Before the Boston College football team could even begin to regroup and look ahead to its first road trip of the season this Saturday at Rutgers, the team had to stare down the film of its disastrous 48-24 loss to Kansas last week, take an inventory of all the breakdowns, and try to pinpoint possible fixes.
Running back A.J. Dillon said he would look at the film the same night as the loss. Quarterback Anthony Brown said he didn’t need the film to know all the throws he missed, but he would watch, anyway. Captain and defensive lineman Tanner Karafa planned to pore over the game tape the morning after the loss.
The only way the Eagles could turn the page after a loss that sucked the optimism out of the start to their season was to take a true inventory of what went wrong.
“The response of our team, I mean, phenomenal,” said Boston College coach Steve Addazio. “Not good, phenomenal. From that night in the locker room to the next day to yesterday, if there’s such a way that you want to see a team after a devastating loss like that, I mean, we saw that with our team. They handled that, at least from that standpoint.
“They’re competitors. They love ball. They love each other. They’re not happy. None of us are happy, and we’re going about the business of fixing it. That’s just plain and simple where that is.”
BC’s roadmap to a sixth bowl game in seven years started with a slate of winnable games, mostly at home, that the Eagles had to take advantage of. Ideally, a 4-1 start would give them plenty of cushion before they face a treacherous late-season stretch with games at Clemson, Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Pitt. Now the Eagles have to travel to Rutgers, then brace for a battle with a high-powered Wake Forest team at Alumni Stadium next week, before hitting the road again in October to face Louisville.
“There’s a whole lot of football to be played,” Addazio said. “That was Game 3 of the season. You’re in this for the long haul.”
The Kansas loss crystalized some question marks the Eagles had coming into the season that were minimized after their first two wins. First, their inexperienced defense will have to grow up quickly or it could cost the Eagles more games.
“We have a bunch of young guys on defense right now,” Addazio said. “We know that. It’s exciting to get to develop and mold those guys and to continue to grow. Sometimes there are peaks and valleys along the way. Without a doubt, there was a valley there on Friday night. With guys like that, you’re also excited about making the corrections you need to make, because we’ve seen the tale of two stories here.
“You saw opening week, where I thought we played at a very high level on that side and made a bunch of plays, and I thought you saw in week 3 we struggled a little bit and had some misfits and some real tackling issues that didn’t — you would think they’d show up in week 1, but they didn’t. We tackled pretty well in Week 1.”
Second, the leaders on offense have to be counted on to be consistent. Anthony Brown took a long look in the mirror after completing just 18 of 36 passes, missing the mark in critical moments on stalled-out second-half drives that could’ve kept the Eagles in striking distance.
“I think Anthony would probably tell you he’d like a few throws back, but I’m telling you as the head coach he made some incredible throws,” Addazio said. “So I guess we’re talking about consistency in the throw game. I think that’s fair enough. I think that would have addressed our couple three and outs in the second half.”
Addazio will also have to evaluate his strategy for using Dillon when the Eagles fall behind. The Eagles have more confidence in their passing game this season, but they found themselves at such a large deficit in the second half against Kansas that they went largely went away from the run altogether. Dillon earned ACC running back of the week honors after racking up 151 yards on 27 carries, but he had his number called just five times in the second half.
“You know I’m not bashful about wanting to run the football, but I think within that you’re still trying to get enough touches in there to keep the run game alive because, really, that’s our strength,” Addazio said. “Are you utilizing the screens and the draws and the different things where you’re a little bit more off of a pass kind of opportunity? Those are the scenarios that you continue to talk about and where you want to go.
“But at the end of the day, you got to get more at-bats. If you don’t get enough at-bats, there’s only so many ways you can — you know, you run three plays and you run three plays, that’s only six plays. You’ve got to get some more at-bats.”
At this point, the Eagles have already absorbed the sting. Now they have to respond.
“I just think that it’s a process, and we’re in the middle of that process,” Addazio said. “There’s going to be some ups, and there’s going to be some downs, and we’ve got to manage it and continue to get better. The whole idea is to correct your mistakes and continue to grow and develop. Nothing is as good as it seems. Nothing is as bad as it seems. Somewhere in the middle, reality falls.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.