The homecoming crowd of 30,193 in attendance at Alumni Stadium was precisely what the Boston College Eagles needed to put last week’s loss to Florida State behind them. The outcome was a 17-14 win over the Northern Illinois Huskies.
The victory improves BC’s record to 3-1, but failed to dismiss concerns centering on the offense.
For the third straight game it was the defense that shone brightest at the Heights, forcing two turnovers and limiting the Huskies to 153 total yards on 58 plays. That’s an average of 2.6 yards per play. The unit is the top-ranked in the nation and much of the praise belongs to the Eagles pass rush, which continues to be a force. The defense set the tone early forcing a fumble on the Huskies first possession of the game.
“That’s what we want to play at Boston College, great defense” said Head Coach Steve Addazio.
On offense, it was the Jon Hilliman show, as the sophomore running back plowed through the Northern Illinois defense for 119-yards, the longest of the day came in the third quarter with the score tied and went 21-yards for a touchdown. The play capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive, which chewed up 6:33 on the clock. It was Hilliman’s breakout game of the year, but may also end up being his last after suffering what the team called a broken foot. No timetable has been placed on his return.
Quarterback Troy Flutie, making his first start for the Eagles continued the sorry trend that has plagued the team at the position this season. Flutie completed less than half of his passes (5 of 11) for 92-yards and one touchdown. However, one errant throw put the Huskies in position to level the score as Northern Illinois’ Joel Bouagnon punched the ball in following a 79-yard interception return to the BC four.
Addazio flip-flopped Flutie with freshman Jeff Smith, who like his counterpart, failed to create anything through the air but did flash on the ground with 56-yards on nine carries.
With Hilliman sidelined indefinitely, much of the load will fall on Tyler Rouse who for the first two games of the year looked unstoppable. Rouse will need to literally carry the Eagles if they hope to advance to a bowl game for a third straight season.
Next up for the Eagles is an Atlantic Coast Conference date at Duke University this Saturday at 3:30. The game will be televised on ESPN3.
Christian A. Guarino, a Boston North End resident, writes about football and soccer for the Boston Post Gazette.