All offseason, Eagles fans heard over and over how the Boston College running game would suffer without Andre Williams.
One game into the 2014 season, albeit with a weak opponent as the only sample size, things look fine as far as the rushing attack is concerned.
The Boston College running game accounted for 338 yards of offense on Saturday in the Eagles’ 30-7 opening-week victory over the UMass Minutemen, following a season where they rushed for over 212 yards per game. There are going to be ups and downs, and the Eagles are not going to rush for over 300 yards every week (nor will they account for over 500 yards of offense on a regular basis), but Boston College is off to a good start.
UMass is the sort of team that one would expect the Eagles to run all over, especially given the fact that their run defense last season was one of the worst in FBS. Boston College did exactly what they were supposed to do on Saturday, with the only key difference between 2013 and 2014 being that last season, one player vacuumed up most of the rushing yards, but this season, the burden will be spread out amongst several talented backs.
But, enter graduate student quarterback Tyler Murphy, a Florida transfer whose legs appear to work just fine. When the opportunity presented itself on Saturday, Murphy took the ball and ran with it, sometimes coming up with big gains that saved drives. At 13 carries for 118 yards, or 9.1 yards per carry, he had a great rushing performance. Murphy himself presents a dimension that the 2013 Eagles did not have, helping to fill in the production void left by Andre Williams and keep the Boston College offense moving.
A rushing attack, inclusive of the Boston College running game, is only as good as the offensive line in front of it. Even with what appears to be a long-term ankle injury to lineman Harris Williams, “O-Line U” dominated Saturday’s game in the trenches. Again, it is fair to assume that they will run into their share of issues (read: bigger defensive lines), but they did what they needed to do.
This Boston College running game probably is not going to produce games with 250-yard rushers, but it could very well have games where the team as a whole rushes for that much or more. Whereas the Boston College running game last season was dominated by one man, this one is more of a team effort, and even the quarterback is helping.
Saturday was only the first step along the way, but it was a good start for the Eagles offense in maintaining their strength: a downhill rushing attack that wears down the opponent. If the Pittsburgh game is somewhat productive in this endeavor, it could be another good year for the ground game.