The Boston College Eagles will fly south this weekend, taking on the Temple Owls in Philadelphia. The two former Big East teams faced off last in 2018 when the Eagles defeated the Owls in Chestnut Hill. After BC left the Big East, these teams did not play for almost 15 years. But Boston College holds a 29-7-2 lead in the record against Temple. The Eagles haven’t lost in this matchup since 1999.
Temple holds a 1-1 record this season. Their season began on a harsh note, suffering a 61-14 defeat to Rutgers. The Owls only completed eight passes and committed five turnovers against the Scarlet Knights. This past weekend, Temple put their first win on the board against the Akron Zips. Akron got out to an early lead, but the Owls battled back and played well in all phases of the games while not turning the ball over once.
Boston College moved to 2-0 this past weekend with a win over UMass. The Eagles controlled the game against the Minutemen but made some significant mistakes on defense and special teams. Furthermore, BC will most likely be without star quarterback Phil Jurkovec, who sustained a wrist injury early in the game against UMass. Dennis Grosel came off the bench to replace Jurkovec and played very well. Let’s get into what the Eagles need to do to take down the Owls.
1. Sometimes, to go forward, you have to go back (to Week 1)
Going into the season, D’Wan Mathis, a highly-touted transfer from Georgia, was the presumed starter for the Temple Owls. However, he played very poorly against Rutgers and suffered an injury. This cleared the way for Justin Lynch. Lynch is a true freshman who started against Akron and played very well. He completed 73% of his passes, threw for almost 250 yards with two touchdowns, and didn’t turn the ball over. Lynch also added six carries for 34 yards and a touchdown. As of right now, it’s not clear who will start. But I imagine Lynch will see most of the snaps, given his ability to create with his legs if the play breaks down.
Based on Lynch’s skillset, BC should deploy a similar game plan to the one they used against Colgate. Since Lynch is a true freshman, he will most likely fold under pressure, especially if he is hemmed inside the pocket. However, I could see BC blitzing a bit more this game, rather than just sitting back in coverage. The Owls have some solid offensive tackles, but they are very weak on the interior.
I could see Jeff Hafley and Tem Lukabu coming up with some exotic blitz looks to confuse the guards and center. With that being said, I don’t think they’ll send six or seven defenders after the quarterback on every play. I think they’ll blitz occasionally, but they’ll bluff or simulate their pressure more often than not. Confusing the quarterback pre-snap with multiple defenders on the line of scrimmage could be just as good as pressuring the quarterback.
Finally, I think this could be a big game for Isaiah Graham-Mobley (IGM). He brings a very in-depth knowledge of the Temple offense and their players. Now, that obviously works both ways; Temple’s coaching staff surely knows ways to attack him. But I think IGM’s presence in this game will help the BC defense more than harm it. He also will most likely be the primary spy defender on the quarterback. The defense did an excellent job preventing Grant Breneman from making big plays with his legs, both on designed runs and scrambles. It will be up to IGM again to make sure a mobile quarterback doesn’t kill the Eagles.
2. Attack the middle of the field.
For the first time this season, I’m not going to tell you that BC needs to run the ball better. The running game finally took off, albeit against a pretty weak opponent. Patrick Garwo ran wild, and the other two running backs played well and scored touchdowns. Going into this week, I’d like to see Frank Cignetti continue to build off that. With that being said, it’s time for the BC offense to start opening up.
You may be surprised to read that, given that Dennis Grosel will replace the injured Phil Jurkovec. However, BC is actually in a very advantageous position regarding their offense. Temple knows that Grosel is no slouch. He’s led BC to multiple victories under different coaching staffs; he also holds the Boston College record for most passing yards in a game. On the broadcast of the Colgate game, Mark Herzlich mentioned that Cignetti said that Grosel might know the offense better than him.
I mentioned in a previous piece that Frank Cignetti should lean more into the quick passing game. Against Temple, this should take the form of throwing quickly over the middle. If you want to read more about that in detail, you can check it out here. Grosel is an exceptionally smart player; he knows his limitations and doesn’t put the ball in harm’s way until he absolutely has to (see Virginia). Against a team like Temple, Grosel should be able to identify and exploit mismatches. There’s no reason for BC to live in their fears with Dennis Grosel at quarterback.
3. Be more disciplined.
In a way, struggling against UMass may have been the perfect wake-up call for the Boston College Eagles. So far this season, the Eagles have been solid on offense in terms of turnovers. The quarterbacks have yet to throw any interceptions; the fumbles have come on a blown-up jet sweep where Zay Flowers suffered an injury and a fluky muffed punt.
However, there have still been some issues with discipline and mental mistakes regarding penalties and execution. Through two games against cupcake opponents, the Eagles committed 13 penalties for 124 yards. The vast majority of these came this week against UMass with 11 penalties for 99 yards. Against FCS and bottom-tier FBS opponents, sacrificing 60+ yards via penalties isn’t a death sentence. But against Missouri and ACC opponents, it could be problematic.
Additionally, BC has made some mental mistakes on defense, leading to explosive plays. For example, Colgate’s best play came on a wheel route that linebacker Vinny DePalma couldn’t cover due to a pick play. Against UMass, these mistakes were on full display, as a true freshman threw multiple deep, wide-open touchdowns in his first college football action.
Again, if BC wants to truly compete in the ACC, these mistakes are not acceptable. Of course, BC committed two major errors on special teams against the Minutemen in the form of a muffed punt at the one-yard line and a kickoff out of bounds combined with a personal foul penalty.
Temple provides the Eagles with a good opponent to get things right before entering the toughest stretch of their season. The Owls have been trending downward since Geoff Collins left, losing more and more games while numerous talented players transfer out of the program. Temple looked like two completely different teams in their games thus far. This will be their first home game so anticipate the Owls to come out more like the team that played Akron. To beat Temple convincingly and ride a wave of momentum into Missouri, BC needs to play a disciplined, mistake-free brand of football against the Owls.