We’re back for week five of the Pregame Twelve Pack. Twelve fun facts, tidbits, leftovers and miscellaneous musings as we head into the Boston College game.
1. Get ready for a larger dose of Bennett Jackson.
Remember that streak burning down the field during the opening Saturday against Purdue? That was Bennett Jackson, covering kickoffs to the tune of four tackles and immediately making his speed and presence felt.
After the kick return game has gone backwards the past few weeks, Kelly is turning to Jackson on the opposite end of the kick team to hopefully bring some energy to a unit lacking much excitement.
“Right now, I think you’ll see Cierre Wood, you’re going to see probably Bennett Jackson, and that rotation will also be pretty fluid,” Brian Kelly confirmed Thursday afternoon. We think Theo is going to help us back there as well. It’s going to be a three-man rotation. I would say right now probably Cierre is going to be our lead guy again.”
Last week’s kick return game was held in check by the excellent placement and strength behind Nate Whitaker’s kicks, but Wood didn’t do anyone any favors by being indecisive with kicks three yards deep in the end zone. While Cierre’s the primary return man, it’ll be exciting to watch Jackson if he’s as fearless on the return side as he is covering kicks.
2. The Chase Rettig era likely begins this weekend.
It’s been the worst kept secret in Boston this week that true freshman Chase Rettig is exchanging his redshirt for a Crimson one and will likely be starting for the first time in his Boston College career.
Kelly and staff dug up some tape of Rettig in high school so they could get a look at him.
“We watched some high school film on him,” Kelly said earlier in the week. “We dug up some high school film, and he’s like the other quarterbacks. He’s tall, he’s got a big arm, he’s got escape-ability. We feel like we don’t have to prepare for a guy that may take off and run the ball 20 times.”
I also dug up some high school dirt on Rettig, and find some common threads that lead back to some familiar names. While Rettig only had scholarship offers from Boston College and Tennessee, it wasn’t for a lack of tutelage — Rettig worked with QB coach Anton Clarkson, the son of self-marketing whiz and personal quarterback tutor Steve Clarkson, who worked with Jimmy Clausen.
Here’s what the younger Clarkson had to say about Rettig when he committed to playing at BC:
“He’s a very smart kid and a hard worker,” Clarkson said. “He will run
through a wall for you and I think he has the strongest arm in the
country. He can easily make all the throws and he’s one of my favorite
kids to work with. He played in an offense last year where he had to run
the ball a lot and that’s not his strength. He’s a drop-back guy who
can gun the ball and he didn’t get to do that enough. I think that’s one
of the reasons he didn’t have a bunch of early offers. But he’s got the
right fit now in Boston.”
I’m sure Rettig’s arm is strong, but I like that the penchant for hyperbole was transferred from father to son.
3. The difference between Kelly’s Irish offense and his Bearcat offense? Try the second quarter.
An astute member of the media pointed out a pretty interesting stat to BK yesterday afternoon, when he noticed that Kelly’s Cincinnati Bearcat offense scored 172 points in the second quarter last year. Right now at the one-quarter mark of the season, the Irish have only 9 points and zero touchdowns in the second quarter. Does Kelly have a reason for the drastic difference? Not really.
“Those numbers, I don’t spend a ton of time on them. But nine points, regardless of whether we scored 100-something or not, that’s not enough points in the second quarter,” Kelly said. “We’re still a work in progress
offensively. We see some really good signs. I don’t know that it has much to do
with an offense that has been bogged down by a particular player as the overall
understanding of what we’re trying to get done. All 11 guys. It’s not one guy.
This isn’t about the quarterback. This is about 11 guys getting on the same
page from an offensive standpoint.”
4. You want 21 tackles? I’ll show you 21 tackles.
The fine staff over at UND.com took it upon themselves to cut up the video and find all 21 tackles that Manti Te’o made last week against Stanford, not an easy feat when you consider that the coaching staff only had Te’o for 19.
But Al and the team found those two missing tackles, and put together an awesome look at the work Manti did last weekend.
While it’s partially depressing to watch the big-gainers that Stanford put together on the offensive side of the ball, the kill-shot Te’o makes on tackle 13 (get to the 1:50 mark) makes it worth it. That’s the hit of the year so far.
5. Twenty-one tackles? Luke Kuechly sees Te’o’s game and raises him 12.
While Te’o’s 21 tackles is the most in the FBS since 2007, Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly has a pretty impressive stat-run of his own. With 16 tackles against Virginia Tech, Kuechly extended the nation’s longest streak of games with double-digit tackles to 12 games. A Cincinnati native, Brian Kelly tried unsuccessfully to recruit him to the Bearcats.
“Couldn’t even get him to visit Cincinnati,” Kelly said Tuesday. “Couldn’t get a visit out of Luke. He wanted to go, he was looking at Boston College, East Coast schools. Stanford was one of his choices. Great student, great kid. Very, very good football player, which obviously we’ve got to find a way to block him now.”
6. Boston College is playing the disrespect card.
There’s nothing better in a rivalry than when one team starts saying the other team “disrespects” them. Consider that a prerequisite for a true rivalry game. And thanks to tight end Alex Albright, who grew up in the Cincinnati area, we know that the Eagles think the Irish disrespect them.
“The Boston College community feels a little disrespected just because BC is
considered a lesser program. But for me, personally, being from that
area, I’ve been growing up with Notre Dame in my face my entire life,”
the Boston College senior defensive end said Wednesday, three days
before the “Holy War” at Alumni Stadium. “I feel like I know the monster
that’s coming in a lot more ways than people that don’t have experience
with Notre Dame.”
