Boston College has another chance to play spoiler

Boston College has another chance to play spoiler

BOSTON (AP) Virginia Tech needs to win its last two games to make a bowl for the 20th consecutive year. The chance to spoil that is the most Boston College can hope for during its second straight losing season.

``It's critical to maintain that this is an aberration from what this program does,'' said BC offensive lineman Emmett Cleary, one of 16 seniors who are hoping that a win in their final home game on Saturday will make up for an otherwise disappointing season. ``You can't treat this stuff like business as usual, and you can't if you want to be the program that we think we are.''

A week after trying - but failing - to ruin Notre Dame's national championship hopes, BC (2-8, 1-5 ACC) will has little to play for except the opportunity to keep the Hokies (4-6, 2-4) out of a bowl. Though they're not exactly longtime rivals like BC and Notre Dame, the only two Catholic schools in the FBS, Boston College and Virginia Tech have had some memorable matchups dating to their days in the Big East.

Shortly after they defected to the ACC one year apart, BC won three straight regular-season matchups against ranked Hokies teams. But Virginia Tech beat the Eagles in the conference title game in 2007 and again in `08.

``It's still Virginia Tech,'' BC center Andy Gallik said. ``We're going to have a little more emotion. And it's the last time the seniors are going to play at home as a family.''

Since then, BC has struggled, winning fewer games each year and finally ending its bowl streak last year. Virginia Tech would need to beat BC on Saturday and then Virginia next week to extend a bowl streak that reaches back to 1993.

``It's not something you can really ignore because we haven't been 4-6 around here in a long time,'' Hokies cornerback Antone Exum said. ``We feel like we're probably the best 4-6 team out there. Our record doesn't indicate how good of a team this is. We still have talent and guys that can get it done, but for some reason, the ball just hasn't been bouncing our way this year and we've just to focus on finishing these last two games and getting to a bowl game.''

BC (2-8) has lost two in a row since beating Maryland for their only Atlantic Coast Conference win of the year. The Eagles have lost four straight to Virginia Tech, including the 2008 ACC championship game.

The Hokies opened the season as the No. 16 team in The Associated Press Top 25 and moved as high as 13th before a loss to Pittsburgh and on Sept. 17 and then two more losses in the next three games sent them tumbling from the rankings. In all, they have lost five of their last six games, including a 28-22 loss to No. 8 Florida State after taking a 22-20 lead with 2:19 left.

``We know what we have to do,'' quarterback Logan Thomas said this week. ``After the loss we just had, it's encouraging to see how well we can play. We kind of put it all together. ... We know that we've got to have these next two to go to a bowl and we're excited about it just because the added pressure makes you play better.''

For BC, the only pressure is on the seniors playing their final home game.

A group that joined one of the most successful classes in school history - four-time bowl winners with a 39 victories in four years - is leaving at one of the program's low points. With just two wins, the Eagles could match the 1989 for the worst record since the winless 1978 season and they are certain to post the first back-to-back losing seasons since Tom O'Brien took over in the wake of a gambling scandal that cost the school its football and basketball coaches along with its athletic director.

Unless the Eagles win their last two games - they play North Carolina State on Nov. 24 - it would be the fifth consecutive season of diminishing win totals.

``I think Saturday will be a lot more enjoyable if we get a win,'' tight end Chris Pantale said. ``I could leave Alumni (Stadium) with a good taste in my mouth.''

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Drafting a first round QB outside of the top two picks has largely backfired

Drafting a first round QB outside of the top two picks has largely backfired

Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes are two quarterbacks who were taken in the middle of the 2017 NFL Draft's first round, and they serve as two recent examples that you don't have to have a pick at the top of that round to land a star passer.

Problem is, they're basically the only recent examples, too.

In the past decade, teams who've tried to find their franchise signal-caller in the first round outside of either the first or second pick have failed time and time again. Since 2009, those prized QBs have mostly been selected No. 1 or No. 2 overall or mined beyond the first round. 

The following list, compiled by Redskins Talk co-host Mitch Tischler, shows how many mediocre to straight-up bad options franchises have found using picks 3-32:

  • Mark Sanchez — 2009 pick No. 5 — 37-36 career record
  • Josh Freeman — 2009 pick No. 17 — 25-36 career record
  • Tim Tebow — 2010 pick No. 25 — 8-6 career record
  • Jake Locker — 2011 pick No. 8 — 9-14 career record
  • Blaine Gabbert — 2011 pick No. 10 — 13-35 career record
  • Christian Ponder — 2011 pick No. 12 — 14-21-1 career record
  • Ryan Tannehill — 2012 pick No. 8 —42-46 career record
  • Brandon Weeden — 2012 pick No. 22 — 6-19 career record
  • EJ Manuel — 2013 pick No. 16 — 6-12 career record
  • Blake Bortles — 2014 pick No. 3 — 24-49 career record
  • Johnny Manziel — 2014 pick No. 22 — 2-6 career record
  • Paxton Lynch — 2016 pick No. 26 — 1-3 career record
  • Patrick Mahomes — 2017 pick No. 10 — 13-4 career record
  • Deshaun Watson — 2017 pick No. 12 — 14-8 career record
  • Sam Darnold — 2018 pick No. 3 — 4-9 career record
  • Josh Allen — 2018 pick No. 7 — 5-6 career record
  • Josh Rosen — 2018 pick No. 10 — 3-10 career record
  • Lamar Jackson — 2018 pick No. 32 — 6-1 career record

That list is one the Redskins — who own the 15th pick in the 2019 draft and who are beginning to be linked heavily to Kyler Murray — should pay close attention to.

