Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Another Matrix to Measure Spaz's Shortcomings

This week, the ACC announced it's All- Conference teams.  Not surprisingly, Luke Kuechly was a unanimous selection for the All- ACC First Team Defense.  The first of what is sure to be many more accolades as the college football season comes to a close.  Luke certainly deserves this credit and after his snub as a finalist for the Bednarik Award, for the nation's top defensive player, it is good to see Luke get recognition for his outstanding play on the field.

It occurred to me then, that the All- ACC team could be a different light to view the shortcomings of Frank Spaziani's stint as head coach.  Looking into the archives of the ACC's website, I discovered another trend that points to Spaz's inability as a head coach at this level: the number of Boston College players selected as All- ACC players.

2005- 7 Eagles named All- ACC selections, either first or second team or honorable mention
2006- 7
2007- 10
2008- 9
2009- 7
2010- 4
2011- 1

The high water mark for BC players as All- ACC selections was, not surprisingly, 2007, Jagodzinski's first year and the first year we made it to the ACC Championship with Matt Ryan.  In 2008, there is not a huge drop off in All- ACC selections for BC.  In Spaz's first year as head coach, the number of BC players included on the lists drops to 7, which still is not bad and is actually in line with what Tom O'Brien was able to produce in his two years as an ACC coach at BC.  However, the sharp drop off begins in Spaz's second year as head coach, the year that I think many people began to realize that Spaz was not the person that was going to lead BC to the next level or produce championship winning teams. Just four BC players were All- ACC selections in 2010 including Luke, Montel Harris, and Anthony Castonzo.

Which brings us to this year, 2011, where just one lone BC player was named an All- ACC selection.  Now many people could make the argument that if he had been healthy and had played, that Montel would have been a shoe-in for the All- ACC team.  This of course is very true.  In 2009, Montel was second team All- ACC and in 2010 was a unanimous first team selection.  However, even if you include a healthy Montel in this year's All- ACC team, that is still only two BC players included on those lists, which is unacceptable when you consider that even Tom O'Brien was able to put seven players on All- ACC teams.

What this downward trend says to me is that BC football players are not being put into a position where they can successfully compete against our ACC competition.  Even looking at the ACC teams we beat this season, NC State had seven All- ACC selections and Maryland and Miami each had two.  Again, these are each teams that BC beat this season, and yet they are producing more All- ACC talent than BC.   Furthermore, our players are not being developed to a point where they can succeed, they are not being put into a position to succeed by our coaching staff.  Over the past six years, Boston College players have been mainstays on the All- ACC teams.  Some of those players have been standouts such as Matt Ryan, Mathias Kiwanuka, Montel Harris, and Mark Herzlich.  But those past ACC teams have also included names like Purvis, Chellenger, Beekman, Claiborne, Blackmon and Callendar, each excellent players in their own right, but also players who were coached into a position where they could stand out among all the football players in the ACC.  Spaz has brought BC football to a position where just one player, who would be a standout on any team, is able to stand out among all ACC players.  This is just another example to show that Coach Spaziani is not the future of BC football.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Good Finish

For the first time since 1984, BC defeated Miami at home.  For the first time this season, everything seemed to come together for BC in this game.  The running was good, the passing was great, and the defense was stellar.  It was a great win and I am glad that the team could end the season on a high note and especially in Miami.  You can say a lot of things about this team, but now you can also say they were the first BC team to win in Miami since Doug Flutie was playing.