I think a few Notre Dame fans would probably beg to differ with Albright’s interpretation of what team is disrespectful.
7. Jonas Gray is doubtful, but the rest of the Irish are healthy.
Talking about injury luck is usually the kiss of death, but through four games the Irish have down fairly well at staying healthy, losing only Steve Paskorz with a significant injury and Dan Wenger to concussion problems. Kelly updated the Irish injury status, which looked iffy with running backs Jonas Gray and Armando Allen, tight end Kyle Rudolph, and defensive end Ethan Johnson all going down with injuries against Stanford.
“Jonas is the only guy right now that is questionable for
Saturday,” Kelly said Wednesday. “Everybody else — we’re better this week going into Tuesday
than we were last week after the Michigan State going into Tuesday.”
While a balky hamstring and a stingy Stanford defense held Kyle Rudolph to one catch for one yard, Kelly confirmed Thursday that Rudolph was better.
“He was better today. I
expect him to be better,” Kelly said. “Couldn’t be worse.”
8. Notre Dame is good business for Boston College.
If Boston College wants to tee-up a sellout crowd, all it needs to do is schedule Notre Dame. The Eagle blog BC Interruption tells us that the Irish have helped Boston College sell out every home game since they started playing Notre Dame in the new Alumni Stadium, a streak that started back in 1994.
Boston College has only sold out Alumni Stadium 31 times since they expanded Alumni Stadium to 44,500 seats, and the Irish are the only team that’s sold it out every time they played.
Here’s the top sellouts:
Notre Dame — 6 sellouts — 1994, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2008
Virginia Tech — 4 sellouts — 1994, 1996, 2000, 2006
Syracuse — 4 sellouts — 1994, 1996, 2000, 2006
Miami — 4 sellouts — 1995, 2001, 2003, 2007
The Holy War is a must-see ticket for Eagles fans. Something that’s obviously pretty rare for Boston College football.
9. It was a students-only affair at the going-away pep rally this week.
There’s nothing that’s lost its allure like the famed Notre Dame pep rallies of the Lou Holtz era. Those JACC centers filled to capacity gave way to social gatherings at the Irish Green, and somewhere along the line the event lost the must-attend allure that pep rallies held a generation ago.
But this week a students-only pep rally was held for the Irish, and 2,300 student packed into Stepan Center to wish the Irish good luck before BC:
“I think that last year’s student-only pep rally was universally
considered the best pep rally of the year, and even the last few years,” Barrick Bollman, the chairman of the pep rally organizing committee told the Observer.
“It’s students-only, so we are free to get as absolutely crazy as we
want and it’s a little more uncensored. It will be like those crazy pep
rallies that people’s parents always talk about,” Bollman said.
What’s crazy is thinking that current students need to ask their friends’ parents about the time when pep rallies were actually crazy.
10. Boston College’s offense might be dreadfully bad.
It’s hard to get too confident if you’re an Irish fan after what happened last week, but consider that Boston College might have an absolutely dreadful offense. (We’ll find out Saturday night.)
Consider: Boston College ranks 92nd in total offense after three games. That’s bad, but when you consider they’ve played the the 109th most difficult schedule in their three games, that’s pretty terrible.
Dave Shinskie got the hook as the starting quarterback after three games because the BC offense has been down right offensive to start the year. He put up mediocre numbers against Weber State, completing only 10 of 20 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions. Boston College only mustered 305 total yards against Kent State, relying on 20 second-half points to beat the Golden Flashes 26-13. Against their first FBS opponent, Boston College could only put up 250 yards of offense, throwing for only 180 yards and running for just 70, while turning the ball over three times.
Obviously, we had questions about how good Stanford was after their first three games. It turned out they were plenty good enough to defeat the Irish. We’ll find out how good the Eagles are on Saturday night.
11. When ND and BC play, they don’t just play for one rivalry trophy, they play for two.
If you want a good indicator on the importance of the Irish/Eagles rivalry, consider that there are two rivalry trophies up for grabs. The first is the Frank Leahy Memorial Bowl, which honors the shared history where Leahy led both the Notre Dame and Boston College football programs.
The second trophy is the Ireland Trophy, which is presented to the winning team by the opposition’s student government. Starting in 1994, the trophy — designed in the shape of the country Ireland — honors the rich Irish history that both countries share.
I don’t think anyone will get these mixed up with the Little Brown Jug or Paul Bunyon’s Axe, but it sounds like both prizes would look good on in the trophy case.
12. The Irish need a win, and Brian Kelly is still confident.
Not that you’d expect anything different from a head coach, but Brian Kelly’s confidence has not been shaken by the slow start to the season.
“I’m very confident we’re going to win the football game,” Kelly said. “I think it’s still about our ability to close out games and play turnover-free. That’s been a thing that’s obviously hurt us. But I’m very confident that our team is prepared to win.”
If Kelly and the Irish are going to win, they’ll need to move the football against a stingy Eagles defense, but also control the field position battle. To do that, they’ll absolutely need to get some better punts out of Ben Turk. Special teams coach Mike Elston has diagnosed Turk’s struggles.
“It’s like a baseball player. He’s in a slump,” Elston said. “Before the first game, Ben Turk was punting the best I’ve ever seen him punt.
He was peaking at the right time. His leg was getting back from the fall
“Now you hit a couple bad punts, you’re in front of 80,000
people, and he’s got to get his confidence back. He has to focus on two
or three things that are going to make him better, and that’s what he’s
done this week. And actually he’s had a really good week.”
Boston College has really struggled to put together long drives, so if the Irish can keep the Eagles in the long field and avoid turnovers, the Notre Dame defense should feast on an inexperienced quarterback playing in a underwhelming offense.