ATLANTA — Disarray seemed to be the common bond between the Eagles and the Yellow Jackets.
Boston College’s season had essentially been one long patch of black ice. Georgia Tech had just recently decided to do a midseason tear-down.
The reasons were understandable. The Yellow Jackets were a preseason favorite, but things turned sour quickly. Between a 2-4 start and allowing at least 40 points in three straight losses, something had to change. With a bye last week, the shake-up included firing defensive coordinator Al Groh.
Georgia Tech had just enough time to transition and prepare for BC, and came away from its 37-17 win looking entirely more stable than an Eagles team that’s continuing a frustrating tailspin.
BC (1-6, 0-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) hasn’t had a start this bad since 1989, when it lost seven of its first eight en route to a 2-9 season.
On Saturday, the Eagles were blown out by at least 20 for the second time in two weeks, something that hadn’t happened since 1999, when they limped into the Insight.com Bowl after being pounded by Virginia Tech, 38-14, then got routed by Colorado, 62-28.
The question after Saturday’s loss was the same as after the Army loss, and the same as after the Florida State loss: Where do the Eagles go from here?
“That’s a good question,” said coach Frank Spaziani.
The Yellow Jackets (3-4, 2-3) converted third downs from outrageous distances. They made third and 8s and third and 9s look routine. It was the third and 26 that was morale-crushing.
At the start of the second quarter, on second and 7, Tech was fortunate that Tevin Washington recovered his own fumble. But in the scrum, Robert Godhigh was whistled for a personal foul that pushed the Yellow Jackets back 15 yards.
On third and 26, Washington hooked up with B.J. Bostic, who hit the number exactly for a first down. Three plays later, Washington and the Yellow Jackets were in the end zone to go up, 14-0.
It made the third and 11 they pulled off on a later scoring drive look ho-hum.
“It’s frustrating, man,” said linebacker Nick Clancy, who led BC with six tackles. “When you stop them and it’s third and long, guys are pumped up. Then they come back and convert, it’s really demoralizing. It’s very frustrating for a defense.”
The tale all season for the Eagles had been that the high-functioning offense was being held back by an injury-plagued, inexperienced, and underperforming defense. But the last two weeks, not even that has been true.
The things they did well early in the season have vanished. Chase Rettig completed 19 of 31 passes for 264 yards, but the offense was rhythmless in the first half. The running game, which was just starting to show vital signs after Andre Williams’s back-to-back 100-yard games, cobbled together all of 32 yards. Rettig’s two touchdown passes — to Alex Amidon and Chris Pantale, both in the second half — seemed inconsequential.
The things that have sabotaged them throughout the season, continued to do so. They stalled out on third down eight times, fumbled four times (lost one), snapped a ball over Rettig’s head, gave up a sack, and let Tech dominate the clock. Georgia Tech ran a season-high 91 plays, not even the most a team has run on the Eagles this season (Northwestern got off 100 in its 22-13 win).
Washington’s two rushing touchdowns gave him 15 for the season and 35 for his career.
Down, 28-3, at the half, the Eagles came out glassy-eyed. Williams, who hadn’t lost a fumble since the season opener against Miami, put the ball on the ground on his first touch of the second half.
The trick plays that seemed clever and innovative against Miami and Clemson, looked desperate.
“I don’t adhere to the ‘nothing to lose’ [idea],” Spaziani said. “There’s a lot to lose.”
BC converted a 2-point try later, after Pantale’s touchdown. It made it a 14-point game with 13:02 left, and the way they celebrated, the Eagles clearly thought it was a game again. And it might have been, had Ameer Richardson not run into the punter on the ensuing Tech possession, wiping out a defensive stand that would have given BC the ball with nine minutes left.
“That hurts,” Clancy said.
“Inexcusable,” Spaziani said.
But in this lost season, it had the same feeling of grasping at something that wasn’t there.
“We’re not that far, we’re really not that far,” Spaziani said. “But we’re miles away.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.