The game started out I think the way most of us expected.  Jacory Harris launched one to our own 20 to set up the first score of the game.  I was watching at the BC gamewatch in New York and there was an audible sigh on that first play from scrimmage... "Here we go again."  But then BC marched right back down the field, putting together a beautiful drive that ended in a pass from Rettig to Pantale for BC's first touchdown of the game.  Our offense put together what I think was one of the truly complete games in a long while.  Although I do think we left some points on the field you could not have asked more from Chase Rettig.  Although we passed just 17 times out of 67 plays, Rettig went 13 for 17 and threw two of our three touchdowns.  For the first time since the beginning of the season, Chase seemed comfortable in the pocket and the offensive line held up well enough to allow him to throw just four incompletions (though he did get sacked twice).  Pantale was the star of the receivers, hauling in both of Rettig's touchdown passes.  His second was particularly impresssive: a 32 yard touchdown pass from Rettig where he broke at least one tackle and outran the majority of the Miami secondary.  The running was remarkably consistent.  There were not very many big plays from the run game but our tailbacks kept the Miami defense on the field.  Our 50 running plays can be attributed to our prevent offense that we went into as soon as we got up in the second half.  This is also my only complaint from our offense this week, which isn't even their fault (thank you coaching staff).  For better or worse, the prevent offense worked, especially since it was so consistent, however without the outstanding play of our defense, it very easily could have let Miami back into the game.

The defense played well.  Beyond Harris' first play from scrimmage and Lamar Miller's 79 yard touchdown run, the defense was stout and limited the Miami offense.  There is not much more to say than what the stat sheet does about how the defense played.  They held Miami to 367 yards, 21 minutes of posession, oh, and force four interceptions, which nearly matched Jacory Harris' totaly for the season.  In my opinion, this was the best game that the defense has played all season.  And that, not the least of which, can be attributed to Luke Kuechly.

Over the past few weeks an argument on the message boards has been about where Luke Kuechly ranks among the best defensive players of BC.  Where does he stand when up against names like Herzlich, Raji, and Kiwanuka?  By and large the response was, Luke is not a game changer, but damn is he consistent.  You can always count on him to register double digit tackles.  That is true, except this week. Luke's interception return for a touchdown was a game changer.  It put BC ahead for good and was a perfect way to cap off an already fantastic game for Luke.

There are a lot of questions for BC now that the season is over.  Player turnover, coaching turnover, will Spaz be back are all questions that will be answered in the coming weeks and months.  Regardless of those questions, BC still finished the season off with a great win against an old rival.  The players fought hard and never gave up this season and deserved this win.  With the long offseason ahead of us, its nice to go out on top of one.

Friday, November 25, 2011

BC vs. Miami

It's funny how two schools on opposite ends of the country can have a heated rivalry.  Admittedly, this may not be as big of a deal as Florida State- Miami, but it's still a good game and has carried a little bit of weight ever since the Miracle in Miami.  BC- Miami always carries with it a certain something that all college football rivalries do.  We may care more about beating Notre Dame or Clemson, but when we play Miami in that Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving (where they are seemingly always placed on the schedule) it adds a little something extra to the game.  BC- Miami may not be the biggest game or the biggest rivalry this weekend, but it is still a special game.

I don't have much to say about this game today and will forego my Five Keys in favor of finishing this post a little faster and diving into leftovers.  This is our last game of the season today, perhaps the last of the Spaz era, and perhaps the last time we see Luke Kuechly on the field in maroon and gold.  The only thing left on the line for this team right now is pride.  Last weekend, we played tough and hard against a mediocre Notre Dame team.  The team showed heart and determination and never gave up.  I hope the same happens today.  There is no reason BC can't beat the Hurricanes today.  These are not the Miami teams of yesteryear with that Miami swagger and championship rings.  BC has a real chance to go into Coral Gables and come out with a win.

There are a few things I hope to see out of today's game.  Obviously, it will be pretty spectacular to see Luke break the ACC tackling record and I hope they keep a tackle tracker on the screen during the whole game for him.  I hope that Chase will calm himself down and find a rhythm in today's game.  His play last week may have cost us some points in South Bend, but he is still a good quarterback who can get things done if he has his head on straight.  Last week our defense played lights out, continuing that play this week will go a long way to beating the 'Canes.

With the Eagles staying at home for the holidays, this is our last game of the season for the first time in nearly 13 years.  Despite this, and perhaps using it as motivation, I hope BC goes into Coral Gables and makes a statement.  We may not be the BC team of 2004 or 2007, but we are still the Boston College Eagles and nothing can change that.  With the last game just a few hours away, I hope our players and coaches especially, push for the greater and bring home one final win this season.  We are BC.  Ever to Excel.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Trip to South Bend: Part II

Admittedly, I made it into Notre Dame Stadium after Notre Dame had scored it's first ten points.  I had made a detour to see the Father William Corby statue outside Corby Hall, which is an exact copy of a statue at the battlefield in Gettysburg (Father Corby was the chaplain of the all- Irish New York regiment in the Civil War).  Ms. SaturdaysOnShea and I made it into the game about mid-way through the first quarter, just in time to be reminded how inept our BC offense can be and how stellar our defense can be.

