It didn’t take this dismal season for Boston College coach Frank Spaziani to understand how things work. He had coached long enough to know that if he could find ways for the Eagles to win games, then the team’s problems would seem small. If he lost, all the problems would be supersized.
The Eagles are 2-8 after falling to Notre Dame Saturday, 21-6, with two games left in a painfully futile season, and their issues are magnified with each loss.
“The problems are always there and they needed to be worked through,” said Spaziani. “Sometimes they get exacerbated by certain things — practice time, guys missing a day or two of practice, injuries, and other things that you have to try and compensate for. They’re things that you have to work through. We’re working through it, but we’re just not there.”
Spaziani has had to navigate a minefield of injuries, suspend one of his veteran leaders, watch a player he expected to be a contributor leave campus, and coach up young players he was hoping to get a chance to redshirt, and it’s all played a part in the Eagles’ struggles.
But the season’s many malfunctions seem minor when compared with the team’s overall decline the past four seasons.
The last time the Eagles beat a ranked team was Nov. 15, 2008, when a Jeff Jagodzinski-led team beat No. 20 Florida State in Tallahassee.
The Eagles have faced 11 ranked teams since Spaziani took over in 2009, and lost to each of them.
After falling to Notre Dame for the fourth straight season, the Eagles are a loss away from a bit of infamy.
The Eagles haven’t lost nine games since 1989. They haven’t lost 10 since 1978.
In Spaziani’s four seasons, the Eagles have won 21 games. There have been similarly difficult stretches in relatively recent history at the Heights, and they’ve all precipitated a coaching change.
Jack Bicknell won nine games over his final three seasons from 1988 to 1990 before being replaced by Tom Coughlin, who turned the Eagles into an eight-win team his second season on the job.
Dan Henning went 7-4-1 in 1994, his first season as Coughlin’s replacement. But Henning had nine wins in his next two seasons and was replaced by Tom O’Brien, who also turned the Eagles into an eight-win team two years later.
Through constant criticism, Spaziani has has been steadfast and dignified. He has had casual meetings with new athletic director Brad Bates, who said he will wait until the end of the season to evaluate the program.
There are no longer enough potential wins left to shrink the scale of BC’s problems this season. But there are games left on the schedule, and Spaziani is focused on winning them.
“We’re close, but there’s no cigar yet,” he said. “Maybe this week it will happen, maybe it won’t. But we certainly need to work.”
With Kevin Pierre-Louis out against Notre Dame and Nick Clancy leaving early in the first quarter with a concussion, linebacker Steele DiVitto notched six tackles, forced and recovered a fumble, and did his best to spark the Eagles defense.
“Steele played one of his better games,” Spaziani said. “He made some plays. We grade our guys and we also give them quality points for certain things and he had his best game as far as quality points, which is what you have to do. He stepped up.”
“When you step up and make plays, that says something to your teammates. They appreciate that. They have eyes, too.”
Aches and pains
Along with Clancy, freshman linebacker Tim Joy also sustained a concussion, and Spaziani said his status was uncertain. He was pessimistic about wide receiver Bobby Swigert, who injured his right knee in the fourth quarter . . . Rolandan “Deuce” Finch’s return was more by necessity than anything else, but he picked up 43 yards on seven carries after sitting out six straight games. Still, his status going forward isn’t clear. “We just can’t project him into a more active role until he demonstrates that he’s earned it,” Spaziani said. “He certainly stepped up and looked like a good back last night.”