BOSTON – Boston College has seen its share of mobile quarterbacks in the last month. To prepare for Florida State's EJ Manuel, though, the Eagles would have to be watching the NFL.
"He's a big guy and he can throw and run," BC coach Frank Spaziani said this week as he prepared for Thursday night's game against the Seminoles. "He's kind of like Cam Newton in a lot of ways. They don't ask him to do as much running. But certainly if they did, he could do it. ... He's got it all. I don't see any flaws in him, to be honest with you."
Florida State (5-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) is winning again after a three-game losing streak, and Manuel is the main reason why.
After spraining his non-throwing shoulder in the Sept. 17 loss to top-ranked Oklahoma, he missed the game against then-No. 21 Clemson and didn't return until midway through the Oct. 8 game against Wake Forest.
The Seminoles lost all three.
Since then, though, Florida State has again looked like the team that was No. 6 in The Associated Press preseason poll — as high as fifth in the nation a few weeks after that. The Seminoles beat Duke, Maryland and North Carolina State by a combined score of 115-32, with Manuel completing 70 percent of his passes; he's thrown for five touchdowns in the three games and run for two.
"They look like the team people were picking as national champions," Spaziani said. "I don't see a weakness. They've got it all."
Boston College (2-6, 1-4) is hoping for a modest two-game winning streak after picking up its first ACC win of the season last weekend against Maryland. The Eagles need to win their four remaining games to qualify for a bowl and extend their streak of 12 consecutive bowl games.
BC's best hope for a resurgence is in running back Rolandan "Deuce" Finch, who started the year fourth on the depth chart but moved up when Montel Harris was lost for the season shortly after breaking the school's all-time rushing record. Finch ran 39 times for 243 yards and two touchdowns against Maryland last week, a 28-17 BC victory.
"They lose a rusher who's going to break the ACC record and they put a guy out there that ran for 243 yards this week," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "They can always run the football; their linemen are well coached. They can throw it, they have big receivers; not just blazing speed but very athletic and great hands. They make you beat them on defense. They're not going to beat themselves."
No, but Manuel might beat them.
The 6-foot-4, 234-pound quarterback has drawn comparisons to Newton, who led Auburn to the national championship, won the Heisman Trophy and was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Newton started his career with the Carolina Panthers by throwing for more than 400 yards in back-to-back games; in all, he has thrown for more than 2,300 yards and 11 touchdowns and run for 319, with seven scores.
"He's one of those guys that can throw the ball and run the ball," BC linebacker Luke Kuechly said. "The difference with him is he's got that elite size, elite speed and athleticism. There's guys that can run. EJ Manuel is a big kid. He's got control of the offense. Sometimes guys will be exceptional athletes, but they don't have control of the offense. This guy knows what to do and he spreads the ball really well."
With the Thursday night game, it's a short week for both teams. The Eagles are hoping they can make up for the lack of practice time by using what they learned when they played Clemson and Virginia Tech, which both have mobile quarterbacks.
Clemson's Tajh Boyd threw for 283 yards and a touchdown and also ran for 37 yards and a score in the Tigers' 36-14 win over BC. Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas threw for 268 yards and a score and ran 16 times for 60 yards and a TD against to help the Hokies beat the Eagles 30-14.
"We've been preparing for four weeks, but this guy might be the best of them all in terms of juking and making moves. He's a big dude," defensive end Max Holloway said. "Manuel brings a whole different side to football. He comes in and if nothing's happening, he can break the pocket and make plays with his feet."