The biggest talking point from the game seems to be the inaccuracy of Chase Rettig.  Chase threw 20 incompletions over the course of the game, going 18- 38 with one touchdown and, mercifully, no interceptions.  Chase seems skittish in the pocket.  His never settles his feet and doesn't plant his back foot to throw.  Certainly, we are seeing a sophomore slump from Chase, but he seems to be digressing in his abilities as a quarterback over all, something we saw with Dave Shinskie as well.  At the beginning of the season Chase seemed to be the quarterback we had been looking for, showing sophomore mistakes but generally having an upside.  Chase has not gotten any better this season and that's a problem.  He deserves some of the blame, but so do the coaches and so does his O-line.  Personally, I believe that it has been the lack of an effective O-Line this season that has caused many of Chase's woes.  He doesn't set his feet because he's expecting to get hit the moment the ball is snapped.  He is forcing throws because he's used to throwing under pressure.  His passes are off target because he doesn't have or isn't expecting to have enough time for the play to develop.  With better coaching and a better O-Line Chase could be much better, and hopefully we will see a junior jump next year.  That is left to be seen.

Another problem that led to our offensive woes was the use of Bordner.  Although he scored a rushing touchdown to bring the game 10- 7, he was used sparingly and over time, the defense was able to recognize that Bordner in the game meant a running play.  It also disrupted any rhythm that Chase and the offense were getting themselves into.  I do believe that there is a place for Josh Bordner in this offense, but he needs to be used wisely and strategically.  Put Bordner in and have him throw one and run one to keep the defense off balance.  If teams see him coming in, they know that more than likely the ball will be run, not thrown.  If we want to go with a two quarterback system, we need to use that strategy better or not at all. 

The defense played an excellent game.  Although it was clear they schemed against him, Luke managed to become just one tackle shy of tying the all tie BC tackles record.  Our defensive pressure held Notre Dame to just 3 points in the entire second half and were able to force Notre Dame into long yardage situations and turnovers.  Max Holloway's interception could have been a game changer.  BC was down 6 and the interception gave us the ball on the Notre Dame 48.  A few plays later, though, BC could not convert a 3rd and 3. Additionally, the defense was able to effectively shut down Michael Floyd.  More than anything else, this kept us in the game.  The defense allowed Floyd just ten receptions for 92 yards and no touchdowns.  The defense played this game to win and kept fighting to the bitter end. 

BC should have, and could have, won this game.  If a few different things broke a different way, no penalties, better accuracy from Chase, the reviewed calls that went to Notre Dame, I really do think BC would have won.  However, winning teams shouldn't have to rely on "what-ifs" to win.  The fact of the matter is that this was not a very good Notre Dame team.  Losing by just two points means that BC could have just as easily won this game.  Better play calling and better coaching could have made this a very different outcome.  Some people are taking the moral victory out of this one.  BC was a 24.5 point underdog going into South Bend and lost by just two points.  I can't bring myself to take the moral victory when true victory was just as easily attainable.  BC played well but in too many situations left points on the field.  The team played hard and they deserved to win this game, but they have not been given the tools to succeed. 

My Road Trip to South Bend: Part I

The trip to South Bend from Boston has become one of the most lasting traditions at Boston College.  When I was a junior, it was the first time we played Notre Dame at South Bend in three years, yet there was no question that people would be road tripping out.  For my part, this was my first trip out to Indiana for the game.  It was a fun experience, great to see the Notre Dame campus, and even better to see a little bit of America.  That said, the next time I make it out to Notre Dame, I think I'll fly.

