CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — With a nationally televised game against Florida State on the horizon, the Boston College Eagles had all the reason to look ahead to next week.
But in a big way, they took care of business.
The Eagles held visiting Howard to just two first downs and 11 yards of total offense — both all-time low marks by an opponent in BC history — while scoring 41 first-quarter points en route to a 76-0 win on Saturday at Alumni Stadium.
BC’s point total was tied for the second-most in school history and only shy of a 78-0 win over St. Anselm which opened the 1941 season. It held an opponent scoreless for the first time since 2009 and had not previously eclipsed the 60-point mark in a game since 1993.
“We did what we were supposed to do,” BC head coach Steve Addazio said. “You couldn’t do anything more than we did. … We were able to move the ball, we were playing defense and our special teams made a few plays. We jumped out real quick and I don’t know what else to say about that.”
The Eagles recorded a pair of defensive sacks in the first three plays of the game before junior running back Tyler Rouse scored a three-yard touchdown less than three minutes into the game.
After Bison quarterback Kalen Johnson saw a pass fall incomplete and a running play went nowhere, sophomore linebacker Connor Strachan ran to the end zone from 16 yards out for his first career interception return with 12:28 left in the opening quarter.
“It was definitely exciting. It was fun,” the Wellesley, Mass., native and St. Sebastian’s School product said. “We definitely expected someone to score points and I was excited to be the one to do it.”
BC finished the opening period with a 41-0 lead and had 105 yards of total offense on just 13 plays. Rouse broke off five-yard and 15-yard runs for touchdowns before the end of the period while sophomore Jon Hilliman posted his first score of the season on a five-yard run with 6:48 left.
Rouse scored all three of his touchdowns in the first and totaled six carries for 36 yards on the day while Hilliman ran the ball three times.
“The defense and special teams set us up with short fields and we wanted to take advantage of that,” Rouse said. “We came in with the mindset that we just needed to score points, and like we would against every other opponent, we took them head on and tried to be physical.”
Most of BC’s starting group exited after the first quarter, allowing many younger players to see substantial playing time in the game. Addazio noted that was a luxury his team, including now-sophomore quarterback Darius Wade, was not able to have in previous seasons.
From there, true freshman Jeff Smith entered the game for the first time in his BC career and scored its final touchdown of the opening quarter, running to the house from nine yards out with 3:47 to play.
BC scored touchdowns on its first seven drives of the contest as redshirt freshman Richard Wilson took a seven-yard pass from Wade for the first touchdown reception of his career with 13:31 left in the second quarter.
The first five of BC’s drives begun in Howard territory and the Eagles’ punt team was not put into use until their second offensive series of the second — the drive immediately following Wilson’s touchdown — set them back three yards.
“Anytime you get on the field it’s a great experience,” Flutie said after completing seven of his eight passes for 88 yards and the score. “It was definitely fun to be able to sit there and throw a little bit. It’s kind of why I came here, to play football.”
Smith rushed for each of BC’s scores in the second half — a one-yarder nearly halfway through the third and a 27-yard scamper with just under six minutes remaining in the game. Addazio and Howard head coach Gary “Flea” Harrell mutually agreed to shorten the final two quarters to ten minutes each.
The Eagles return to the field for their third of four consecutive home games on Friday night at 8 p.m. After such a lopsided game, there is certainly fear the speed of next week’s game against the No. 10 Seminoles could take a toll, but BC is in a good place.
“You hope that you took a few things out of that game and you got a little bit better,” Addazio said, “but what you fear is that what’s going to happen on Friday night is so radically different from the first two weeks. There was nothing in between. … We’re going into week three and we’re healthy.”