Dual-threat QB Murphy has found a perfect home at BC
Dual-threat quarterbacks are all the rage in college football.
Taysom Hill (BYU), Nick Marshall (Auburn), Everett Golson (Notre Dame), Brett Hundley (UCLA), Braxton Miller (Ohio State) and Marcus Mariota (Oregon). You name it, and many of the top-tier teams are led by a quarterback that can both run and pass.
But there’s one you might not have heard of — at least, before last weekend. And he’s the nation’s leading rusher, among quarterbacks.
And that came just a few minutes after Murphy had helped engineer BC’s most landmark victory since 2007 — running roughshod over No. 9 USC — when Matt Ryan was at quarterback.
The pocket-centric Ryan, nicknamed "Matty Ice" because of his coolness under pressure, isn’t very similar to Murphy in terms of their playing style. But their demeanors are pretty close.
And that’s why it was difficult to tell at times in the postgame press conference whether the Eagles had won or lost, much less whether Murphy had played a major role.
Murphy ran the read-option offense to perfection against the top-10 Trojans. A 17-6 deficit was nothing to the Eagles, as they continued to stay the course behind their steady leader. Prior to that deficit, Murphy was 1 of 3 passing with a dropped pass, had one four-yard run and was sacked for an 11-yard loss.
It’s been a long journey for the graduate student, who sat for three years at Florida waiting for an opportunity. He finally got it last year after Jeff Driskel broke his leg against Tennessee, finishing that game along with six more outings for the Gators.
But Murphy hurt his shoulder against LSU and was never the same after that. After a loss to Vanderbilt, he was done for the season.
Before the injury, Murphy was 39 of 54 for 530 yards, five touchdowns and one interception, playing the bulk of three games (all wins) against Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas.
After that, he was 73 for 131 for 686 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. He ran for 135 yards on 24 attempts (and two touchdowns) in his first three games … and had minus-74 and one touchdown in the last four.
According to Murphy’s family, the quarterback had a third-degree shoulder separation (not a sprain) and after the Vanderbilt game (three INTs), they weren’t happy with the way his head coach Will Muschamp criticized him while downplaying the injury.
So when Muschamp told Murphy the 2014 quarterback competition would be open between he and Driskel, there was an element of uncertainty there — enough so that Murphy wanted a change of scenery.
After graduating in December, Murphy made the decision to leave the program and spend his final year of eligibility somewhere else. As a graduate student, he wouldn’t have to sit out a year.
It certainly did to Steve Addazio, Boston College’s head coach entering his second season and former offensive coordinator at Florida. After four-year starter Chase Rettig graduated, he needed a quarterback. And it just so happened that he recruited Murphy to Florida.
"It was a great fit. We had a situation where we lost Chase. We were bringing in a couple of young freshman quarterbacks that we were really excited about, but to give them an opportunity to soak and to mature, and he has veteran experience, he’s been a starter, he’s been under the bright lights, and I had great familiarity. So it was a really good marriage," Addazio said at ACC Kickoff back in July.
But Rettig wasn’t the only significant loss. The Eagles’ Heisman Trophy finalist tailback Andre Williams had also graduated, too. There were a lot of question marks about how good the offense could actually be.
"I think our challenge now is how do we create those explosives. Both those players are gone, where are those explosive plays coming from this year?" Addazio said in July. "And I think we hope they’re going to come from the quarterback position. We’re going to create more explosives there. I think that’s what we hope. That’s one place."
Watching Murphy sprint past USC defenders down the sideline for a 66-yard score, that July comment feels more prophetic now.
To launch his BC career, Murphy had a good start against Massachusettts, excelling as a runner (118 yards, one TD) and passer (173 yards, one TD, 71 percent completion rate) ; and that was a little suprising, since the Eagles aren’t blessed with a lot of experienced talent at receiver.
Murphy (134 yards passing, one TD, two INTs) took the blame for the loss to Pittsburgh in the Eagles’ second game. He ran the ball 16 times for 92 yards and a touchdown, though.
But Boston College got away from its identity a bit, running the ball 34 times compared to 28 passes — largely because the club was playing from behind.
"It meant a lot, especially after last week’s loss," Murphy said after the game last Saturday. "Personally, it’s been a long journey. It means a lot to me."
There’s a notion, though, that run-heavy teams straddle that line of being too one-dimensional.
That’s not necessarily true if your quarterback is a true run threat, and that was the case in BC’s upset of USC, running 54 times and tallying only 13 passing attempts.
"I do like the guy that can beat you with his feet whether you choose to run any element of read or option football or not, just on third down alone with the styles of defenses you’re seeing, the opportunity for the quarterback to slip out of that pocket, if you will, and keep the chains moving I think is invaluable," Addazio said on the ACC teleconference a few weeks ago.
"But you can do it a lot of different ways. There is nothing better than a drop back pinpoint passer either. So we like a guy that can — here’s how I like to phrase it — a thrower that can run as opposed to just a runner that can throw. I think you want a thrower that can run."
Boston College hasn’t really had a mobile quarterback since Doug Flutie, and Murphy has certainly captured the imagination of the BC faithful.
Now that he’s become more of a household name, though, opponents are already putting more emphasis on preparing for him.
Boston College plays Colorado State at home next week, and the Rams are using their bye week to train their reserve running backs to play the role of the elusive Murphy.
That even-keeled personality will serve Murphy well as the spotlight burns brighter on him.
And Addazio said that the Eagles might open it up more. But the offense with the running game wasn’t broken against USC, so why try to fix it? Just because Murphy didn’t throw a lot doesn’t mean that he can’t, and that’s a common misconception when it comes to mobile QBs.
"We don’t practice more in the run game than the throw game. We practice even. Like today (Murphy) had a great practice. Yesterday, he was just throwing the ball super well. So I think he’s ready to compete on whatever he’s asked to do," Addazio said.
Addazio would probably be the first to admit that he’s been fortunate, with Williams last year and now Murphy, to have two players that have helped him as he’s tried to rebuild the rest of his young roster around them, filling holes while his younger players come of age.
One of his more popular campaigns since he got to Boston College was "Be a Dude". What a dude is, exactly, remains a bit of a mystery.
But when Addazio paid his quarterback the ultimate compliment this week, his elaboration might shed a bit of light on the actual definition.
"He’s been a dude," Addazio said of Murphy. "I mean, he’s a guy that carries his team. He’s a leader. He has a great look in his eye. It’s whatever it takes to win. Kind of get on my back, so to speak — whether it means he’s going to run however many times he ran, or whether he’s going to throw it a whole bunch."