My group left Boston around 9PM Thursday and drove through the night to make it to Indiana by noon the next day.  The drive across was fun.  As a New Yorker, I saw parts of my home state I hadn't seen before.  Perhaps most exciting was driving past all the other BC RVs on their way to South Bend.  You'd be driving along 90 West in the middle of Pennsylvania, coming up on another RV and immediately knew who was in it and where they were going.  As the RVs past each other there'd be fist pumps, waves, and thumbs up.  It was a nice little bit of BC camaraderie on the way west.  At each rest stop, too, would be about a half dozen RVs gassing up.  It was fun to have that small bond with all the other BC people heading out to South Bend.

I saw a limited part of South Bend, but what I saw was nice enough.  Notre Dame has a beautiful campus.  The architecture is similar to BC's except all made of brick instead of stone.  The campus is very spread out, which surprised me.  It seemed like all of BC's campus could fit into one quad at Notre Dame.  The Golden Dome dominates the area, much the way that Gasson dominates the area around BC.  Notre Dame was beautiful, a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

The tailgating on Saturday was a blast.  The RVs basically turned into Mods on wheels.  It was great to experience real college football tailgating.  Many BC alums complain about the BC gameday experience and with good cause.  Notre Dame police patrolled the area, but I saw no incidences whatsoever; I can't say the same thing for BC.  Additionally we pulled into the lot at around 10 giving us over five hours to tailgate, which meant that at 3:30 that afternoon, we were some of the last people to leave the tailgating area to head to the stadium.  People had had their fill of tailgating and were ready to go to the game.

Notre Dame has a great stadium.  You really can feel the history when you walk in.  The experience in the stadium, though, felt a little gimmicky.  They trotted out the band Chicago at half time and then announced that Jon Bon Jovi was there and was directing the band, or something like that.  It seemed odd at best and the announcement about Bon Jovi sent inquisitive looks all around.

I only met a few Notre Dame fans, most were nice and polite, but not overly so, I'd put them somewhere between Clemson fans and Maryland fans.  My group did end up sitting next to a handful of Notre Dame fans who, as it turned out, were from the same town in Ohio as Bobby Swigert.  The result was by the end of the game, we had a bunch of 40 or 50-something men decked out in Notre Dame gear cheering for BC as hard as we were.

Not much went on after the game.  Most people left immediately afterward.  Some made their way to the Wal-Mart parking lot, but it seemed that most BC people slept for a little while and immediately hit the road.  My group stayed and let the following morning around 8 getting back to Boston around 11:30.  The trip to Notre Dame was a great one.  The memories were great and I couldn't have asked for a better time.  Overall, the experience was a good one.  There were nice people, a good time, and what ended up being a pretty exciting game.  I'm already looking forward to my next trip out to South Bend

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Five Keys to Beating Notre Dame

Any other coach and I would give us a fighting chance in this one.  Even if Jags or Tom O'Brien were 3-7 entering this match up I might give us a chance.  But I just don't think Spaz will get it done this weekend.  I expect Brian Kelly to have his ND team chomping at the bit for this one.  I also expect him to have his offense go from 0 to 60 on the first play from scrimmage and not to let up on the gas until the game is over.  I'm sorry to be such a Debbie Downer (Sullen Saturdays?), but Brian Kelly is the type to go for the throat in this game.  That all said, this is also the second most important game on the schedule for Gene and Spaz (after NC State).  Gene especially realizes that many alumni would be fine with a 1-11 season, as long as that one win came against Notre Dame.  Additionally, we know that crazy things can happen in rivalry games and that BC often wins this game when it really has no business winning it.

I am not convinced that Notre Dame is that good of a team either.  My prejudices notwithstanding, they have drubbed the service academies of this world, but have been challenged by tougher competition.  Are they better than us?  Yes, definitely.  But that doesn't mean that we can't keep it closer than the current BC +24.5 line.  I'm not sure that we'll pull a W out of South Bend, but I'm also not sure that we will get massacred as many are expecting.

