A week after losing 73-7 to No. 1 Clemson, Georgia Tech tries again against an opponent that seemingly isn’t destined for a sixth consecutive College Football Playoff berth. The Yellow Jackets will play Boston College for the first time since 2016.
Five things to know before the matchup in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
1. Putting an embarrassing loss behind
Coach Geoff Collins has made the point that he doesn’t believe his team has handled success well. For the Boston College game, at least, that’s not a problem.
“The Clemson game was embarrassing,” middle linebacker David Curry said. “And as a defensive leader, and that’s not something we want to put on tape and put on the field for our fans. But, as we move on to BC, we’re very confident. The last time that, vs. Syracuse, that we didn’t have the result that we wanted, we responded very well. So we plan to do the exact same with Boston College on Saturday.”
“It was a terrible loss, kind of an embarrassing loss,” wide receiver Ahmarean Brown said. “But the thing about college football is you can’t just dwell on the past game. So we just decided after the game, we’re going to put it behind us, we’re going to learn from it.”
One way that players responded was to study Boston College game video Monday, the one day of the week that players have off. It is a voluntary practice Curry said was begun the previous week.
“There’s no reason why everybody can’t come in and get a little film,” he said.
2. Watch out for tight ends
Keeping track of Boston College tight end Hunter Long in the passing game will be a priority. First, Long leads all FBS tight ends, as well as the Eagles team, in catches (35) and receiving yards (416).
Second, the Jackets have had their issues keeping track of tight ends, particularly recently.
Clemson tight end Davis Allen caught three passes for 67 yards – both career highs – including a 34-yard touchdown pass. Louisville tight end Marshon Ford reeled in five catches for 89 yards – career highs for Ford, too – with a touchdown. The Jackets dodged a bullet early in that game when Cardinals tight end Ean Pfeifer, alone in the secondary, dropped a potential touchdown pass on the first drive of the game.
Allen’s touchdown pass – off a fake toss by Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence – was an example of players' not keeping their eyes focused on their keys, which was “the biggest, most critical issue” in Tech’s defensive play against the Tigers, defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker said. Undoubtedly, Boston College will try to exploit that with pre-snap shifting and play-action passes.
“Guys have got to stay locked on to their guy,” Curry said.
3. Both teams eye a turnaround
Like Tech, Boston College lost decisively last week, 40-14 at Virginia Tech. The Eagles turned the ball over three times in their first four possessions – twice inside the Hokies' 30-yard line – and ultimately lost the turnover margin 5-0.
Boston College also allowed the Hokies to pound out 350 rushing yards, including 164 (and three touchdowns) by quarterback Hendon Hooker. Poor tackling also was a culprit for the Eagles, who are 3-2 overall and were favored by 3.5 points over Tech as of Thursday.
Said Hafley, “I’m excited to see us put together a full game.”
Collins, meanwhile, might say the same. Against Clemson, the Jackets procured two takeaways in the first quarter – the Jackets are tied for fourth nationally with 11 takeaways – but couldn’t convert them into points. Clemson turned three Jackets turnovers into 17 points, with each Tigers possession starting within 20 yards of the Tech goal line. In Collins' tenure, Tech is 5-7 when turning the ball over twice or fewer times and 0-5 with three or more turnovers.
“We’ve just got to make sure we’re protecting the football, creating turnovers, getting explosive plays, denying explosive plays and playing complimentary football like we have a lot of times this season,” Collins said.
4. Scouting report
Hafley’s assessment of Tech:
“They’ve got two really, really good young players in the quarterback (Jeff Sims) and the running back (Jahmyr Gibbs). Dynamic athletes. Twenty-one (Gibbs) is really fast and explosive. He catches the ball well out of the backfield. Coach (Dave) Patenaude has done a really, really good job with them.”
“They have some pretty good receivers, No. 1 (Jalen Camp), No. 2 (Brown), No. 15 (Malachi Carter). No. 2 can fly, probably one of the faster guys that we’ve seen on tape. No. 15′s got some good size, and their O-line’s solid.”
“Their middle linebacker (Curry) is a good player. I believe he’s No. 6. He’s like a quarterback back there. They do a lot. They’ll play some split-zone safety and some middle (field) closed. They pressure, they overload, they’ve got really good length in the back, which I like.”
“Their punter (Pressley Harvin) is exceptional. You see him boot the ball, you see him throw the ball, you see him running sneaks, you see him running backs. So they do a lot. They’ll surprise onside (kick) you. They’ll keep you on your toes, for sure.”
5. Atlanta product stars for Eagles
One of Boston College’s top players is a product of metro Atlanta. Linebacker Max Richardson, from Duluth, played at Woodward Academy. In his third season as a starter, Richardson ranks 10th nationally and second in the ACC in tackles per game, at 10.6. Last season, Richardson was fourth in the ACC in tackles for loss per game at 1.21, earning second-team All-ACC honors. As the No. 133 senior in Georgia in the 2016 class (247Sports Composite), he has considerably outplayed his recruiting ranking.
A senior, Richardson also is a captain and has earned bachelor’s degrees in history and political science and is pursuing a master’s in leadership and administration. Hafley, Boston College’s first-year coach, said this week that, during the quarantine, he leaned on Richardson to learn the team because he saw how much respect Richardson had from other players and how they were drawn to him.
“It just shows you whatever that kid chooses to do in life, he’s going to succeed, whether it’s continue to play football or become a lawyer or whatever he wants to do,” Hafley said.
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