FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — With a pair of long touchdown passes, Boston College picked up its first victory in almost a year and may have changed its reputation as a run-first offense in the process.
Patrick Towles hit former quarterback Jeff Smith on back-to-back, one-play TD drives, and substitute Mike Knoll connected on a pair of field goals on Saturday as the Eagles beat Massachusetts 26-7 for their first win in 10 games.
BC was trailing 7-0 late in the second quarter when Towles, taking over at the UMass 46-yard line, found Smith on the first play of the drive. After the Minutemen fumbled at their own 36, Towles again hit Smith on the first play to give the Eagles the lead for good.
“Totally turned the game around,” BC coach Steve Addazio said. “Now we have the ability to go and strike it (big).”
BC has long been known as a rushing team, sending backs like Heisman Trophy finalist Andre Williams to the NFL, along with enough run-blockers to staff a couple of offensive lines. But when Addazio saw UMass trying to crowd the line of scrimmage to take away the ground game, he decided it was time to go for it.
“People don’t expect those shots on first down, especially from us,” said Towles, who completed 12 of 22 passes for 191 yards for the Eagles (1-1) and also ran 12 times for 66 yards. “We’ll take that.”
Smith had five catches for 98 yards, and Jon Hilliman ran 22 times for 54 yards and a 15-yard touchdown for BC, which last won on Sept. 25, 2015, against Northern Illinois. The Eagles lost their final eight games last season and their opener last week, 17-14 to Georgia Tech in Ireland.
“You need to enjoy the wins,” Addazio said. “This is a tough game, a tough business we’re all in. This easily could have been a different scenario, when you’re coming off what we came off of.”
Colton Lichtenberg missed a pair of short field goals last week; Addazio said he was unavailable on Saturday because of a strain in his kicking leg. Knoll, who had been used exclusively in kickoffs, missed his first point-after attempt but converted the second time to make it 13-7.
He added third-quarter field goals of 40 and 37 yards.
“It’s unfortunate Colton went down,” Knoll said. “But he’ll be back and we’ll all be kicking lights out.”
UMass (0-2) put a scare into No. 25 Florida last week, trailing just 10-7 into the fourth quarter. Returning to their sometime home at Gillette Stadium, the Minutemen took a 7-0 lead on a 58-yard pass from Ross Comis to Adam Breneman late in the first quarter.
Comis went 11 of 28 for 145 yards and a touchdown. But he also had a pair of first-half fumbles and threw an interception in the third quarter; the turnovers led to 10 BC points.
“I can give you the old adage, ‘I’ll look at the tape.’ But, yeah, he lost the game,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said. “As the quarterback, you don’t like to lose. We’ve only got two touchdowns in two games.”
NICE TO BE HERE
With BC’s kicking troubles the past few years, Knoll was one of the players requested to the postgame interview area.
“Yeah, you don’t get called up very often. It’s good,” Knoll said, breaking into a smile. “Thanks for bringing me in.”
Reminded that a kicker is usually asked to speak after missing a field goal, he said: “Yeah, that’s true. That’s the life we chose.”
The Eagles trailed 7-0 and had just 55 total yards in the opening quarter. The touchdowns 84 seconds apart in the second quarter helped the offense relax, Smith said.
“Being down, that was a real surprise,” he said. “But I think scoring those two touchdowns quick, really picked (us) up and helped the defense, too. It really gave us confidence to come out in the second half.”
BC: In light of BC’s struggles to win in the conference, finishing off the Minutemen gives them an FBS win before heading into the ACC opener against Virginia Tech next week.
UMASS: After staying close against No. 25 Florida, the Minutemen put another scare into a major college team. But Whipple’s independent team needs to finish off a victory if it is going to attract an invitation from a conference.
BC: Plays at Virginia Tech on Saturday.
UMASS: Hosts Florida International on Saturday.