The boos from what was left of the crowd at Alumni Stadium made sense. So did Frank Spaziani’s decision.
Boston College has trudged through a long season. The losses have come every possible way. This win was close enough to touch. There was still 1:05 left in a tie game with Virginia Tech Saturday, and the Eagles were 83 yards from the end zone with two timeouts.
Spaziani weighed every factor.
What if they throw an interception?
What if they throw three quick incompletions?
What if Virginia Tech, which had two timeouts, got the ball back and kicked a field goal?
What if . . .
The last thing Spaziani wanted to do was hand the Hokies a chance to win.
The thought of seeing what his team’s two-minute offense could do crossed his mind. But he had quarterback Chase Rettig take a knee with 40 seconds left, waving the white flag on regulation.
The boos were loud enough to hear on the television broadcast of the Eagles’ eventual 30-23 loss, the frustrations of a fan base resonating for a national audience.
But that decision made the most sense to Spaziani.
“We didn’t want to give the game away there,” he said. “Yeah, we could have done some positive stuff. We were backed against some odds there. We felt our better chance was to go into overtime.”
It wasn’t easy, but Rettig agreed. This was one of his more frustrating starts of the season. He was sacked seven times and missed on his first five pass attempts. The Hokies never-ending blitzes forced him to either throw the ball away, overthrow his target, or eat grass.
But there was a part of him that wanted to roll the dice.
“Every competitor wants the ball,” Rettig said. “But it’s a good decision. It’s a smart decision to play for overtime.”
All the Eagles had to do was get close enough to give kicker Nate Freese a chance. He had made three kicks already.
“It’s out of my hands,” Freese said. “If they put me in certain situations I just have to answer those. I can’t put myself in any certain situations.”
Freese never got a chance in overtime, either.
Virginia Tech had first possession and quarterback Logan Thomas found tight end Randall Dunn in the back of the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown that would ultimately drop the Eagles to 2-9 overall and 1-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. BC failed to get a first down on its possession, losing yards when Rettig was sacked by Corey Marshall and Derrick Hopkins.
The loss left an already frustrated senior class with a sour taste.
“It doesn’t get much worse than being the last home game,” said Clancy, who had 20 tackles one week after sustaining a concussion against Notre Dame. “To fight that hard until the very end only to come up short. It hurts. We prepare the same for every game but I really wanted this one bad. I just wanted to end on a good note and walk away from my last game at BC with a victory.”
Rettig went 13 of 30 for 129 yards, never finding a rhythm. His saving grace was Rolandan “Deuce” Finch, who spent six weeks in Spaziani’s doghouse because of fumbling problems and off-field issues. He had the second-biggest rushing day of his career, gaining 138 yards on 26 carries. When he left in the fourth quarter with a tweaked hamstring, freshman David Dudeck came in and ran for a 12-yard score that put the Eagles up, 23-20, with 4:11 left.
Although he led the Eagles in rushing a year ago, it was just the second 100-yard game of Finch’s career, behind a 243-yard outburst against Maryland last season.
The Hokies quickly got into range for the tying field goal. Starting from his own 15, Thomas hit Marcus Davis for gains of 12 and 33 yards, crossing into BC territory. Virginia Tech converted a third-and-1 from the BC 28, and Cody Journell booted a 41-yard field goal to force overtime.
The impact of the decision to play for overtime was symbolic. All season, the Eagles have been fooled by the same illusion, that no matter how close they seem to a win, they’re still painfully far from it.
This time, though, they took fate in their own hands.
“Every loss is tough,” Rettig said. “We were in a position to win the football game.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org