Four of the five FBS/FCS teams in Massachusetts — we totally overlooked Merrimack in our pick 'em — went a combined 2-2 this weekend, so we wanted to take a quick look back at each.
Boston College 35, Virginia Tech 28
The Good: The fact that the Eagles can restock the shelves after losing so much talent to the NFL is an impressive statement about where this program is right now. Quarterback Anthony Brown was sensational in the first half, and the Eagles are getting big, chunk plays from multiple positions on offense. The offensive line will be fine despite losing multiple starters and a first-round draft pick in guard Chris Lindstrom. AJ Dillon was spelled enough by David Bailey to have the juice for an 11-yard third-and-9 pickup to ice the game. True freshman wide receiver Zay Flowers is as good as advertised, and redshirt freshman Joe Sparacio had an excellent day at linebacker. The defense forced turnovers and made enough big plays to survive when the offense wasn't doing its part. The run defense allowed less than 100 yards on 42 Virginia Tech carries.
The Bad: The offense looked great in the first half, then ran into a wall with zero yards in the third quarter. Although the Eagles and new offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian did very well for their first test together, that's a little too much pressure to put on your defense. The secondary got burned a few times, but again made plays when it had to. At the end of the day, there really wasn't much bad you can say about a win like that.
Rutgers 48, UMass 21
The Good: Coach Walt Bell came in and was aggressive both in his play-calling and bigger decisions, like going for an onside kick coming out of the locker room facing a 17-point deficit. As Bell said, the Minutemen came into the game expecting to win, and they played like it. The offense looked terrific to start, as quarterback Randall West led the team to 21 points in the first quarter. Isaiah Rodgers made some big plays in the second half both on defense and in the return game. The defense made some nice adjustments in the second half to keep the score from really getting away from the Minutemen.
The Bad: Right now, this is still very far from a roster that can compete with the big boys. Not that Rutgers is necessarily a big boy, but the size, speed, and talent gap between UMass and most Power 5 teams is still very real. Until Bell can close that gap with recruiting, where he is off to a good start, the Minutemen won't be able to actually win a game like this. West struggled with his reads and composure after his hot start, missing some throws that could have gotten the Minutemen back into the game.
Navy 45, Holy Cross 7
The Good: Not much, but even without starter Domenic Cozier, the Crusaders were able to get the ground game going late in the first half, as Miles Alexander made some nice runs behind big holes to cut the deficit to 17-7 at one point. The special teams nearly made a big play on a muffed punt but a controversial call gave the ball back to Navy. This loss was not unexpected.
The Bad: This is a team that is going to struggle to throw the ball right now. Quarterback play was an issue in the spring, and there does not seem to be an easy answer. The schedule stays rough. The Crusaders host New Hampshire, then travel to Yale and Syracuse. It's not out of the realm of possibility to see an 0-4 start.
Merrimack 45, Virginia Lynchburg 14
The Good: Everything. When you make the jump from one level to the next, as Merrimack did from Division 2 to the Football Championship Subdivision, it doesn't matter what the other opponent's division is (Virginia Lynchburg competes in something called the National Christian College Athletic Association). You just don't want to lose. Merrimack won, and got big contributions from locals all over the roster. It won't get easier from here, but it's a good first step under head coach Dan Curran, who starred on one of the most dominant Chelmsford teams in the last 30 years (1994 EMass 2A Super Bowl champs).
The Bad: It was a bad oversight on our part to miss this earlier, but we forgot that Merrimack is actually no longer in the Northeast-10 anymore and now in the FCS. Hey, it's Year One of Division 1 football for Merrimack, and we made a rookie mistake in overlooking them. Won't happen again.
Table complaints for Gaine
The displeasure over the MIAA switching to Federation rules has been unanimous, as was bound to happen. Everyone has been thrown into an untenable situation, and the question becomes: Where did this come from?
The people we spoke to in our article in February said the reasoning behind the move was so Massachusetts could have "a seat at the table" nationally. The man on that seat is Gaine. Yet as we outlined in the article, the state's autonomy is gone with just one person out of 12 filled by a representative of the Commonwealth.
People have a right to be angry, especially given the safety issues involved. Everyone is flying on the same airplane about to hit its first batch of turbulence once the season starts. It will be tough to remain calm, because there are safety issues involved, but that has to be the goal.
It's easy for reporters to say this and not the fans, players, parents, coaches, or officials. But it's imperative to try and let cooler heads prevail when things get bumpy, because the opposite approach never ends well.
More scrimmage notes
— Marshfield had the better of it in a scrimmage with Brockton, and also looked good against North Attleboro. We knew the Rams returned a lot, but it's obvious that they look sharper and more in tune with the schemes for second-year coach Chris Arouca. They could be more of a factor in Division 2 South than we initially thought.
— Cory Bailey, the new offensive coordinator at King Philip, looks like he has done a nice job so far after coming over from Coastal Carolina as the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. The Warriors were balanced and efficient in putting up 20 points in the first half against Walpole.
— NEPSAC powers Choate and Buckingham, Browne & Nichols took part in a joint practice Saturday.
Choate currently holds the nation's second-longest winning streak at 49 games. BB&N, despite losing a game to St. Sebastian's last year, is as capable of ending it as any Class A program.
Will the Knights get the chance to? Well, a lot of good teams stand in the way of both teams, but it would be a great take if it came to pass.