The 2018 class is too young to judge, and as mentioned earlier, the 2017 class is providing quality returns. But none of the other names on that list have turned into anything useful, not to mention anything resembling special.

Of course, if you go back farther into the past, you'll find that QBs like Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers were snagged during the meat of the first round, so it's not impossible. However, the last 10 years have shown it can be very difficult to nail a pick in that range.

The logic feels simple: The truly elite talents, such as Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, are snatched up immediately. The QBs who are found in the mid- to late rounds, meanwhile, are given more time to develop and/or find themselves on rosters that have been built up more.

Those non-elite first-rounders, on the other hand, are generally caught in between: not skilled enough to help turn around a team singlehandedly but, because they're high investments, they're forced into those tough situations and end up floundering.

There's no doubt that the 'Skins need a new hope under center. Where they should commit to that hope, though, is something that must be considered.  


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Dozier and Long a match made in launch angle heaven

USA Today Sports

Dozier and Long a match made in launch angle heaven

Brian Dozier came to a realization following his rookie season in 2012. Why not hit the ball more often in the air and accentuate a strength? Instead of drilling to fix a weakness -- like opposite-field hitting or even ground ball rate -- choose to club away, in the air, to the pull side, as often as possible.

No en vogue terminology explained Dozier’s pursuit of six years ago. Omnipotent terms like “launch angle” remained shrouded and in development. Dozier didn’t need a phrase. He just needed to do what worked more often.

The idea took with career-altering results. Dozier hit 18 home runs, then 23, then 28, then 42. Pull-side fly balls turned him into an All-Star and commodity at second base. His new one-year deal with the Nationals brings him a hitting coach who is elated by the idea of hitting up and over.

Nationals hitting coach Kevin Long is the effervescent patriarch of launch angle. “We want to hit it over the shift,” Long will tell anyone willing to listen. Do damage, hit bombs, whatever slang term is preferred. Just hit the ball in the air. On the ground equals outs. In the air produces runs.

Melding a second baseman in search of a reboot after a down year with a hitting coach who is going to trumpet a cause the infielder already backed could be a powerful formula.

“When I changed my approach at the end of 2012 going into 2013, there was no launch angle, any of that stuff, but looking back at it now that’s kind of exactly what it was,” Dozier said Tuesday on a conference call. “We just didn’t have a name for it. “[It’s] recognizing your strength and doing everything you can to be really good at your strength rather than try to tweak weaknesses and stuff. And one of those strengths for me is hitting the ball in the air to left field, left-center field. Once I kind of got that part of it, I really enjoyed doing that. It’s going to be a fun year with a hitting coach that kind of sees the same thing, whether your strength is hitting the ball in the air or hitting the ball the other way, I believe in really honing into your strength and really running with that. Some guys’ strengths aren’t hitting the ball in the air, which is fine.”

The numbers coinciding with Dozier’s rise from eighth-round pick to among the league leaders in homers from 2014-2017 are stark. His fly ball rate increased year after year until peaking in 2016 at 47.7 percent, the same season he hit 42 home runs. His 120 OPS-plus in that span showed what kind of work he performed in Minnesota’s cool and spacious Target Field.

However, 2018 brought a significant recession when an April bone bruise in his left knee hindered him throughout the season. Tuesday, Dozier explained the importance of load bearing and stability from his front leg in order to execute his upward swing. Instead of landing on the front of his foot, the knee bruise pushed him back to his heel, opening his hips early. Grizzly results followed: 21 homers, a .215 average, sub-.700 OPS.

Dozier said Tuesday his knee is healed. Finally receiving a break from baseball following the World Series allowed him to recover. That’s also when he had to decide his future. Dozier wasn’t sure how the market would react to his down season following years of being one of the heaviest second base bats in baseball. He said he received multiple offers -- some providing more years and money than the Nationals’ one-year, $9 million deal he settled on -- before selecting Washington. Conversations with his ex-Minnesota teammate Kurt Suzuki, in his second stint with the Nationals, and former Washington outfielder Josh Willingham, who played with Dozier in Minnesota, too, helped sway his decision.

“It just seemed like a really good fit,” Dozier said.

That is applicable to this coming partnership between Dozier and Long. In the air, often and to the pull side. It’s a subtle pairing that could help Dozier return to the 30-home run mark, and the Nationals to receive inexpensive bop from an infield spot.