the best of the situation.

“On defense, (coordinator) Donnie Brown does a great job. He’s a veteran defensive coordinator. Their numbers speak for themselves. It’s the No. 1 total defense in the country and deservedly so. They are very difficult to run the football on, a very aggressive defense. They’ll get up in your face with big, physical, strong, outstanding linebackers.”


ODDS AND ENDS

Notre Dame has won the last four games in the series – 20-16 at home in 2009, 31-13 in Chestnut Hill in 2010, 16-14 at home in 2011, and 21-6 in Chestnut Hill in 2012…In addition to BC head coach Steve Addazio, wide receivers coach Brian White was a graduate assistant at Notre Dame in 1988-89, and Leo Ferrine, recruiting specialist for the Eagles, was a defensive back for the Irish who graduated in 2008…The last time a college football game was played in Fenway Park was Dec. 1, 1956 when Holy Cross defeated the Eagles, 7-0…Brian Kelly has won at least eight games in each of his first six years at Notre Dame. Only one Power 5 conference head coach can match that. LSU’s Les Miles has won at least eight games 10 years in a row…Freshman running back Josh Adams has three games of at least 100 yards rushing – 133 vs. UMass, 147 vs. Pittsburgh and 141 vs. Wake Forest. That matches the Notre Dame record for 100-yard games by a freshman, set by Jerome Heavens in 1975 and matched by current running backs coach Autry Denson in 1995…Adams’ 98-yard touchdown run against Wake Forest is the longest by a freshman in NCAA history, tying Tulane’s Jerald Sowell in 1993 and Middle Tennessee’s Jordan Parker in 2012.


PRISTER’S ANALYSIS

If you don’t know about Boston College head coach Steve Addazio and his determination to win, you’re not fully aware of what’s in store for Notre Dame this weekend when they host the Eagles in Fenway Park this Saturday night.

Addazio is as old school as old school gets. He is cut from the mold of the original “taskmasters” of college football. His demanding style led Boston College to a pair of seven-victory seasons in 2013-14 after his predecessor, Frank Spaziani, managed just six victories in his final two years combined. Last year, with his bruising style of football, Addazio’s Eagles rushed for an incredible 452 yards in a 37-31 victory over No. 9-ranked, 17-point favorite USC.

And yet there’s only so much a head coach can control when a team loses more than half of its starters from the previous season, including its entire offensive line and a quarterback – Tyler Murphy – who spearheaded an offensive attack with 1,623 yards passing and a team-leading 1,184 yards rushing.

Once the season began, injuries took another bite out of a young team (64 of 97 Boston College players are freshmen, red-shirt freshmen and sophomores), including the team’s top returning running back, Jon Hillman, who rushed for 860 yards and 13 touchdowns in ’14.

The results have been fairly predictable. Boston College can’t score. The Eagles have managed just 12.7 first downs per game against seven ACC opponents, all of whom have defeated Boston College. The Eagles have lost to Florida State (14-0), Duke (9-7), Wake Forest (3-0), Clemson (34-17), Louisville (17-14), Virginia Tech (26-10), and North Carolina State (24-8). They’ve scored just 56 points in seven ACC games.

Toledo and Boston College were the only two FBS teams in which all five of the offensive linemen who started the first game of the 2015 season had never started a college game.

Along those same lines, only 14 teams in the country have used four quarterbacks, and Boston College is one of them. Starter Darius Wade went down with a season-ending injury against Florida State in week three. Backups Troy Flutie and Jeff Smith proved ineffective, and then Smith went down with an injury in week eight against Louisville.

That forced Addazio to turn to walk-on freshman John Fadule, who has provided a bit of stability at quarterback, although his 54.4 completion percentage, one touchdown pass and four interceptions aren’t exactly encouraging with the No. 4-ranked Irish coming to town.

Look for Brian Kelly to press the passing-game button against the Eagles in an attempt to loosen things up between the tackles. Every offensive play outside the hash marks in the Irish arsenal – of which there are many – will be in play Saturday night in the Fenway Fracas, as the Eagles are calling it.

Kelly’s response to big games at Notre Dame has never been to ease his way to victory. With a playoff berth on the line, he’ll be true to his colors and attack the Eagles through the air.

DeShone Kizer’s high-water mark for passes in a game is 36 against Temple. It would not be a surprise if the Irish signalcaller reached the 40-pass mark in this game, particularly if Notre Dame remains true to form in 2015 and struggles with lost-yardage plays in the ground game.

The only way Boston College can defeat Notre Dame is if the Irish cough the football up and the Eagles’ turn those into points. And yet as great as the Boston College defense is, it’s not a unit that forces a bunch of turnovers with just 14 in 10 games. The Eagles likely will try to block a punt somewhere along the line to swing momentum.

On the other side of the football, another aggressive coach – Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder – will turn up the heat on the walk-on freshman quarterback, especially now that defensive end Romeo Okwara had developed into a pass-rushing force. He’s recorded sacks in five straight games and has nine for the season. The Irish blitzed Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford repeatedly, and Fadule will get a heavy dose of pressure, particularly if the Eagles’ ground game remains as anemic as it’s been.

The Notre Dame love-fest that is the Shamrock Series will accompany the Irish into Fenway Park. The Irish program responds well to a new set of uniforms and the partisan crowd that turns opposing venues into Notre Dame’s traveling road show.

Don’t look for a Boston College team to cower to Notre Dame. That’s simply not how they’re wired. But the Eagles are coming into this contest with a serious lack of firepower. They’ll try to pull off the upset with an aggressive approach defensively. Notre Dame should have more than enough offensive weapons to comfortably pull away from Boston College and record its 10th victory of the season.

Pointspread: Notre Dame by 17; over-under 42 ½ 
Prediction: Notre Dame 30, Boston College 9
2015 Season Record: 8-2 straight up; 2-8 vs. points; 5-5 over-under


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