In a matter of two weeks, the perspective on Boston College’s season shifted from the possibility of watching a sinking ship to the reality of still having a bowl berth within reach.
The Eagles followed up their upset of Louisville two weeks ago with a blowout win over Virginia last Saturday to pull themselves back to .500 (4-4) as they prepare to host Florida State on Friday night.
But even as they’ve found a way to play some of their best football, coach Steve Addazio realizes how fragile their season still is.
“Absolutely,” Addazio said. “For a lot of reasons. One, injuries. Two, you still have young guys playing at critical positions and they can fluctuate, they have to learn how to handle and maintain the intensity of a full football season and a heavy academic load. Those are all things that have yet to completely play out right now.
“But I think we’re playing well right now, I think we’re getting better, I think we have some good momentum, but like anything else, if you don’t stay on top of it and you’re not locked in, things can change on a dime on you. Whereas when you have more depth and a more veteran team, you probably have less risk of that fluctuating on you a little bit.”
On the one hand, the Eagles have watched the young players they were counting on at the start of the season begin to blossom.
AJ Dillon rushed for a career high 272 yards and four touchdowns on 39 carries against Louisville, the third-best rushing game in Eagles history, the most rushing yards by a true freshman in school history, and the second most by a freshman in ACC history. Over the past four games, he’s rushed for 516 yards. He has 694 for the season and has a shot at surpassing BC’s freshman rushing record (920 by Montel Harris in 2008).
“I feel like as the weeks have progressed I’ve started to become more and more confident and that’s just through coaching, through repetition, through game play,” Dillon said. “Obviously, there’s nothing that can really simulate the actual game feel and I feel like that’s something I had to learn.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Brown kept the wave rolling in Virginia, throwing for a career-high 275 yards and three touchdowns on 19-for-24 passing with no interceptions. He became the first BC quarterback to throw for three touchdowns with no picks in a conference game since 2003.
“You can say I’ve been maturing a lot and it shows,” Brown said. “But I’ve been helped with that and guided.”
But on the other hand, a defense that’s long been the team’s backbone has played well despite a slew of injuries.
The defense has been shorthanded since losing linebackers Connor Strachan and Max Richardson. It was dealt another blow against Virginia when All-ACC defensive end Harold Landry suffered an ankle injury. Kevin Bletzer and John Lamot have stepped in with little experience and kept the defense running smoothly.
“Even though there’s not a lot of depth, you know, guys are ready to step in and do what they need to do,” said defensive end Zach Allen. “Everyone prepares like a starter. That’s what we expect. That’s the standard we hold you [to]. Prepare like you’re going in. So we’re not worried if someone goes down.”
The Eagles may have found a groove midseason, but Addazio knows their situation is still delicate.
“You see us at the end of the game, we start getting — we’re tired,” Addazio said of the defense. “We starting missing tackles towards the ends of the games and it’s not hard to see it. It’s fatigue. But we’re paper thin. . . . We’re trying on the run to build the depth.
“But we’re playing such a tough schedule that you don’t get many opportunities to get them in. So I hope we can stay healthy down the end run here right now.”