Info Center
TSL Roster Card
(PDF format; to read
it, you'll need Adobe
Acrobat Reader.)
Boston Weather
Alumni Stadium
Seating Chart
2002 VT Roster
Listen Online
BC Links

Official Site
BC Football
Message Board
Alliance Site
Alliance Msg Bd
Boston Globe
Boston Herald
USA Today Links
Game Notes (PDF)
Radio Stations
Live Stats
Game Preview: #4 Virginia Tech at Boston College
by Jeff Ouellet, 10/9/02

Thursday, October 10th, 2002, 7:30 Eastern


Thursday forecast: (as of 9:00 am, 10/9/02):
Partly cloudy, (10% chance of rain), High of 61°, low of 54°

Click here for's BC/VT roster card

(Note: TSL thanks Jeff Ouellet for filling in on this week's game preview. Nice work, Jeff!)

The Big East Conference opener is finally here, with the fourth-ranked, 5-0 Virginia Tech Hokies traveling to Chestnut Hill to take on the 3-1 Boston College Eagles. BC’s only loss thus far was on the road to #1 Miami. Most of the preseason magazines billed this as the game to determine second place in the conference, although Hokie fans now have higher aspirations, and Pitt fans have a legitimate argument that they’ll be able to crash the party.

When reviewing the recent history of the VT-BC match up, I immediately think of Boston’s own venerable sitcom, "Cheers." In one episode barfly Norm Peterson enters to his typical greeting and when Sam inquires as to how he is, Norm responds, "Sammy, it’s a dog eat dog world, and I’m wearing Milk Bone underwear."

Since a Thursday night win by the Eagles in 1995 in Jim Druckenmiller’s first career start, VT, led by a dogged defense, has treated BC like it was wearing Milk Bone underwear. The Hokies have prevailed in their last six meetings against BC, winning by an average margin of 19.5 points. To put this into proper perspective, EVERY Big East team except Rutgers has beaten the Hokies once since the last time the Eagles beat VT. Yes, even Temple has beaten the Hokies since then (even if you’ve forgotten, I doubt your therapist has).

BC has become a solid program under Tom O’Brien, so why has the series been so one-sided? While BC always had a solid line and good running backs -- they have had a 1,000 yard rusher each of the past four years -- the simple answer is that the overall speed of the Eagles hasn’t been good enough to beat the Hokies. Big-play guys on offense like Michael Vick and Andre Davis have haunted the Eagles, while the VT defense has contained BC’s typically solid running game.

Based on the recent history of the series, shouldn’t this game be easy? Shouldn’t we be more focused on October’s murderous slate that includes games against Rutgers and Temple? Nope, and here are a few reasons why BC has a legitimate chance to win this game.

Quick Hitters

  • BC is 17-3 in its last twenty home games. Those three losses, you ask? Last year they lost to national champion Miami 18-7 in a game that literally was up for grabs in the last minute. BC was inside Miami’s 15 yard line with a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter when Miami forced a turnover and big play Ed Reed had a 90 or so yard return to ice the game. By the way, for all the grief the Big East gets, it should be noted that the only two teams that played Miami into the fourth quarter last year were from the Big East -- VT and BC. In 2000, BC lost to the Hokies 48-34 when Michael Vick went crazy, running the ball for 210 yards and 3 touchdowns, and in 1999 BC lost to Miami 31-28 in a game where BC led 28-0. In a nutshell, the Eagles play well at home.
  • BC went 8-4 last year, including a bowl win over media darling Georgia, and BC returns 17 starters from that team. They have significant big-game experience.
  • BC played Miami tough for a half earlier this year, and Miami has enough talent to start an NFL expansion team.
  • BC has the benefit of a senior quarterback protected by four returning offensive line starters. It is an offensive line good enough to be named as the best in the Big East preseason by Athlon.
  • BC is due to play a good game against Tech (see Syracuse at Lane last year).

"You can run your mouth, but can you run the ball?"'s
"Run the Ball" T-shirt
$16.95 - click here to order

To answer the question posed by (great shirt), nope, BC won’t be able to run the ball. The Hokies are currently #1 nationally in run defense and I can’t see the Eagles lining up and playing smash-mouth football against the VT defense. The Eagles also don’t have any huge big-play guys on the outside. So, as you would expect, the short passing game will likely be the key for the Eagles in order for them to move the ball.

Senior QB Brian St. Pierre leads the Big East in passing yards per game and total offense. St. Pierre is 6-4, 217, and is a pretty good athlete. He’s going to get a look from NFL scouts, and is somewhat reminiscent of former Rutgers QB Mike McMahon, now a quarterback with the Detroit Lions. St. Pierre struggled in early games versus UConn and Stanford, but he has played better the past two games. He does have a tendency to try to force the ball, and that would be a big mistake against VT.

With respect to the running game, Penn State transfer Horace Dodd got the nod initially at tailback, but he was quickly eclipsed by 5-9, 205 lb. senior Derrick Knight. Knight has rushed for 100 yards in three of BC’s four games this year (Miami held him to 57 yards on 19 carries). Knight’s a solid back with good quickness and cutback ability, but he’s no William Green, and Green only got 74 yards on 21 carries against the VT defense last year. Knight is also BC’s third leading receiver, and that may be his biggest contribution in this game.

The receiving corps doesn’t have a true go-to guy. Senior Jamal Burke is the biggest name and is the co-leader in receptions with 15, but senior Keith Hemmings is also coming on strong. Both have good size in the 6-1, 210 lb. range with good, but not great, speed. BC historically uses its tight end a lot -- think Mark Chmura and Pete Mitchell -- and its top three at the position have combined for 17 catches, more than four per game.

