When Boston College’s flight back from Tallahassee landed at 4:30 a.m. Saturday, another embarrassing loss was behind the Eagles, but the chance to salvage their season was still in front of them.
Their 45-7 loss to Florida State was another ugly stain on the season.
But it was a loss the Eagles were expected to take.
So were losses to Louisville (52-7) and Clemson (56-10) at home, and the 49-0 loss to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
Boston College is a program still rebuilding, still searching for an identity — and competing in the Atlantic Coast Conference, where elite teams are leaps and bounds above the competition.
The Eagles’ season always hinged on winning the winnable games.
Their matchup against UConn at Alumni Stadium on Saturday is in that category.
“Obviously, a big game for us,” said Eagles coach Steve Addazio.
Big because, for a team that needs two wins to become bowl eligible, the Eagles can’t afford a loss.
“We’re in a playoff mind-set,” said senior running back Myles Willis. “Right after the game last week, I was like that [stunk], but that’s over. We’ve got to get over it quick. If we win two, we get three. If we lose one, then that’s it.”
The Eagles came into the season with the hopes of doing two things: shaking out from under the black cloud of a winless season in the ACC a year ago, and returning to a bowl game for the third time in four seasons under Addazio.
When they look back, they can see two missed opportunities.
Their season-opening loss to Georgia Tech in September was not only crushing because of the deciding touchdown the Eagles allowed with 35 seconds left, but because it let the ACC losing streak linger longer. At the same time, it was one of the winnable games the Eagles let slip away.
Their loss to Syracuse a month ago was just as much of a setback. It was “anybody’s game,” Addazio said at that time, but the Orange took it.
From that point on, the Eagles were in a situation where they had to win the games they could.
“Our goal the entire season was to play in the postseason,” said quarterback Patrick Towles. “We dropped probably one or two that we shouldn’t have dropped. But we still have an opportunity. We’ve still got two winnable games these next two weeks to go down and get our postseason berth.
“So that’s huge. These next two weeks are huge. But if we don’t win this one, then the last one doesn’t really matter. So we’re putting everything we’ve got into this one. Everything we’re doing this week is to beat UConn.”
The Huskies haven’t won a game since the first week of October. In four straighta losses to South Florida, Central Florida, East Carolina, and Temple, they’ve been outscored, 128-46.
Their strength is in a defense — led by Obi Melifonwu and Folorunso Fatukasi — that’s given up the second fewest rushing yards in the American Athletic Conference.
“They’ve got, I would say, three legitimate NFL players on defense and a couple of really talented guys on offense,” Addazio said. “They’ve got some good players there, had an extra week to prepare, and I think that, without a doubt, those are all important factors.”
Beat the Huskies, and Boston College sets itself up for a season-finale at Wake Forest that will determine its postseason fate.
And, as difficult as this season has been, a bowl berth still matters.
“We know we’re capable of playing at a higher level,” Willis said. “So to make it to a bowl game, that gives us another opportunity to show that all the hard work that we’ve been putting in is not gone in those couple of big, bad losses. It’s defined in what we can do and the effort we’re going to put on the field in the future.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.