Five Keys to Beating Notre Dame:

1. Create Turnovers- One of the talking points about Notre Dame this year has been there abysmal turnover margin and the fact that they've lost every game where they lose the turnover battle.  I do think that our defense can create turnovers and that will be key to winning.  As I said, I expect Kelly to have his offense firing on all cylinders.  If we create turnovers and slow them down a bit and have them thinking of South Florida, USC, and Michigan we may have a chance.  It should be noted, however, that two years ago BC won the turnover battle in South Bend, but still came up short.

2. Hold onto the ball- We have had difficulty with turnovers ourselves this season, but more importantly turning it over in the red zone.  Against FSU, Finch fumbled close the goal line when the game was still within reach.  Two years ago, Montel fumbled on the Notre Dame 1 on what could have been a game winning score.  Protecting the ball ourselves, especially in those red zone situations will be huge.

3. Shut Down Floyd- Michael Floyd has 922 yards over 10 games this season.  Damn impressive.  However, it also means ND's offense is vulnerable if Floyd can be contained.  Their next leading receiver has just 589 yards over 10 games.  Michael Floyd is the key to this offense.  In 2008 BC had no problem containing Golden Tate.  Containing Michael Floyd can cause struggles for Notre Dame.

4. Make the most out of our two quarterbacks-  Let me first state that I am not of fan of flip-flopping Rettig and Bordner throughout the game.  I think it has the potential to disrupt and already weak offense.  That said, the last two games have shown that utilizing Bordner in the right situations can throw off opposing defenses.  Rettig should be given the majority of snaps and be allowed to conduct the offense, but bringing in Bordner on short yardage situations or to throw the defense off balance could give us an offensive edge.

5. Play up the rivalry- A few years ago, Jags made the point to his team that nearly all of them had not been actively recruited by Notre Dame, giving the team a chip on its shoulder.  BC teams generally already have a chip on their shoulder, but none more so than when we play Notre Dame.  This game is just as important for the players as it is for the fans and alumni.  In the past BC has stepped up to the plate in this game and taken it to the Irish.  I hope that Spaz and the staff have played up the rivarly this week and have the team extra motivated to go in and win in South Bend.  Motivated individuals can do amazing things in the right situations.  This game could be one of those situations for BC.

I will be in attendance in South Bend for the game.  It is the first time I am making it out there and am looking forward to taking it all in.  Since I am leaving Boston tonight, this may be my last opportunity to post before the game.  I will do my best to stay in contact on twitter, but can't make any promises.  I wish everyone making the trip out to South Bend safe travels.  See you all in Indiana.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

NC State Wrap-up

A win against Tom O'Brien is always a good feeling.  Since leaving in 2006, Tom O'Brien is 1-4 against BC and now 1-2 against his old defensive coordinator.  This is a big win for Spaz.  Some think it may have saved his job, but is still no surprise that, according to reports, Spaz has had this game circled on his calendar since the beginning of the season.  His emotions following the win are also testament to that fact.  The win shows that the players have not given up either, especially with a late game push by NC State.  With the way things have gone and after last week, it would be just as easy to roll over.  But the team is still playing hard and still fighting.  Hopefully we can carry some momentum into South Bend.

I was not able to see the game, but by all accounts it was similar to the Maryland game.  Messy, not particularly good football, but BC just managed to outlast and out play the other team.  It seems that somewhat of a quarterback controversy is brewing.  Rettig is still the starter, and solidly so, but the first touchdown of the game was scored on an option read by Bordner.  The second, however, was a perfect pass by Rettig to Larmond.  It should also be noted that Bordner's running score was set up by a 41 yard pass by Rettig to Amidon.  On the outside, it looks as though Rettig and Bordner will be sharing the responsbilities a la Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson: Rettig taking the majority of the snaps and responsibility, but Bordner coming in in the right situations.

Defensively, BC took advantage of an offensive line as weak as our own.  NC State has made a season out of short yardage passing plays and BC was able to disrupt that.  As always, Luke was dominant and many pundits have highlighted a 13- minute period in the fourth quarter where he registered 9 of his 18 total tackles.

