The Boston College football team has played two road games this season, both in tough environments, and have come up empty.
When the Eagles play Saturday after a week off to recuperate from a 24-14 setback at No. 3 Clemson Oct. 12, they will be in Chapel Hill, N.C., where they have not won in three visits to North Carolina’s Kenan Stadium.
Winning their first road game of the season is “a big emphasis for us right now,’’ said Eagles coach Steve Addazio, whose team fell at Southern Cal Sept. 14, 35-7, and at Clemson, extending its road losing streak to eight games. “We need to go do that. It’s part of having a good season. It’s the ability to go on the road, play well, and be able to win a game.’’
The last time the Eagles (3-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) walked off an opponent’s field in victory was Nov. 25, 2011, a 24-17 triumph at Miami in the regular-season finale of a 4-8 campaign. Since then, BC has gone 0 for 8, losing all six away contests in 2012.
During their road skid, a stretch in which BC has been outscored, 258-113, the Eagles have stumbled five times against ACC opponents, absorbing their worst loss in a 51-7 drubbing by No. 12 Florida State Oct. 13, 2012. They’ve fallen to nonconference opponents, Northwestern, Army, and Southern Cal.
“You got to win all your games, so if it’s on the road then it’s on the road,’’ said senior quarterback Chase Rettig. “You’ve just got to win and do everything you can to start the second half of the season off right.’’
BC hopes to do that Saturday.
“That’s certainly what we’re focusing on and calling attention to,’’ Addazio said. “What goes into [winning on the road] is being able to execute at a high level and guys doing their job — those things all go into that. Keeping your focus, doing your job, and sustaining play with great energy and winning on the road.’’
In their first trip of the 2013 campaign, the Eagles winged their way across the country to Los Angeles to play the Trojans in the famed LA Memorial Coliseum. As part of his team’s preparation, Addazio had USC’s iconic “Fight On!’’ piped in over loudspeakers during practice sessions.
“When you go on the road, you’re fighting the crowd, so the crowd noise is an element,’’ Addazio said Wednesday during the ACC coaches’ teleconference. “The stadiums can affect your communication. You don’t get the momentum shifts sometimes when your home crowd is behind you and they create that great positive environment for you and stress the opposing teams with their noise and their enthusiasm.’’
Against Clemson, the Eagles found out first-hand what it is like to be caught in a vortex of sound when they visited Death Valley and were subjected to a din from the crowd of 77,506. In control of a 14-10 lead, and starting a critical third-quarter series from their 7 with 4:54 to go, the Eagles marched to the 26 after Andre Williams runs of 17 and 2 yards.
But BC wound up backpedaling to its 9 when the crowd dialed up the noise, resulting in a pair of 5-yard false start penalties. With BC facing third and 18 from its 11, the noise grew even louder before the Tigers dropped Williams for a 2-yard loss, forcing a punt.
“I don’t think there’s any question we prepared really hard for Clemson,’’ Addazio said. “We were losing track of the clock and we had to use some timeouts that we certainly wish we didn’t have to use, but it’s all experience. We’re back at it and we’re utilizing that crowd noise at a very, very high decibel level right now.’’
Anticipating the same situation in North Carolina, Addazio had crowd noise piped in over Alumni Stadium’s loudspeakers in practice this week.
“What I like about it is that we get into these team periods [during practice] and the coaches can’t monopolize them,’’ Addazio said. “The players have got to kind of create their own energy in the huddle and everyone’s got to be accountable for knowing what they’re doing, because people can’t stand behind them and correct them as things are going on.
“So it really forces a guy to play within himself, almost on an island out there, and you kind of get a sense of who knows how to get it done. So I like that piece of it, and, of course, you’ve got to prepare for that environment so that when you hit on Saturday, it doesn’t faze you.’’
Addazio knows that being able to handle adverse conditions, and players playing outside their comfort zones, are all part of learning what it takes to win on the road.
“It takes great maturity, senior leadership. You have to have that maturity,’’ Addazio said. “You’ve got to play great defense so that you don’t get yourself out of a game early. You’ve got to stay in that game so you give yourself a chance to fight throughout the game.”