BC is building a reputation as a solid producer of pro offensive linemen. While former first rounder and Virginia native Damien Woody of the Patriots is the most prominent name, Doug Brzezinski has been a starter for Philadelphia for most of the past four years, two years ago Paul Zukauskas was an All-America and now plays for Cleveland, and last year Marc Colombo was a first round pick by the Chicago.

This year’s BC line is cut from the same mold and includes four returning starters with two preseason all-league candidates in seniors Mark Parenteau (guard) and Dan Koppen (center, and a one time VT recruiting target). BC coaches think sophomore guard Chris Snee may eventually be the best of all of the current linemen, as he is a load at the point of attack.

Given their strength up the middle, it is surprising the Eagles haven’t run the ball particularly well this year. They average only 3.8 yards per carry. On the plus side, though, they have only given up four sacks all year and they have already played – arguably – the best defensive line in the country in Miami.

With VT’s strength being run defense, it doesn’t take a genius to figure that BC will likely throw a lot of short passes. BC seems to have the offensive line to hold up against the Hokie pass rush, but I have some questions as to how much separation their wide receivers can get against the VT corners. So, I expect the tight ends and the running backs, particularly Knight, to be involved in the passing game.

Eight is Enough

While going with the TV theme, I figured that was probably an apt description of the number of BC defenders in the box. No doubt BC will play like everyone else and try to make the Hokies throw. Statistically, BC is third in the Big East in rushing yards allowed per game, a respectable 108 yards, while also ranking third in pass efficiency and surrendering 187 yards through the air. It’s a defense that defends everything okay, but nothing exceptionally well.

BC’s "war daddy" on the front is 6-4, 290 lb. senior DT Antonio Garay. After watching Garay against Miami, The Sporting News quoted an anonymous NFL scout as saying "He looks . . . quick and strong – and at 290 pounds, he’s a load to move in the running game. There’s a chance he could be gone as early as the late first round . . . ." Garay has 3 sacks and 4.5 tackles for losses this year, and he will provide a challenge similar to Ty Warren of Texas A&M. Garay isn’t alone up front though, as Doug Goodwin is a solid returning starter, too.

Senior linebacker Vinny Ciurciu is a Dat Nguyen/Zach Thomas type fireplug in the middle at 5-11, 240 lbs., and he and fellow linebacker Josh Ott (Jr.) are the leading tacklers for the Eagles. The third linebacker, undersized junior (5-11, 210 lbs.) Brian Flores was a recent convert from strong safety. The move was necessitated by injuries, as well as an attempt to get more speed on the field. Flores responded by being named Big East defensive player of the week in BC’s last game against Central Michigan, and he seems to be coming on strong.

BC has three returning starters in the secondary, led by senior FS Ralph Parent and strong safety Doug Bessette. No DB has more than 1 interception or two passes broken up. Worth noting is that BC has another Hasselbeck on the roster, this time r-freshman defensive back Nathaniel. Do the Hasselbecks have enough sons to field their own team yet? Talk about the first family of BC football...

Schematically, VT Offensive Coordinator Bryan Stinespring expects BC to zone blitz a lot. BC typically is very disciplined, so even though they blitz they maintain gap control, a key because of the ability of Kevin Jones and Lee Suggs to cut back. As with any team that plays VT, the tackling of weak side linebacker Flores and strong safety Bessette will be essential. This strikes me as the type of defense that may give up a big play or two, but I have some concerns about the Hokies’ ability to run the ball down their throat. VT has struggled running the ball the last two games, but hopefully the offensive line will play well in Chestnut Hill.

Pride and Joy

BC matches up pretty well in the kicking game. They return their long snapper and their punter, Kevin McMyler. McMyler only averages 35.9 yards per punt, but an astonishing stat is that opponents have only returned six punts this year for a net total of 15 yards. That’s usually one punt return for Miami. Opponents are also only averaging 15.8 yards per kickoff return. BC’s kicker is 8-11 on field goals and hasn’t missed any chip shots inside 30 yards (although he has missed 1 extra point).

Stud true freshman Will Blackmon, a national top 100 recruit in most services, shares the returning duties with Burke. Blackmon should be a terrific player for the Eagles in time, but the uncertainty of a freshman on special teams may concern O’Brien.

VT has settled on true freshman Nic Schmitt as the injured Carter Warley’s replacement. Schmitt reportedly has a great leg, but will freshman jitters and/or holding issues cause a problem (Nic is a left footed kicker, so that means a different approach for the holder)? I suspect the Hokies will be fine, but if it is a close game, Nic will be on the spot.

The Lowdown

This game is going to come down to the quarterbacks, because it is going to be tough for either team to run the ball consistently. Bryan Randall keeps getting better and better, but virtually all young quarterbacks have at least one tough game in the turnover department. Remember Michael Vick’s three-interception game versus Clemson? Randall would seem to be due for a tough game, but he has shown good decision-making skills, and the coaches have kept the offense fairly conservative, so maybe it won’t happen.

Similarly, St. Pierre needs to understand that against the Hokie defense, often the best play is one for no gain. He needs to throw the ball away to avoid sacks, and he needs to pick his spots when throwing against the opportunistic VT secondary to avoid turnovers. A couple of early turnovers and the Eagles could be down and out in this one.

In the end, I think Randall will be his normally efficient self and the Hokies have too much defense for BC. Expect the Eagles to come out fighting, but the Hokies simply have too much.

Prediction: VT 24, Boston College 10


TSL Football Page

TSL Home