An important stat that I think is being overlooked in the wake of our victory is our total offense in the second half.  That would be -2 yards.  Yes, you read that correctly, the winning team in this game produced negative yardage in the second half.  After an aggressive first half, BC turtled up in the second half.  With a 14-3 lead at the half, BC went into the prevent offense, the signature Spaziani move when up in the game.  We managed to out last the Wolfpack, but this game could have just as easily been 24-14 as it was 14-10.  Don't forget, we intercepted NC State in the end zone and won the game on a tipped ball with 1:10 left to go.  Either of those plays goes a different way and BC loses this game... because we were not aggressive to end the game.

BC has been in this same position a few times, where the opposing team, down, has the ball and a chance to win.  Duke and Virginia last year come to mind.  The problem is the coaching staff goes conservative as soon as BC gets the lead and instead of driving the nails into the coffin, BC merely hangs on.  Teams can survive this way, but not all the time.  Negative yardage in the second half, whether we still managed to win or not, is unacceptable.  Winning teams do not turtle up in the second half and just try to wait out the clock.  They continue to go for the throat and don't give their opponents a chance to come back into it.  Constantly, our coaching staff does the opposite and just hopes that we can hold on.  

Twice this season BC has been tied or up going into the half.  We lost each of those games.  The coaching staff just tries to outlast our opponents or the clock instead of trying to win.  This has been their strategy for the last three years, but this year it has caught up to them.  Winning this game was merely the gilded exterior of the same old BC performance.  Negative two yards is the real story.  I am glad that we won and I am glad that the team fought hard to win and they deserved this victory.  But the fundamental problems still exist and are not going away.  14-10 is what most people will see in this game.  -2 is what is between the lines.

Friday, November 11, 2011

NC State

Tomorrow's game against the Wolfpack is our most viable chance for getting a third win this season.  Lose tomorrow and you can put money on a 2-10 season.  I am not sure what I expect out of tomorrow's game.  Many people paint this as Spaz and Gene's Super Bowl.  Both want to desperately beat Tom O'Brien and so I think look forward to this game all season.  Spaz has also had a long week to prepare to take on his former boss and could have schemed well enough to put up another W.  NC State is probably #3 on the "Worst Teams in the ACC" list along with ourselves and Maryland, so we have a good shot at winning this game.

Five Keys to Beating NC State:

1. Find a Quarterback- The use of Josh Bordner against FSU kind of threw everyone for a loop last week, it certainly was not something I expected but seemed to work.  Chase Rettig is listed as the starter for this week and so I expect using Bordner last week was to give Chase a minute to get his head on straight.  Whatever the outcome, whether we use Chase or use Bordner I hope to see that we use them consistently.  Don't flip flop the way we did last week, Bordner and Chase are not Jarret Lee and Jordan Jefferson or Taylor and Glennon, our offense will do better with a consistent quarterback. Find a QB that works and stick with him.

2. Air It Out-  Thought limited last week, our run game has remained strong and consistent over the last few weeks, especially against Maryland and Clemson.  Running remains our strong suit so I expect NC State to defend primarily against the run.  Chase's passes last week were a little better, giving him the chance to throw it deep to Larmond, Amidon, and Swigert can hopefully give us an edge.  So far this season NC State allows 7.2 yards per pass against conference opponents.  WIth a defense looking to stop the run, passing could be our go to.

3. Make NC State Run- NC State doesn't have the most prolific passing attack (it ranks 61st in the nation), but Mike Glennon can make plays and NC State has made a season out of short passes.  The Wolfpack's rushing offense, however, ranks 106th in the nation.  Shutting down Mike Glennon and forcing NC State to win the game on the ground will play to our defensive strengths.

4. Energize the crowd- Like I said in my post about the Florida State game, there is no energy in the stands anymore.  The students are completely out of it.  Furthermore, there are no students left at BC who were there when Tom O'Brien was still coach, so the added incentive to beat NC State isn't there anymore either.  A quick score early on could get the crowd back into it.  The only win at home this season has been against UMass.  If BC has a chance and brings it against NC State, the crowd could get back into it just once more.

5. The Seniors- This is their last game at the Heights.  If for no other reason, I hope they and the team are extra motivated to go out for the last home game and the last game for the seniors.

