Through three games of the 2013 football season, Boston College’s offense has averaged 303.7 yards, which ranks 114th out of 123 teams in the nation. The Eagles are slightly higher at 66th in total defense, allowing 387 yards per game.
But BC coach Steve Addazio can take some pride because his team leads one statistical category: the least penalized team in the nation.
BC has been penalized five times for 45 yards and rank as the NCAA leader in fewest penalties per game (1.67) and fewest penalty yards per game (15.00). Tennessee (2.25) is second in fewest penalties per game, and Navy has the second-fewest penalty yards per game (20.00).
It seems to underscore the importance Addazio places on fundamentals and disciplined team play in his first season at BC.
“Our goal coming in here was to do the things that we could control,’’ Addazio said. “You don’t want to be a highly-penalized team, you don’t want to be a big mistake team, you want to be a well-conditioned team. You want to control those things that are within your control.’’
When facing superior opposition, as BC will do Saturday hosting eighth-ranked Florida State at Alumni Stadium, it is imperative to play mistake-free football and avoid self-inflicted errors.
“Fundamentally, it starts with not creating penalties, not turning the ball over,’’ said Addazio, whose team has committed only two turnovers this season (one fumble and one interception). “We’ve got an emphasis on ball security, we’ve got an emphasis on trying to strip the ball on defense.’’
To address the importance of disciplined play, Addazio said officials supervised the team’s scrimmages during preseason camp to help the players familiarize themselves with the rules and some of the changes enacted this season.
“We constantly had officials in a lot during preseason camp to make sure that hands were inside the perimeter,’’ Addazio said. “And so when you try to come in and build a program, you try to start with those important things first, building those things, building toughness, and then, of course, your recruiting because you’re always trying to bring in more playmakers.
“But there’s been a conscious effort to try and control things of that nature.’’
In BC’s first setback of the season, a 35-7 loss at Southern Cal Sept. 14, the Eagles were called for a holding penalty, but it was declined.
USC was hit with 10 penalties for 100 yards. The Trojans were flagged for three holding calls, three personal fouls, a pair of offside calls, one illegal block, and another for having 12 men on the field.
BC’s other transgression was a 5-yard offside penalty.
“I don’t have a problem with aggressive penalties,’’ Addazio said. “So, if we get a penalty because a guy is blocking down the field or we get a penalty from a guy flying to the ball, I just don’t get upset about those things. Those kinds of aggressive penalties are fine.
“But to be offside when you’re on offense, or defense when you’re on the ball, holding penalties and personal foul penalties, those things, I don’t see that,’’ he added. “We work hard and talk a lot about that. For a team like us, in our infancy right now, we can ill afford to hurt ourselves.’’
Especially against a team such as the Seminoles, who can turn mistakes into points in a hurry.
BC, however, was unable to capitalize on USC’s miscues.
“That’s the thing that we’ve got to do a much better job at,’’ Addazio said. “When you have those kind of penalties and it puts them in third-and-long situations, then we’ve got to get off the field and capitalize on it.
“And by capitalize, sometimes penalties can help you with field position,’’ he added. “Right now we’ve got to be able to play a field-position game. It’s one of those things I don’t think people look at enough, because field position is critical to winning a college football game, especially depending on the style of team that you are.
“So we’ve got to complement each other and that’s critically important no matter whether you’re talking on offense or if you’re talking on defense. It’s so important to your overall philosophy.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.