Boston College, Louisville look to shut down rushing attacks
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Boston College running back A.J. Dillon is looking to punish Louisville again.
In his first start, Dillon rushed for career-bests with 272 yards and four touchdowns in the Eagles’ last visit to Louisville nearly two years ago. He would like nothing more than a repeat performance.
The 6-foot, 245-pound junior has gone on to run for 3,324 career yards — including 627 yards and six touchdowns this season. He presents a huge challenge for the Cardinals (2-2, 0-1) in Saturday’s matchup of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s top two ground attacks.
The Eagles (3-2, 1-1) lead the ACC averaging 252 yards rushing per game and are third in total offense at 473.2. Louisville’s ground game averages 225.3 on the ground, but its defensive task is denying Dillon an encore performance on home turf.
“Oh, we’re definitely going to have to tackle,” Louisville sophomore cornerback Anthony Johnson said. “We have to have good discipline to come in the box and make tackles on this big running back.”
If not, fans might be in for another shootout. In Dillon’s breakout game in 2017, Boston College upset Louisville 45-42.
This time, both schools aim to rebound from ACC losses, with BC looking to Dillon and junior quarterback Anthony Brown to keep its offense humming. Dillon has rushed for at least 150 yards in each of the past three games.
Third-down efficiency is a big focus for the Eagles, who converted just 2 of 12 chances against Wake Forest and allowed the Demon Deacons to make 17 of 24 in a 27-24 defeat .
“I think the word would be consistency,” said BC coach Steve Addazio, whose team averages 31.6 points per game. “We want to be sure to do our best there and stay on schedule on both sides. We have been on schedule on offense, but (need to) stay on schedule on defense and don’t have too many dribble yards because that leads to third and shorts.”
Louisville had a bye following its 35-24 loss to Florida State . The Cardinals fell behind 21-0, rallied to take the lead briefly in the fourth quarter but came up short.
The Cardinals turned to its passing game to get back into the contest against the Seminoles, but the ground game overall has been a bright spot for Louisville. Freshman Javian Hawkins has run for 390 yards while sophomore Hassan Hall has 239, and each has a TD.
Both must contribute if Louisville hopes to establish ball control against a BC attack that’s been pretty effective at it.
“We want to be over 200 yards; that’s the benchmark we like to get rushing the football,” coach Scott Satterfield said. “We’ll keep working at it and continue to try to find ways to run the ball.”
Some other things to watch as Boston College visits Louisville:
The Eagles enter the game tied with Clemson, Wake Forest and Florida State atop the ACC with 13 plays of 30-plus yards. Brown, who has completed 58% of his passes for 1,057 yards and eight TDs, has three completions over 50 yards this season. BC’s average of 13.8 yards per completion ranks second in the ACC and 24th nationally.
CARDINALS QB QUESTIONS
Whether Jawon Pass or Malik Cunningham start behind center is likely a game-time decision. Cunningham was Louisville’s most recent starter, throwing for a career-best 286 yards and two of his three touchdowns before injuring his ankle on the game’s final play. Pass missed that game with a foot injury, though he has practiced and is listed as the starter.
THE TAKEAWAY BATTLE
BC ranks third nationally with eight interceptions, highlighting a plus-7 turnover ratio that has the Eagles tied for 11th at 1.40 per game. Conversely, Louisville is minus-4 and has yet to intercept a pass in its new 3-4 defensive scheme. Considering Brown has tossed just two picks this season, the Cardinals have their work cut out for them. However, Louisville players are encouraged and believe it’s just a matter of time before things pay off. “Our (pass) rush has been good, but we’ve got to cover tighter,” senior free safety Khane Pass said.
Boston College has won the past two meetings and can even the series at 6-6 with a victory. The Eagles are 2-3 at Cardinal Stadium.