Some of things that led to a six-week benching for Boston College running back Rolandan “Deuce” Finch were within his control.
He had fumbled, a cardinal sin for any running back but a common Achilles’ heel at the start of the season for almost everyone in the Eagles backfield.
He also had off-field issues that coach Frank Spaziani had to consider.
But when he fumbled on a crucial drive against Northwestern Sept. 15, Spaziani made the decision to drop him from the depth chart.
The road back for Finch was long. He landed on the scout team at one point, a dramatic fall for the Eagles’ leading rusher a year ago.
The dialogue between Finch and Spaziani was short.
“He just told me to work hard,” Finch said.
It didn’t seem like Finch would make it back on the depth chart until a week ago, when an abdominal injury sidelined feature back Andre Williams and Spaziani was essentially down to just one back, freshman David Dudeck.
He turned to Finch.
“There was nothing I could really do besides keep going out and practicing hard,” Finch said. “The decision went from there. I just tried to keep my attitude right, tried to come out and practice hard, play hard and show that I wanted to be out there.”
After running for 40 yards on seven carries last week against Notre Dame, Finch broke out Saturday for 138 yards on 26 carries in the Eagles’ 30-23 overtime loss to Virginia Tech, grateful just to get a chance to be the primary ballcarrier again.
“I’m just happy to be back playing,” Finch said. “I’m just happy to be out there with my teammates. I worked my way back.”
Finch made the Hokies pay for blitzing incessantly with cutback runs, the longest of which was a 38-yard burst. He left in the fourth quarter with a tweaked hamstring, but Dudeck ran for a 12-yard touchdown that temporarily put the Eagles ahead, 23-20.
“I wanted to be out there,” Finch said, “but me having a little nick, I didn’t want to hurt the team by playing through injury.”
For the fourth straight week, the Eagles’ offensive line struggled to protect Chase Rettig, who was sacked seven times. Rettig knew going in that the Hokies would bring more pressure than any team he had seen this season. Linebackers Bruce Taylor and Alonzo Tweedy seemed to take turns getting in licks on the junior quarterback.
“We knew they were a big blitzing team,” said Rettig. “Sometimes we were able to pick it up. Sometimes we weren’t.”
Rettig completed a season-low 43 percent of his passes (13 of 30), and his 129 yards were his second fewest all year.
“We didn’t help him very much on offense,” Spaziani said. “He scrambled a lot, made some nice plays, but too much pressure on him. Kudos to him, he did a good job, but we’ve got to be better than that.”
One of the unsung heroes among the Eagles’ 15 seniors is defensive lineman Bryan Murray, who cracked the starting lineup four weeks ago against Maryland and emerged as a leader for a group that was overhauled this season because of injuries.
“He gets us going every practice, every play,” Kasim Edbali said. “It hurts a lot because it was his last home game. We had his back and wanted to send him out with a win. The last couple weeks, he really took over the D-line, and we just follow what he does.”
Alex Amidon caught his seventh touchdown pass of the season on a deceptive play in the second quarter. He lined up in the backfield and slipped out to the right for the 2-yard score.
“When we got out of the huddle, he’s actually squatting behind me so the defender can’t see him,” Rettig said. “Guys are moving around on defense, we snap the ball fast, then you have him hidden behind the line.
“We did it earlier in the year against Florida State and the ball got batted down. But we had the same look, a wide-open guy. It’s a good play and it worked out for us.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org