The first two victories of the season, against a pair of Football Championship Subdivision opponents in Maine and Howard, did not serve as any kind of barometer for the Boston College football team. And Eagles coach Steve Addazio knew it.
His greatest concern entering Friday night’s Atlantic Coast Conference opener against Florida State wasn’t if his team would measure up. It was whether his young and inexperienced squad could stand up to the extreme mental, physical, and emotional strain it would be exposed to against the ninth-ranked Seminoles.
So what did Addazio learn about his Eagles after absorbing a 14-0 setback at Alumni Stadium?
For starters, BC’s top-ranked defense was every bit as advertised — tough, hard-nosed, and marauding — and capable of dishing out as good as it got. The offense, meanwhile, was exposed as a work in progress after it was shut out and held to 195 total yards one week after rolling up 483 yards and 76 points against an overmatched opponent from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
To make matters worse, starting quarterback Darius Wade, BC’s leading rusher (38 yards on 10 carries; 4-of-12 passing, 47 yards, 1 interception), departed the game with 12:02 to go when his left ankle was twisted awkwardly and buckled beneath the ample weight of Florida State’s Nile Lawrence-Stample, a 6-foot-1-inch, 302-pound defensive tackle who pounced on Wade for an 8-yard sack.
It came 18 seconds after Jalen Ramsey scooped up a Jonathan Hilliman fumble at the BC 36 and returned it untouched for a score that enabled the Seminoles to double their 7-0 halftime lead with 12:20 left in the game.
FSU quarterback Everett Golson, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, led the Seminoles (3-0, 1-0 ACC) to their 25th consecutive conference victory by completing 15 of 24 passes for 119 yards. Meanwhile, running back Dalvin Cook, who last week rushed for 266 yards and three touchdowns, was held to 54 yards on 15 carries. The Seminoles were limited to 217 total yards (98 rushing).
The Eagles won the opening coin toss, deferred to Florida State, and were helpless to stop the Seminoles from marching 83 yards in eight plays to take a 7-0 lead on Everett Golson’s 9-yard pass to Travis Rudolph with 10:07 remaining in the first quarter.
Worse yet, BC junior defensive end Kevin Kavalec was knocked out of the game with a head injury he sustained when Golson laid a savage block on him on Dalvin Cook’s 15-yard run for a first down at the BC 42.
It was a sobering start for the Eagles, who needed their offense to give the defense a pick-me-up.
But BC went three-and-out on its first possession.
BC’s defense seemed to dig in its heels on Florida State’s second possession, forcing the Seminoles to punt from their 11 after Golson was hit with a 14-yard intentional grounding call on second down. On third and 24, sophomore defensive end Harold Landry dropped Cook for a 3-yard loss.
It was a moral victory of sorts for the Eagles, who allowed Florida State to gain only 76 yards on its next 22 plays.
After the Eagle offense was unable to advance past the FSU 39, where Darius Wade sailed his third-and-5 flare pass attempt over the head of Myles Willis, BC’s defense forced a three-and-out after holding Golson to a 3-yard gain on a third-and-4 keeper to the FSU 29.
The Eagles gained some traction against Florida State’s smothering defense by driving to midfield, but after taking a 5-yard false-start penalty, Wade turned it over when his deep ball intended for Thad Smith on third and 9 from the BC 49 was picked off by Florida State safety Lamarcus Brutus at the FSU 13.
The turnover, BC’s first of the season, had the net effect of a punt.
A chop-block penalty on the first play of their ensuing series had the Seminoles backpedaling half the distance to the goal. From the 7, Golson pulled a Houdini act in spinning away in the end zone from Connor Wujciak’s bull rush and then sidestepping Landry to escape for a 14-yard gain.
After the Seminoles got to their 30, BC’s defense clamped down and forced FSU to punt. Cason Beatty uncorked a 56-yarder to pin BC at its 16.
Wade ran for 16 yards on the first play. After Wade was dropped for a 6-yard sack, Jonathan Hilliman was stopped for no gain on second and 16, and the Eagles were forced to punt when Wade came up 2 yards shy of the first down after scrambling on third and 16.
BC’s defense, which was clearly being taxed by FSU’s speed, dodged a pair of bullets on the Seminoles’ next series.
First, Cook’s apparent 66-yard TD run was called back after it was ruled he stepped out of bounds at the BC 38.
And when the drive bogged down at the BC 25, FSU’s Roberto Aguayo, the best kicker in college football, missed a 42-yard field goal attempt wide left.
It was the second time in as many meetings that Aguayo had missed his mark. It was the fifth miss in 56 field goal tries for the redshirt junior.
That enabled the Eagles to remain within striking distance at halftime, trailing 7-0.
While the Seminoles kept BC’s offense off the boards in the third quarter, BC’s defense reciprocated by stuffing Florida State. But the Eagles were sunk when Hilliman’s fumble led to Ramsey’s 36-yard recovery for a touchdown that sealed BC’s fate.Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.