Boston College has agreed to a two-game football series with Ohio State starting in 2020, athletic director Brad Bates announced Wednesday. The Eagles will travel to Columbus Sept. 19, 2020, and the Buckeyes will come to The Heights Sept. 18, 2021.
“This will be a great opportunity for our team to measure itself against one of the premier programs in college football,’’ Bates said. “We will have the opportunity to showcase the rich history and tradition of Boston College football in a great matchup between ACC and Big Ten schools.’’
Going back to 1989, the schools have faced each other just three times: in Columbus in 1989, in Chestnut Hill in 1990, and in the Kickoff Classic at the Meadowlands in New Jersey in 1995. The Buckeyes won all three meetings.
In his first season at Ohio State, coach Urban Meyer has the No. 6 Buckeyes at 9-0, though they are currently banned from the postseason.
The Eagles, who are 2-6, won their first game against a Football Bowl Subdivision team last week when they beat Maryland, 20-17.
“Ohio State’s program is steeped in tradition, one of the top programs in college football history,’’ said BC coach Frank Spaziani. “It will be exciting for our future Eagles to have an opportunity to play the Buckeyes.’’
It was early in the third quarter, the game was more uncomfortable than BC’s 13-0 lead suggested, and Maryland was 3 yards from the end zone.
Someone on the defense needed to make a play. When the Eagles got the call from defensive coordinator Bill McGovern, at no point was linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis instructed to blitz. But he had a hunch.
“Pretty much, something told me, ‘Kevin you just need to go, you need to make this play,’ ’’ said Pierre-Louis.
So he shot into the backfield, Terrapins quarterback Caleb Rowe in his crosshairs. He knew what the fallout would be if the risk blew up in his face.
“Coach McGovern would have had me for breakfast, lunch, and dinner,’’ he said.
But he sacked Rowe for an 8-yard loss. And even though the Terrapins scored on the drive, it was the kind of play the Eagles are looking for on defense.
“There are going to be some instances where I just need to play my game,’’ said Pierre-Louis. “Even if the coaches say do a certain thing, if I have the confidence to make that play, just follow my instincts.’’
That’s what guided the best of them, players such as Alex Albright, Luke Kuechly, Mark Herzlich.
“You’ll see them, they’ll have certain jobs to do, but it’s called being a football player,’’ said Pierre-Louis. “They’re going to the ball. You want to do your job, but you want to get to the person that has the ball. That’s the point of the game.’’
Over the course of the season, the BC defense has been starving for playmakers. The Eagles are tied for last in the Atlantic Coast Conference in sacks, are eighth in turnover margin, and are last in third-down defense.
Against Maryland, though, they picked off three passes, forced five three-and-outs, and made plays that kept them in the game long enough to win on their final drive.
“I don’t think right now on defense we have playmakers,’’ said Pierre-Louis. “We have a lot of potential, and that’s including myself, but after last week, everyone’s making those steps in the right direction.
“Every once in a while, we have someone that makes a play, but ‘playmakers’ . . . to be considered that, you have to be able to do that on a consistent basis. I think I need to do a better job of being able to make plays on a consistent basis.’’
Throw in a handful of dropped interceptions, and there were opportunities to make more.
As a young defense matures, Spaziani said, those plays will come. Of the nine freshmen the Eagles have played this season, six have been on the defensive side of the ball.
The freedom to take risks comes with experience, and that’s something that has come slowly with so many players seeing things for the first time.
“As guys get more comfortable in doing stuff and more confident, they’ll make more plays,’’ Spaziani said. “It’s a product of having confidence and being where you’re at and being good enough to make a play.’’
As a veteran, Pierre-Louis knows he has more leeway.
“It’s just hard to do when you’re young because you know that if you were to mess up, you’ll get in a lot more trouble than an older guy,’’ said Pierre-Louis. “Now I’m one of the older guys on the team, so if I mess up or I do my own thing, I’m not going to get in as much trouble.’’
Running into trouble
All season, the Eagles’ third-down issues have been tied to their struggles running the ball. Last week against Maryland, they handed off the ball on 12 of their 28 first downs and averaged just 2.25 yards per carry, digging a hole. The average distance the Eagles faced on their 13 third downs was 10.4 yards.
“Some of it was a wrong cut, some was we didn’t block it right,’’ Spaziani said. “We need to be better at it. We have to run the ball for 100, 150 yards a game. There’s always reasons, but the reasons come down to execution.’’
Altogether, the Eagles ran for 8 yards against the Terrapins, who have the top run defense in the ACC.
“We’ve definitely got to do better,’’ said tackle Emmett Cleary. “But more, it’s just consistency. You have to be able to count on first down, if you run the ball, getting 3 or 4 [yards] or more. Because if you get stuck at second and 10, that’s such a difficult position for the offense.’’
Even though classes at BC were canceled Monday because of Hurricane Sandy, the weather did nothing to disrupt the Eagles’ practice schedule. The team was able to practice as usual Sunday and keep their typical Monday offday. The team returned to practice Tuesday.
“We got very lucky,’’ said Spaziani.
Coaches got work done while school was closed and a few players made their way into the weight room.
“One of our strength coaches fought through the inclement weather so the meatheads could get a workout on Monday,’’ said Cleary.