This is deja vu of the worst kind for the Boston College football team.
It was in a 1-6 hole a year ago, dazed by three straight losses and staring at a season that seemed like a bottomless plunge.
Wake Forest stung the Eagles at home, then they went to Clemson and Virginia Tech and lost by a combined 38 points.
It was the kind of start that can make the rest of the season seem unimportant.
The only thing that changed it was a win. BC went on the road, beat Maryland, and even if the Eagles didn’t completely claw their way out of the ditch they dug in the first half, they won three of their last five almost as a point of pride.
“We were able to get a victory and start feeling good about some things,” said coach Frank Spaziani.
This season, like that one, currently seems almost impossible to salvage. The 1-6 Eagles’ 37-17 loss to Georgia Tech Saturday in Atlanta was the latest in a spiraling season.
Spaziani is looking for any sign of a turnaround with Maryland visiting the Heights Saturday.
“[This year] we’ve made some poor plays, and then the ball hasn’t bounced our way,” he said. “We have to be able to keep ourselves in the game a little bit and hopefully one of these bounces will bounce our way. Because the talent, I think, is there.”
The Eagles haven’t won since Sept. 8 against Maine. They haven’t beaten an Atlantic Coast Conference team. They haven’t beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision team.
Before the three straight road games against Army, Florida State, and Georgia Tech, Spaziani had said he didn’t want to look at the games in one daunting cluster, but as three individual battles.
Each one took a pound of flesh from the Eagles.
“It was almost like a perfect storm,” Spaziani said. “There was a lot being thrown at them. Again, not making excuses for them, but they’re having a difficult time handling it.
“There’s a toll. They’re human beings. But once again, these guys, I think they’ll respond the right way. We’re still playing hard. That’s the encouraging thing.”
Earlier in the season, in losses to Miami, Northwestern, and Clemson, the Eagles were competitive, but found ways to give games away.
The past two weeks, though, they’ve been dominated. Georgia Tech ran 91 plays on the Eagles. BC’s offense was on the field for all of 16 minutes.
“We addressed it today,” Spaziani said. “It’s a common scenario. We’re trying to figure out how to correct that. We’re going to do a couple things, and I think I’ve got the answer to it. But once again you’ve got to plan and you’ve got to adjust to it. But we’ll see. We’ll see how this plays out this week. There’s a couple things we can do.”
The defense that has been last in the ACC against the run was punished by the Yellow Jackets. They hit the ground for 391 yards, draining an already battered unit, and making the Eagles pay with repeated third-down conversions.
The past three weeks, they’ve given up 1,108 combined rushing yards to Army, Florida State, and Georgia Tech (Army racked up 516). It’s left the defense embarrassed and dispirited.
“Let me say this, it wears on everybody when you’re having some mistakes like that,” Spaziani said. “I don’t think it’s wearing on you in the sense you might be alluding to. They’re frustrated with what’s happening.”
Spaziani’s seat was hot before the season started, and even though new athletic director Brad Bates has said he’ll wait for the end of the season to evaluate the coach, the cry is to have that seat pulled from under Spaziani.
Spaziani, meanwhile, is concerned with getting as much out of the rest of the season as possible.
“No battle was ever won by a pessimistic general,” he said. “I guess salvage is your word, but there’s football to be played, and we’ll see how this plays out. There’s still light. There’s still hope there. There’s never an end to trying to find a solution.”
But sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is a train.Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.