Being ranked and dubbed huge favorites for a road game at Chestnut Hill didn’t mean a thing in the end as Boston College, led by some great defense and the running of quarterback Tyler Murphy, pulled off a huge upset by beating number 9 ranked USC 37-31, marking it as the first time the Eagles have ever beaten the Trojans anywhere.
USC were coming off their big road win over Stanford that possibly put them in the driver’s seat when it came to making it to the Pac-12 championship game (which is still quite far down the road), but while the loss in the Northeast doesn’t affect their conference aspirations, it does hurt them on a national level. Boston College probably won’t be making a mark on the ACC, but they have everyone’s attention for a short while at least.
Tyler Murphy, a senior quarterback, wasn’t about to show anyone something they didn’t know. He can’t throw the ball very well, finishing with 5-of-13 for 54 yards and one interception. However, few QBs in the nation can avoid tackles with his feet quite like he can, finishing with 191 yards and one touchdown, including a huge 66-yard touchdown run that gave Boston College a 37-24 lead with just 3:30 left in the game.
USC had plans of running the ball quite often after establishing a 17-6 lead in the second quarter, but were held to just 20 yards on 20 carries against a stout defense that did an excellent job of stacking the box with eight and nine defensive players. Cody Kessler was sharp with 31-of-41 for 317 yards and four touchdown passes, but it felt like USC went to their running game a bit too early, and had a very difficult time converting on third down with 5-of-16.
USC, on the other hand, couldn’t do anything to stop Boston College from running the ball. Not just Murphy, but also Myles Willis and Jon Hillman, both with 89 yards. Sherman Alston finished with 55 yards on four carries. The Eagles did a great job of blocking around the edges and getting past the tackles, finishing with a total of 452 rushing yards, including 342 yards and five touchdowns on outside runs.
The problem for the Trojans was the zone read. Boston College used a zone read rush on 37% of their running plays, which allowed them to run for 281 yards, including 169 by Tyler Murphy. Few teams anywhere can run the ball like Boston College do, but they just showed others a very nice blueprint to make the USC defense completely helpless, which wasn’t the case against a more straightforward running style they stopped at Stanford.
Steve Sarkisian is no longer undefeated on his new job, and now also has the challenge of fixing the problems shown to a great extent in this road loss. There’s no Oregon on the schedule so maybe that’s something of a relief considering what Marcus Mariota can do with his feet, but seeing as how playing against UCLA and Notre Dame to end the season will put them in a similar situation, there’s a whole run of not-so-impressive opponents to test their defensive tweaks on.