football Edit

2021 Opponent Preview: Colgate

Photo courtesy of Justin Wolford/Colgate Athletics
Photo courtesy of Justin Wolford/Colgate Athletics

Fans are due back in Alumni Stadium, and Boston College is expected to roll over Colgate Saturday. It’s the beginning of the most-anticipated Eagles season in more than a decade. BC’s electrifying offense as we know it might get a few quarters. Maybe just a couple series. It all depends on how quickly the Eagles find the end zone. This one could get out of hand early. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t rich storylines.

And, besides, it’s football in Chestnut Hill.

When is BC playing?

Saturday, Sept. 4, 12 p.m.

Where is BC playing?

Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

How to watch?

This game will be broadcast on ACC Network.

Series History

The programs have never met. Colgate hasn’t kicked off its season against a Power Five opponent since 2016 when it lost to Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, 33-7. The Raiders are actually 31-42-5 all-time versus current ACC teams. But that record is misleading. All 31 of those wins came against Syracuse, and none of them occurred after 1950.

Colgate’s record: 0-0

Breaking Down the Raiders:

Offense: Grant Breneman is the name to know. He’s Colgate’s fifth-year quarterback who ranks eighth all-time in program history in passing yards (5,206) and all-purpose yards (6,126). Breneman is a dual-threat from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder started his Colgate career with a bang, posting an 18:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio as a freshman but, since, hasn’t come anywhere close to that mark. He struggled mightily in Colgate’s two games this spring. Then again, so did the whole Raiders offense—Colgate scored a combined 18 points in those outings.

Breneman enters the fall with 1,010 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground for his career. Offensive coordinator Brent Bassham likes to move Breneman outside the pocket and will call quarterback-designed runs. Breneman’s favorite target in 2020 and 2019 was Garrett Oakey. The speedy 5-foot-11 wideout hadn’t recorded a catch before the 2019 campaign, during which he broke out for 58 receptions and 736 yards. Joshua Szott and Myles Bradley are two other receivers to watch. They both nabbed six balls in Colgate’s abridged spring season.

The Raiders like to use two tight ends: sophomore William Parker, who they line up in the backfield at times, and senior Mike Bevino. Sometimes, Colgate will spread them out wide. But they also accompany an experienced Raiders offensive line, which consists of four starting seniors. In the spring, no Colgate player carried the ball more than Breneman, however, running back Max Hurleman led the position group in yards yet averaged a mere 3.8 yards per tote.

Defense: The Raiders play a 3-4 defense. Jeff Hafley called Colgate’s defensive front big and wide. Two of the Raiders’ three down linemen are at least 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds. Defensive end Owen Rosenberger is a force at 6-foot-4, 275 on the dot. The North Andover native was one of the few bright spots for the unit this spring. He piled up seven total tackles and registered a sack that resulted in a seven-yard loss.

The player that caught Hafley’s eye the most, though, was Colgate middle linebacker Milton Braasch II, who finished the 2019 season second on the team with 76 total tackles. He was all over the field in the spring and figures to have his hands full on Saturday not only stopping BC’s potentially revitalized rushing attack but also accounting for mismatches with the Eagles’ pass-catching running backs and tight ends Trae Barry and Joey Luchetti. The entire Colgate starting linebacking corps is seniors.

Half of the ones in the secondary are, too. That includes the group’s most high-profile playmaker. Cornerback William Gruber earned All-Patriot League first-team honors for his return man duties this spring, and he made the second-team for his output at defensive back. Gruber logged the team’s lone interception and, for the second year in a row, ran back kickoffs. On the other corner is classmate Collin Heard, who was one of the four Raiders to be named to the Preseason All-Patriot League Team. Heard made eight solo tackles in the spring, tied for second on the team.

Special Teams: Even if Colgate gets in field goal range, nothing is guaranteed. Place kicker Jacob Jaworski was 1-of-3 in the spring. His only make was a 32-yarder. Now, that could have been freshman jitters, but he was just 7-of-10 as a senior at the Wilmington Friends School. Jaworski can also punt, except that job belongs to freshman Shelby Pruett, who hails from Lake Forest, Illinois, and will make his collegiate debut Saturday at BC. Gruber runs back kickoffs, and Oakey is Colgate’s punt return guy.

Three Storylines:

How will BC defend Breneman’s legs?

The Eagles were atrocious against the quarterback run in 2020. It’s been a recurring issue for the Eagles, well before Hafley arrived in Chestnut Hill. Opposing signal callers averaged 83.4 rushing yards versus BC in the Eagles’ final seven games of 2020. Defensive coordinator Tem Lukabu’s unit will be thrown back into the fire with Breneman taking off now and then. It’ll be a good litmus test for BC’s defense.

It’s a Colgate reunion for Lukabu:

Speaking of Lukabu, the Eagles’ second-year DC will be coaching against his alma mater. The former NFL assistant starred for Raiders in the early 2000s. In fact, he earned back-to-back Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2002 and 2003. During his four years, he helped Colgate claim a pair of conference titles. He’ll be with his old team again on Saturday—just on the other sideline.

What kind of depth does BC really have?

BC’s two-deep was really a three-deep at most positions. Assuming the Eagles live up to the spread, Saturday will serve as a chance for Hafley to empty the benches and play a bunch of guys. There were 10 true freshmen on the Eagles’ initial depth chart. Watching them perform could be the most exciting part about this weekend for BC fans. It’s an FCS matchup, but it’s an opportunity to build toward the future.

Line: BC (-45.5)

ESPN FPI: The database gives BC a 98.2% chance of beating Colgate.

Outlook: Hafley said this week that BC isn’t taking Colgate for granted. Call it “coach speak” or not, he seems to have the Eagles in the same mindset as if they were facing off against an ACC opponent this weekend. That’s important. And, if last season’s matchup against Texas State is any indication, it’s necessary to remember that anything can happen in college football (Charlotte just knocked off Duke Friday night). In reality, though, this game won’t be much of a game. BC could easily put up a 50 burger, similar to its massacre of UMass during the 2018 opener. Look for the Eagles to get out to a fast start and hit cruise control with their second- and third-stringers. It’ll be a nice transition back to football in Alumni Stadium for fans. BC just has to get through the day unscathed by injury.