The bells of Gasson Hall will chime in the start of the 2013 Boston College football season that has a heightened sense of hope and anticipation after last season’s dismal 2-10 campaign. The Eagles will attempt to answer the bell Saturday in the season opener against Villanova at Alumni Stadium in head coach Steve Addazio’s debut at BC.
“I’m really excited for the kids to go out there,’’ said Addazio, who is BC’s 35th head coach. “Your hope is that you receive validation from the work that you’ve put forward. I feel like this is a group of guys who needs to feel validation from that. We all do, right?
“You hope that’s the case.’’
Addazio has set modest goals: “Win the opener and get bowl eligible,’’ he said.
Addazio has instituted a number of changes in the program aimed at recapturing the lost culture of a program that had made 12 straight bowl appearances. Over the last two seasons, under coach Frank Spaziani, BC lost 18 games.
Addazio hopes the transformation will begin Saturday morning with the Eagle Walk, a tradition he tweaked this season.
The team will attend a pregame Mass followed by chiming bells to signal the start of the season. The team will walk through O’Neill Plaza and down the Higgins staircase, where it will be greeted and escorted by BC’s marching band and cheerleaders.
“I think the fear, as a head coach, is wondering how we are going to play from an execution standpoint,’’ said Addazio, who was 2-0 in his openers at Temple, both victories against Villanova by a combined total of 83-17.
“Opening day you have to take care of the football and you can’t let up big plays,’’ Addazio said. “That’s what opening day is. The team that plays the hardest and the cleanest is going to have the best opportunity to win.’’
The Eagles will contend with a veteran Villanova team that returns 16 starters from last year’s 8-4 squad and is a preseason pick to win the Colonial Athletic Association.
“We are playing with one of our better teams,’’ said Villanova coach Andy Talley, whose team ranked fifth in the Sports Network Top 25 preseason poll and ninth in the FCS Coaches Top 25 preseason poll. “Two years ago, we played Temple and they were a pretty loaded football team and we were starting 10 freshmen players and so that’s not a good time to be playing a 1A team.
“When we have beaten Temple and Rutgers, those were games when we had some of our better teams and were able to hang in there with veteran players,’’ Talley said. “Our kids have been to the playoffs and understand what’s necessary. We’re not playing with a lot of young kids in this game, so these are pretty battle-tested players.’’
The Eagles have not won an opener since 2010, when they topped Weber State, 38-20.
“A lot of things happen on opening day. You try to account for every situation, but no matter how you do it, opening day is opening day,’’ Addazio said. “The lights are on and you’re trying to find a groove. We talked about it out here after practice; my expectation is to go win the football game, to play really fast, to play really physical, and go win the game.’’
Addazio said style points were of no importance to him. It was only the end result that mattered.
“It’s not about anything except finding a way to win a really tough game against a really tough opponent,’’ Addazio said. “I think what happens sometimes is that you’ve got a lot of things you’ve got to be careful of on opening day, one of which is you set some expectation and all of a sudden it’s sloppy and the ball is on the ground and something happens and you’re in a dogfight.
“It’s all about your mind-set and it’s always about your preparation, because things are going to happen — they always do: penalties, turnovers, missed assignments, things that lead to poor execution.
“So you’ve got to scrap and you’ve got to be tough and you’ve got to be resilient and you’ve got to find a way to win.’’
And if they do, the Eagles will get to sing the school’s fight song in the locker room — another change under Addazio.
“They say momentum is a cruel mistress,’’ said BC senior quarterback Chase Rettig. “Momentum has played a huge role in the last two years, and we haven’t been able to win the opener. Good teams can get over that. So we just got to do everything we can to win the opener. It’s just tough when you lose the opener. We just want to do everything we can to win and hopefully that gets the ball rolling.’’
What remains to be seen is whether the Eagles are prepared to answer the bell.
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.