Boston College suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday to Clemson, but even with the disappointment there is still hope around the program. The ACC Atlantic is still up for grabs, with a handful of teams (Clemson, BC, Wake, NC State) still battling for the top spot. And truly the schedule is just starting, there are still a lot of games left on the schedule, and other than Clemson winning out, BC can still control their own destiny. Here are four things Boston College needs to do to win the Atlantic Division.
4. Dominate Special Teams.
The play of this unit has been elite at times. Just look at what they did against Clemson. Punter Grant Carlson was superb, flipping the field consistently, Connor Lytton was perfect, and Neto Okpala blocked a kick. "Coach [Matt] Thurin and the special teams are doing a great job," Hafley said after the loss to Clemson.
When Boston College lost starting place kicker Aaron Boumerhi for the season, there was rightfully a lot of skepticism around this unit. Boumerhi was a rock on field goals, something BC hadn't consistently had since Nate Freese in 2013. But freshman kicker Lytton has been perfect, including kicking a 49 yard field goal against Missouri. And Grant Carlson has led the ACC in punting yards per kick.
This is not to say the unit has been perfect. Danny Longman still continues to struggle to keep kickoffs in bounds, Travis Levy had a terrible fumble against UMass, and Jaelen Gill almost muffed a punt against Clemson. But if this unit continues to make big plays on special teams, they are going to make much easier for the defensive and offensive units.
3. Continued Growth On Defense
There have been moments this year where the defense has looked strong, but on the flip side there have been times where the Eagles still struggle. However, the Clemson game might have shown something about the Eagles, and where the defense currently stands. We finally saw what Jeff Hafley has talked about when he preached that yards don't matter, it is points that he uses to measure a defense. Clemson moved the ball effectively, but BC clamped down and kept them out of the end zone again and again.
The play of the individual defensive units have improved, but still has work to do. The secondary looked very strong against Clemson's wide receivers, Isaiah Graham Mobley and Kam Arnold are playing better every game, and the defensive line had their moments. But Hafley is going to need to see that level of play consistently if BC is going to win the Atlantic. Clemson's offense was struggling, and the Eagles are going to need to replicate that effort against better offenses like NC State, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.
2. Put Grosel in a Position To Succeed
Dennis Grosel has become one of the most polarizing figures in Boston College sports the past three weeks. His inconsistencies week in and week out have put BC in tough situations, especially when he is turning the ball over or holding on to the ball too long. But to be fair he has made some big plays as well. It just hasn't happened on a consistent basis.
Offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti needs to tune the offense to fit Grosel's skill set. Longer developing pass plays seem to be the quarterback's kryptonite. Focus more on the short quicker passes that allow him to get the ball out of his hand quicker. This will allow players like Zay Flowers, Jaden Williams, CJ Lewis and Trae Barry to do more with their speed and power after the catch. Grosel has the arm and confidence to master this type of offense, and it clearly worked (look at the last drive of the Clemson game). The overall gameplan doesn't need to be drastically overhauled, just tailor some of the passing plays more to his skill set and BC's offense could be much more successful.
1. Minimize Mistakes
This seems like a no brainer, but BC needs to continue to clean up their issues with turnovers and penalties. Against Clemson, BC was a -3 in the turnover battle, and had 10 penalties for 60 yards, numbers that won't end up with many wins. Penalties are going to happen, that is inevitable, but as Jeff Hafley has said it's the preventable ones that need to stop. The presnap mistakes such as false starts or illegal formations. BC has 7 more games on the schedule, every single one of them winnable, but they won't be winning them if they continue to shoot themselves in the foot with self inflicted mistakes.
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