There isn't much hope left in this season.  We are ensured to have our first losing season since 1998.  Our two remaining games are against Notre Dame and Miami.  NC State is the last winnable game that I see left on the schedule.  I hope that Spaz has taken advantage of the long week and is prepped and ready to take on his old boss; it may also be the last time Spaz and Tom O'Brien are on the field together.  It will be interesting to see what tone is set going into the Notre Dame game.  I think that NC State and Notre Dame are the two biggest games on our schedule for Gene and Spaz.  A win here, and looking good doing it, could propel us into Notre Dame.  If for no other reason, though, I hope that Spaz is ready for this game for the seniors.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Throwing in the Towel

I apologize for the infrequency of my posts the past week.  I just received internet back this Monday and was very busy yesterday with Election Day.  I have not had the chance to give my thoughts on the Florida State debacle which I had the opportunity to witness in person.  In short, it was depressing.

There is no energy left whatsoever surrounding this program.  The team is flat.  The fan base is too.  I had the misfortune of sitting in the student section for the first quarter of the game.  I convinced a few friends to relive the glory days once more, hoping that if we pulled the upset, it would be a fun time.  Instead, it was terrible.  There was no interest in the game from the student section.  For a Thursday night, primetime game, the student section was not even half full by the time kick off rolled around.  With ten minutes left in the end of the game, the majority of the student section was empty once again (I guess they had to go study...).  I remember being there and getting loud for big games, being rowdy and making Alumni as hostile as possible.  This was not the case among the students this year.  Not even at the beginning of the game when there was a chance we could do well.  I feel bad for the students right now.  Watching this team, with its defeatist coach, and really no end in sight (despite our wishes) is a difficult experience and the students are being robbed of one of the best things about going to Boston College.  For their sake, I hope they get to experience a winning team and an exciting coach before they graduate.

On one of the message boards, the question was asked, somewhat tongue in cheek, somewhat not, "When did Spaz throw in the towel?"  Possible answers were 7-0, 14-0, 21-0, etc. etc. Though the one that sticks out was "Before the game even started."  It is frightening to think that this is even a possibility, let alone the likelihood.  Spaz has shown, time and again, that he is outmatched and in over his head at his current job.  He clearly does not believe that his team can win.  What kind of coach believes that?  Part of a coach's job is to make his athletes believe they can beat anyone at anytime.  I once heard Mike Leach say, about coaching athletes, "Don't remind them that they're young.  Don't tell them what they can't do, tell them what they can."  We do have a young, inexperienced team, that fact is used constantly by the coaching staff and the Athletic Director to explain away our football woes, but what a real coach does, what a coach who believes in his team and their ability does is play to their strengths and make sure that those athletes believe that they can beat anyone.  Whether, in reality, they can or can't is irrelevant.  What is important is having a coach who wills his athletes to believe they are invincible.

With about ten minutes left to go in the fourth quarter, down by 24 points, Boston College had the ball.  There were few illusions among the fans that we would win this game, but at least we would go down fighting.  After two running plays, and a pass play, down 24 points with now about six minutes left in the fourth quarter, Boston College lined up for a punt.  The yellow towel had been thrown in, the white flag waved.  Frank Spaziani had made the decision that he would not go down fighting, that he would punt the ball away and pin Florida State down in their own territory and let them run out the clock and end the game.  In that single move Spaz showed the entire nation, at least the ones still watching the game, but more importantly the entire BC community that avoiding a blow out, rather more of a blow out, was more important than fighting it out.  More important that showing his players that, even though they were down, they were still going to go after Florida State, still be aggressive.  Instead, Spaz threw in the towel.  The only question that remains is when he made that decision.  7-0, 14-0, 21-0, 28-0?  Or in August?

Thursday, November 3, 2011


As I write this I am sitting in the dining car on Amtrak, Boston bound for the game tonight.  Despite our performance up to this point I am excited for this game.  BC- FSU games are always exciting and there is just something about Alumni Stadium at night.  The Thursday night primetime is also exciting.  The last time BC was in this situation was when we shellacked Virginia Tech in 2006.

