Boston College is one of the pleasant surprises of the ACC football season. At 4-1, the Eagles have overcome a turbulent offseason and one of the ugliest performances of 2009 (a 25-7 loss to Clemson) to put themselves in position for a decent bowl game.
On Saturday, they rode running back Montel Harris to a 28-21 win over Florida State that wasn’t as close as the final. Harris ran 25 times for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Sixty percent of his carries were successful, and he gained seven first downs on the ground.
Harris’ performance was impressive, but there’s a problem lurking in the BC running game. Harris and his primary backup, Josh Haden, go nowhere more often than any non-Re’quan Boyette running backs in the conference. On nearly a third of Haden’s and Harris’ 148 carries this year, they’ve been stuffed, gaining no yards or going backward. Haden has the highest stuff rate in the conference, moving in neutral or reverse on 42 percent of his carries this season.
Harris is two spots behind, at 27 percent. They’re the tasty wafers on a Boyette-flavored Oreo® brand sandwich cookie.
The vast majority of Harris’ and Haden’s backwards jaunts have come on first or second down, pinning their offense in unmanageable long-yardage situations. The lost yards on early downs have contributed to BC’s poor performance on third down this season. The Eagles are 91st in the country, converting 34.85 percent of their third downs.
Like the rest of the BC offense, the Haden-Harris tandem bottomed out against Clemson. They combined to run for 20 yards, losing yardage on 10 of their 19 carries.
The pair has been inconsistent in Boston College’s four wins. Against Wake Forest, they gained positive yardage on 36 of their 42 carries. They were surprisingly backward against lowly Northeastern, losing yards on more than a third of their 26 carries. Small worry: Boston College won 54-0.
On the bright side, however, their two lowest stuff rates have come in the last two games, against Wake (17 percent) and Florida State (24 percent). Wins in those games have gotten BC back on track.
Some other running back notes from Week 5:
- Last week’s success rate leader, N.C. State’s Toney Baker, is coming back to earth. His conventional stats against Wake weren’t awful (10 carries with a 4.2 yardage average), but they were misleading. He gained 23 of those yards on one first-and-10 play. He gained one yard or none on half his carries and had a success rate of 40 percent.
- Javarris James’ great performance against Oklahoma (15 carries, 150 yards, 60-percent success rate) bumped his success rate over 50 percent for the year. He’s at 51.9 percent, just behind Ty Jones for third in the conference. More impressively, James has been stuffed on only 11 percent of his carries. That’s the second-lowest stuff rate in the conference, behind Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams (10 percent).
- I added Georgia Tech’s Anthony Allen to this week’s tables. While he’s only averaging about 4 carries a game, Allen is doing a lot with them. His success rate (59 percent) rates ahead of Baker’s, but over a pretty small sample size. But Allen either scores or gains a first down every third time he carries the ball, on average.
On to the tables:
(carries gaining 0 yards or less)
|Ryan Williams||Virginia Tech||11||108||10.2%|
|Anthony Allen||Georgia Tech||3||22||13.6%|
|Toney Baker||N.C. State||8||58||13.8%|
|Jonathan Dwyer||Georgia Tech||9||65||13.8%|
|Ty Jones||Florida State||10||46||21.7%|
|Montel Harris||Boston College||26||96||27.1%|
|Josh Haden||Boston College||22||52||42.3%|
(Carries gaining at least 40% of needed yards on first down, 60% on second down or 100% on third or fourth down; and any carries resulting in a touchdown or first down)