Three quarters into their 34-10 loss to Wake Forest, Boston College had sabotaged themselves with four turnovers. And with three costly interceptions, freshman quarterback Anthony Brown was responsible for most of them.
After Brown tried to squeeze in a bad throw to Ben Glines, only to have it hawked by strong safety Jesse Bates III for his third pick, BC coach Steve Addazio decided to put an end to a torturous day.
“It’s just a matter of, you got a young guy where it’s rolling down on him a little bit, you’ve got to give him a breath,” Addazio said. “He got a little flustered and I wanted him to have a breath.”
Brown completed just 11 of 29 passes for 119 yards and a TD.
BC’s veterans tried to envelop him in encouragement.
“They just told me to keep going,” Brown said. “Don’t worry about nothing else, just keep going. Worry about the next play.”
But after leading the Eagles to a win Sept. 2 — as just the second quarterback in school history to start a season opener as a freshman — Brown’s Alumni Stadium debut Saturday was the kind of performance that could poke holes in a young player’s confidence.
The Eagles’ four turnovers were their most since Nov. 7, 2015, when Addazio was forced to start walk-on John Fadule and the quarterback threw three interceptions and lost a fumble.
The Demon Deacons (2-0, 1-0 ACC) turned the giveaways into 17 points.
“We just threw ourselves out of the game,” Addazio said. “We would never have been out of that game had we not turned the ball over. Not in a million years. Wasn’t the way it was going to be. But they were unbelievable momentum killers and we paid the price for it.”
The Eagles’ issues started early.
Late in the first quarter, running back Jon Hilliman took a carry up the middle and was met by Wake free safety Cameron Glenn, who punched the ball loose. Glenn recovered, giving Wake possession at the BC 26.
Wake quickly capitalized, scoring five plays later on a 9-yard pass from John Wolford to Greg Dortch to go up 7-0.
From there, the snowball started.
On BC’s next drive, Brown tried to hit freshman wideout C.J. Lewis over the middle, but Lewis couldn’t hold on to it. Glenn was all over the tip drill, coming up with his second turnover.
The Eagles’ defense managed to force a three-and-out, but on a day when the ground game only mustered 142 yards, BC couldn’t generate any offense.
Meanwhile, Wolford connected on 13 of 19 attempts for 151 yards and a touchdown and rushed 20 times for 92 yards, including a 29-yard burst on a draw play in the second quarter that gave Wake a 14-0 lead.
Feeling their backs against the wall, the Eagles put together an eight-play, 57-yard scoring drive, capped by a 6-yard pass from Brown to Hilliman.
But just when the Eagles thought they had swung some of the momentum their way, they took a gut punch before the half.
On second and 4 with 1:43 left in the half, Brown tried to find Kobay White on a quick in route. His throw was high and behind White, who got his fingertips on it. As the ball helicoptered in the air, Wake cornerback Essang Bassey grabbed it and ran it back for a 30-yard pick-6 that put the Demon Deacons up, 21-7.
“Just better ball placement,” Brown said. “I’ve got to put the ball in a better spot.”
After watching Brown throw another pick in the third, Addazio turned to graduate junior Darius Wade.
“[Brown] looked a little uncomfortable from the get go, and that’s going to happen,” Addazio said. “It didn’t show up last week. It showed up in a little bit of a waterfall. It wasn’t really anything different. It wasn’t because of who we played. It wasn’t like that.”
But going forward, Brown still has the confidence of his coach and teammates.
“It’s college football,” said defensive end Harold Landry. “You’re going to have your bad days, you’re going to have your good days. Today just happened to be a bad day, and he knows that. He knows that we’re behind him. We’ve just got to get back to work — tomorrow.”
. . .
BC will have to go the rest of the season without one of its vital leaders and the anchor of its offensive line. Senior center Jon Baker will be forced to sit with a torn ACL in his right knee.
Baker suffered the injury in BC’s opener last week at Northern Illinois.
“He’s a great kid, he’s got a lot of starts, he’s our captain,” Addazio said. “Pretty important piece to the puzzle, especially when you have a freshman quarterback playing. But that’s life and we’ve got to move on.”
Ultimately Addazio called on 300-pound freshman Ben Petrula, who had never played a college game, let alone played center.Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @julianbenbow.