This game is a big opportunity for BC.  Sure there are some MAC games and hockey on, but there is no baseball and there is no basketball.  The biggest thing BC will be competing with for viewers is The Office.  This is a national game, many eyes will be on us, especially eyes that wouldn't normally tune into a BC football game otherwise.  A win tonight could get people to take us more seriously, as well as put us on more solid footing for our last three games of the season.  Conversely, a loss tonight on a national stage could be the biggest nail in the Spaziani coffin and could draw more attention to how far the program has fallen.

I expect Alumni Stadium to be electric tonight.  Although the season has not gone as many of us have expected, this is still a night game against Florida State.  Many people marked this game on their calendar prior to the season and are making the effort to go.  FSU is also vulnerable.  Although they have rattled off three wins the last three weeks, those have been against Duke, Maryland, and NC State.  We may have lost to Duke, but I still think BC has more talent than these teams.  An electric Alumni Stadium and the cold bite of November could make this a trap game for the Seminoles.

Five Keys to Beating Florida State:

1. Run, run, run- An offense that was once predicated on the abilities of Montel Harris has now found a new identity in the last two weeks.  BC has shown that it can run the ball against defenses even without its star back.  If Deuce Finch can have even half the game he had last week and Amidon can still make plays with his feet out of the backfield, BC could get Florida State reeling early.  In 2008, BC was able to go into Doak- Campbell and win by running the ball down FSU's throat.  Doing the same thing tonight could put BC ahead.

2. Contain EJ Manuel- BC's victory in 2009 against FSU was very much a result of being able to contain and limit Christian Ponder.  Unlike Ponder, however, EJ Manuel is more of a dual threat quarterback, especially now that he is healthy.  Our ability to keep him in the pocket and force him to make his plays with his arm will be a deciding factor.  FSU is just as likely to run Manuel out of the backfield as they are the tailbacks.  BC needs to be prepared to limit his ability to run and force him to throw.  Solid pressure off both edges will force Manuel into turnovers and long yardage situations.

3. Force them to run- This key is partially dependent on our ability to limit EJ Manuel's passing and running.  But, in 2011, FSU is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry.  Our rush defense is still stout this year, allowing 4.45 yards per carry.  Limiting FSU's passing attack and forcing their offense to pound it out in the trenches can keep BC in this game.  

4. Energize the Crowd- Alumni Stadium is not known as a particularly difficult place to play.  However, there are certain opponents that the fans "get up" for.  Florida State is one of them.  Keeping the crowd energized and loud and creating as much as a hostile environment as possible for Florida State will give BC a big edge.  A quick score to start the game or solid defensive stops will keep the crowd in it.  The crowd tonight may not be big, but it can be loud.

5. Punch them in the mouth- Not literally.  Mike Tyson once said "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."  Let's not forget that this FSU team was pre-season ranked in the top 5.  Then they got punched in the mouth by Clemson and have been in a bit of a spiral since.  These last three weeks they have been able to come back together and rattle off three wins, but not against the greatest competition.  BC could be the toughest team FSU has seen since playing Clemson in mid- September.  BC needs to get after FSU early.  A short week and a cold, hostile environment has already put FSU out of its comfort zone.  Punch FSU in the mouth early, and their game plan may being to unravel.

 I believe BC has a real chance tonight to come out with a win.  Since we joined the conference, the BC- FSU series has been an interesting one.  The series is split 3-3 since 2005.  The games have been hard fought and decided by an average of 8 points, the widest margin of victory being 11 points in 2005.  BC played a strong first half against Virginia Tech only to get run out in the second half.  Last week we played strong all the way through.  If we can play our Virginia Tech first half all game tonight, and continue our offensive success from last week, BC can win this game.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Technical Difficulties

So the big storm this past weekend has knocked out the power at my house leaving me without heat, internet, phone, or electricity since about 3PM Saturday (yep, didn't even get to see any of the game.  Had to follow gametracker on my phone). With my internet use severely limited I won't be able to post as frequently this week as I usually do.  Still, I will try to get a Florida State preview up tomorrow.  I will be there in person and will try to tweet live from the game and hopefully will have post game comments afterwards (since my friends do have internet).  Until then, Go Eagles.

- Saturdays on Shea