BOSTON (AP) — Boston College and Pittsburgh combined to run the ball more than 100 times in easy opening week victories. Now the two schools are about to find out whether their running games can hold up in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The former Big East foes will meet for the first time in the ACC on Friday night, and they know things are going to be more difficult.
"They're a power football team on offense, much like us," BC coach Steve Addazio said this week as he prepared to face the Panthers one week after a 30-7 victory over UMass. "Will we be able to have our way with everybody in the conference running the football? No. We'd like to get more balance, we'd like to grow in certain areas."
Despite losing Heisman Trophy finalist Andre Williams to the NFL after his 2,177-yard season, Boston College opened the season with a run-heavy offense that featured 61 rushing plays and only 25 passes. Over in Pittsburgh, the Panthers carried the ball 56 times — for 409 yards and seven touchdowns — and threw only 14 passes in a 62-0 dismissal of Football Championship Subdivision school Delaware.
"There probably aren't many games when you can do that. So, that's why we try to be a balanced offense," Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. "I honestly don't care about the number. There are going to be games when you have to win it by running the ball, and there's going to be games when you have to win it by throwing. So, I think you have to be able to do both."
The first look at the BC and Pitt passing games could come this week, when they meet in Chestnut Hill.
Here are some things to look for in Friday night's game:
PATIENCE: With a solid running game behind him — BC ran for 338 yards in the opener — new Eagles quarterback Tyler Murphy knows he doesn't have to be heroic with his passes. "I have to do a good job of not forcing it if it's not there, see what the defense gives me," said Murphy, who also ran for 118 yards in Saturday's victory. "Whether that's throwing the ball away or trying to get back to the line of scrimmage on my feet. My job is to keep us in good situations and out of third-and-longs and get first downs to move the chains."
NO LETDOWN: Both teams avoided overlooking their opening week opponents — UMass is in the FBS, but it has won just two games in two years since moving up — and now they need to guard against overconfidence. "We never really had a game like that last year, where we won in that type of fashion," Pitt running back James Conner said. "When you have a win like that, you feel like you can keep winning games. We want to keep winning football games, but going game-by-game definitely is a different mentality than we had last year."
KICKING GAME: While coasting to victory, Boston College punted only once and Pittsburgh just twice. The Panthers did not try a field goal, and BC was 3-for-4 in the opening week. Addazio said he is still sorting out his kicking game since the graduation of Nate Freese, a seventh-round draft pick by the Detroit Lions. The plan for now is to use Alex Howell, who made one 44-yarder and missed another, on longer kicks and Joey Launceford, who was 2-for-2 (21, 28) on field goals and 3-for-3 on extra points, on short kicks. Howell also punts. "If a guy struggles I'll pull them out of there," Addazio said.
NEW FRIENDS/OLD FRIENDS: Boston College and Pitt haven't played since 2004, when both were in the Big East. BC joined the ACC in 2005, and Pitt moved over last season. But Addazio played against the Panthers when he was the head coach at Temple in 2012, and the two coaches worked together as part of ESPN's coverage of last year's national championship game. "I had four great years in the old Big East when all these teams traditionally played each other. They were such kind of black and blue games and just physical, so I'm really looking forward to it," said Addazio, who also was an assistant coach at Syracuse. "It's kind of what makes college football special and unique."
AP freelancer Dale Grdnic contributed to this story from Pittsburgh.