BC looks to build off 2017 in season opener vs UMass

BOSTON (AP) — Boston College enters this season with some well-earned respect in the Atlantic Coast Conference after a strong finish last year.

But first the Eagles must deal with a pair of non-conference, intrastate games before they can show its deserved in ACC play, beginning with Massachusetts at home on Saturday.

“It’s the first time in a while that we’ve gotten good press in the preseason,” BC senior defensive lineman Zach Allen said.

Mostly predicted and finishing near the bottom in head coach Steve Addazio’s first five seasons, the Eagles were picked fourth in the Atlantic Division of the ACC’s preseason poll. They return 17 starters from last year’s squad that won five of its last six regular season games and finished 7-6 overall and 4-4 in the conference.

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“We’ve got a good, talented, confident football team,” Addazio said. “It’s all about taking the next step.”

UMass (1-0) is coming off a 63-15 victory over Duquesne at home in its season opener last weekend.

“I’m extremely excited. We’ve got a home game, it’s always great to play at Alumni Stadium, especially against a local rival,” Eagles defensive back Lukas Denis said. “We’re definitely prepared, and we’ve been waiting for this since last December.”

BC owns a 21-9 series edge and has won the last nine meetings between the schools.

After UMass, BC hosts Holy Cross the following week before starting its ACC schedule. It’ll be the first meeting of those two since 1986.

Other things to know when UMass meets Boston College on Saturday:

STRONG START

AJ Dillon, the ACC’s preseason player of the year, will look to pick up from his outstanding 2017 season. The sophomore running back was seventh in the country in rushing yards with 1,589 yards to go with 14 touchdowns that earned him ACC rookie of the year honors.

“I’ve never seen anybody like him,” Addazio said. “I mean, he’s unique, very unique. Then he can make you miss on top of it all. He’s a different kind of guy. Special, special guy.”

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FAMALIER FACES

UMass redshirt senior QB Andrew Ford transferred from Virginia Tech to Lackawanna Community College in 2015. He was recruited by current BC offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler to Virginia Tech in 2014. Last Saturday, he threw for 186 yards and two touchdowns.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Reid was head coach of the Minutemen from 1986-91.

NO TALK, JUST ACTION

Addazio says his team needs to understand it’s about improving on last season’s success.

“It’s a new year, so that script’s yet to be written,” he said. “Take the next step as a program, a player and a team. . We don’t make statements around here, have T-shirts or cute wristbands or anything else. It’s all about: How do we take the next step?”

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BACK IN ACTION

BC redshirt sophomore QB Anthony Brown returns after missing the final two regular-season games and bowl game with a non-contact right knee injury that required surgery.

Brown — along with Dillon — sparked the turnaround last year, throwing for 1,367 yards and 11 TDs with nine interceptions.

“A lot has to do with that triggerman,” Addazio said.

ANOTHER OPENING WIN

The Eagles will be looking for their second season-opening victory against the Minutemen under Addazio. BC beat them 30-7 at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 30, 2014.

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