September 09, 2016

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Boston College flew all the way to Ireland in its opener only to lose to Georgia Tech thanks in part to a pair of missed field goals.

Now the Eagles have their shortest road trip of the season, driving down to the home of the New England Patriots to play Massachusetts. The matchup gives the Eagles a chance to record the FBS victory they have struggled to come by; last year's team won only one game against an FBS opponent, beating Northern Illinois, and went winless in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The ACC losing streak was stretched to nine games with the Week 1 loss to Georgia Tech. BC led 14-10 in the fourth quarter - it could have been more, if not for missed field goals of 43 and 35 yards - but the Eagles gave up a 22-yard gain on fourth-and-19, and then a 4-yard, go-ahead touchdown run with 35 seconds left.

BC has won eight straight vs. UMass, the last meeting coming in 2014.

Here are some things to look for in the Battle of the Bay State:

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE

So far, Boston College has looked a lot like last year's team: Good defense, strong running game, bad special teams.

The Eagles led the FBS in total defense in 2015, allowing just 254.3 yards per game. They gave up 238 yards to Georgia Tech last week.

RUNNING GAME

Jon Hilliman, who was injured in Week 4 last year, posted his fifth career 100-yard rushing game against Georgia Tech, collecting 102 yards on 17 carries, including 73-yard touchdown. In all, the Eagles gained 176 yards on the ground from seven different backs, including 27 yards on nine carries from quarterback Patrick Towles.

''We've got a lot of confidence in the stable of backs,'' coach Steve Addazio said. ''What makes Jon unique is he's a big back who's got speed. And that's when you're dangerous. He's talented. We missed him last year. You felt it right away in Game 1.''

QB NO. 1

The one place BC can improve is at quarterback. Last year, Darius Wade was lost in the third game of the season to a broken left ankle, Jeff Smith was sidelined with a concussion, Troy Flutie was yanked after a slow start and soon BC was relying on fourth-string walk-on John Fadule.

Towles is a graduate transfer who won the job in training camp. He completed 11 of 17 passes for 144 yards, with one interception. If he can stay healthy, the Eagles might be able to avoid a repeat of last year, when they lost ACC games 14-0, 9-7 and 3-0.

KICKING THEMSELVES

The most troubling sight for the Eagles was watching Colton Lichtenberg miss two short field goals: a 43-yarder that was blocked, and a 35-yarder that was shanked. The Eagles had similar trouble last year, when he was 3 of 6 and the team was 6 for 11.

''If you get in the red zone, you've got to be able to get points,'' Addazio said. ''You can't miss two field goals, one from the 18 and one from the 26. Those are six valid points.''

LOOKING FOR A HOME

UMass went FBS in 2012 and played in the Mid-American Conference for four seasons. But the Minutemen left the league and went independent this year rather than join for all sports, which would have required ending a long affiliation with the Atlantic 10 in basketball.

In four-plus seasons as an FBS program, UMass is 8-41.

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