RALEIGH, N.C. — It was more than a matter of playing out the string on a frayed season.
When time finally wound down on Boston College’s 27-10 loss to North Carolina State on Saturday, and mercifully on a 2-10 season that was one of the worst in school history, all that was left were the people who were in the locker room when it started.
“That’s our family, right?” coach Frank Spaziani said.
They could only look at each other.
Chase Rettig, whose modest 123 yards passing put him over 3,000 for the season, looked over at his left tackle and bodyguard, Emmett Cleary, knowing it was the last game for the fifth-year senior.
All he could do was go over and say, “Thanks for keeping me safe out there.”
Spaziani kept his words private. He will meet soon with athletic director Brad Bates to evaluate the program.
But as everyone processed the Eagles’ second straight losing season, it wasn’t about Spaziani making a public plea for another season.
“I wouldn’t be stating it right now for public laundry,” he said. “I do have a case.”
The looming uncertainty of the offseason, the coaching situation, and the possibility of change were irrelevant.
The emotions that had to be pent up loss after loss finally had to be sorted through.
“Frustrating, disappointing, just a lot of negative things to sum up this season,” said linebacker Nick Clancy, who came back for a fifth year with no guarantee that he’d actually play, and became one of the nation’s leading tacklers. “I wish we could go back and figure out what we did we need to do to win those games.”
Pointing to the numbers that haunted the Eagles all season — and Saturday, those numbers were 3 of 15 on third down, three turnovers, four costly penalties — was pointless.
The toll that the season took on them was obvious.
“There’s a million different, I wouldn’t say negative feelings, but we had a lot of hope this season at times,” Rettig said. “We had opportunities and we didn’t take advantage of them. However you want to write that, that’s how we feel.”
Only one team in BC history lost more games than this year’s team — the 1978 team that went 0-11. The lows had been recounted again and again. The last-minute punch to the heart at Army that seemed to leave them airless. The one win over a Bowl Subdivision team.
Once it was done, they were left to think about what malfunctioned and what needs to get better, and the echoing sentiment wasn’t anything on the field — or even on the sideline — it was accountability off of it.
“We’re going to turn it around, that’s the message,” receiver Alex Amidon said. “It’s on the player, it’s on me. I take a lot of responsibility for a lot of what happened this year. Not being a leader, not stepping up and holding people accountable, and the kids coming back next year, we’re going to change it. We’re all going to change it.
“The one thing we can take from it is it’s going to leave such a bitter taste in our mouths for this offseason that we’re not going to get complacent. We’re not going to let people slack off. We need to step up as leaders.”
Clancy’s regret was the same.
“I would have been a lot more vocal in terms of pulling guys aside and letting them know the right way of doing things,” Clancy said. “I think that was something we missed this year in terms of leadership, is guys not calling other guys out. That’s just how it is on a team. You can’t be afraid to call somebody out when he’s not doing something right.
“Then on the other side, the guys getting called out should be man enough to know that what he’s doing is wrong and he needs to change it for the betterment of the team.”
This was the last huddle of a lost season, but players will keep talking, keep thinking, keeping trying to figure out ways to fix it even if they couldn’t do it this year.
Clancy said he will reach out to the players coming back and tell them what they already know — that the need for leadership among players above all else is an urgent one.
“The message from me is going to be you just need to go out there and you need to lead by example and you need to do what’s right,” Clancy said. “You can’t be afraid to call anybody out because that’s just the way it is. Iron sharpens iron, and if you say you want to be the best, you have to perform like you’re the best. You can’t just B.S. people, you’ve got to be about it. You can’t just talk about it.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org