The Boston College offense revolves around star running back AJ Dillon. Every BC football fan knows that and every defensive coordinator on the Eagles’ schedule is well aware of that.
At least that was the narrative heading into the season. In one game, fourth-year junior quarterback Anthony Brown changed all that. Dillon did his thing, but it was Brown who was the star of the game.
In the first half of the Eagles’ season-opening, 35-28 mini-upset of five-point favorite Virginia Tech on Saturday, Brown exploded for 258 passing yards and threw two touchdowns and ran 28 yards for another score.
After the Eagles went from producing 356 total yards in the first half to zero in the third quarter, Brown didn’t change his upbeat demeanor, didn’t hang his head and got right back to work in the fourth quarter. And even as the scoreboard stalled for much of the second half after the Eagles took a 28-14 halftime lead, the players never stopped feeding off of Brown.
Anybody watching had to be wowed by Brown’s accurate long throws and nifty footwork, but Boston College coach Steve Addazio took far more out of the quarterback’s evening than those tangibles.
“I thought the leadership on the team was excellent,” Addazio said. “The look in the guys’ eyes was excellent. The energy was excellent.”
And the first leader he talked about was Brown.
“In the huddle, on the sidelines, he’s driving the football team,” Addazio said. “We’ve been just dying to see that come out of him, making corrections, driving the team, total command, unfazed, not riding the roller coaster of the ups and downs of games.”
The coaching staff spent the early years of Brown’s career teaching him tangibles of the QB position and coming into this season clearly put a big emphasis on challenging him to become a better leader. So far, it couldn’t have worked better.
“I would say it’s a natural progression. It’s my fourth year here,” Brown said. “It’s time for me to be a leader. It’s time for me to step up. It’s time for me to be a leader in all areas, all aspects of the game. We need a leader. We need somebody to step up and it has to be me. We were missing that for the past two years and right now I’m just ready to step into that role.”
After the game, Brown talked more about where he needed to be better than about well he played.
“Today we started off great, started off fast, got in the second half and had three straight three-and-outs and that all comes back to me,” he said. “It all comes back to making plays, making the easy ones. … It was a good day today, but still some inconsistencies here and there, missed some throws, got complacent a little bit, but overall it was pretty good.”
By the end of the first quarter, Brown already had thrown for 186 yards, 91 of them by connecting with fleet true freshman Zay Flowers, who scored the game’s first points on a 33-yard TD reception with 12:01 left in the first quarter. As with Flowers, all of his receptions (three for 73 yards and a touchdown) came in the first half.
“It’s always nice adding new cars to the garage,” Brown said. “The kid is very, very talented, Zay. And Kobay (White) did a great job today, but overall we have a ton of guys who can make plays and we’re ready to keep it going for the rest of the season.”
Brown did not throw an interception and finished 15-of-26 with 275 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked once.
Brown’s most impressive play of the first half came when the offensive line gave him a long look at the field, but the coverage stayed strong, so he moved out of the pocket to buy himself more time, planted and then launched a beauty to White for a 56-yard gain on third-and-10 during a series that ended with a missed 38-yard field goal.
Addazio said that some of Brown’s best work came right after his big first half.
“At halftime, he was strong, real strong, and I loved it,” Addazio said. “It’s what a veteran quarterback should bring to the table, and he brought it.”
Nearly two years removed from knee surgery that cut his redshirt freshman season short, Brown also brought fearless running back to his game.
“Kind of have that mental block out of my head now,” Brown said. “My coaches did a great job working that out of me. I’m excited.”
Excited and exciting to watch work.
Saturday was the first Boston College home football game I attended since 1969, when Buffalo upset the Eagles, 35-21. I saw enough Saturday to know that I’m not going to wait another 50 years to see BC play at Alumni Stadium.