Mizzou faces daunting road task in Boston College

BOSTON – Boston College stands out on Mizzou’s 2021 schedule. It is the farthest the Tigers have to travel for any game this season, the Tigers’ only matchup against a non-SEC Power 5 opponent and it’s the first time the football programs have ever played against each other.

Coming off a dominant win against SEMO, the Tigers are presented with an undefeated team that can damage opponents running the ball. Although game script certainly contributed to the play calling of Boston College offensive coordinator Frank Cignelli, the Eagles have ran the ball more than they’ve passed in all three of their games this year. 

The difference between run plays and pass plays only exacerbated over the previous two. Boston College ran 43 rushes compared to 18 passes in a 45-28 win over UMass, and they doubled down against Temple last week with 35 rushes against just 13 passes in a 28-3 win.

The Tigers know what the Eagles offense will come out with.

“[It’s] gonna be a tremendous challenge again for us to stop the run, which we haven’t consistently done,” said Missouri head coach Eliah Drinkwitz. “And we need to do a better job or we will be in trouble. They do a nice job with managing clock and possessions.”

Boston College features a trio of running backs who get touches. Redshirt sophomore Pat Garwo III leads the way with 6.8 yards per carry, and graduates Travis Levy (also a kick returner who took a 96-yarder to the house against UMass) and Alec Sinkfield, a West Virginia transfer, bolster the backfield. 

Notably, a huge part of their success is due to the group in front of them.

“What makes them go is their five offensive linemen up front,” said Drinkwtiz. “You know, all of them have multiple starts.”

Left tackle and right tackle Tyler Vrabel and Ben Petrula both have multiple years of starter experience under their belts, and their guard play from LG Zion Johnson and RG Christian Mahogany supplements a strong interior alongside center Alec Lindstrom. It’s one of the most seasoned and strongest offensive line units in the country, and they’ve only allowed one sack so far this season.

Mizzou defensive coordinator Steve Wilks sees similarities between BC and Kentucky, who amassed 340 rushing yards against the Tigers.

“When you look at their offensive line, it somewhat compares to Kentucky,” said Wilks. “You know, very big, very massive guys up front, a lot of NFL potential there. So, you know, again, we’ve just got to do a great job of really trying to set edges, you know, get downhill on our creases, get the double teams off and make sure that we execute our assignments.”

And, although he struggled mightily against Temple last week, Boston College quarterback Dennis Grosel is a capable passer who knows the offensive system well as a redshirt senior. He’s got playmakers surrounding him, including junior wide receiver Zay Flowers and graduate tight end Trae Barry, who both average over 19 yards per touch this season.

From an offensive standpoint, the game plan won’t shift based on matchup for Mizzou. The Eagles were tested against the UMass Minutemen, who found broken coverages and took advantage of turnovers. However, BC showed few leaks last week against Temple, and the Tigers will need Connor Bazelak to run the offense under his signature composure and Tyler Badie to be the explosive guy out of the backfield. Look for Michael Cox to pick up a few touches after a strong showing against SEMO last week, but it’s going to continue to be a team effort for the Tigers offense.

The Tigers will face the Eagles in Chestnut Hill at 11 a.m. CST on Saturday, Sept. 25. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

Featured photo: Mizzou Head Coach Eliah Drinkwitz at Sept. 21 practice ahead of Saturday’s game at Boston College

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