As deflating as its loss to Kansas last week might have been, Boston College has been there before.
The building blocks the Eagles put together the first two weeks of the season — opening with a win against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent at home for the first time since 2007, then casually stepping over Richmond of the Football Championship Subdvision — were important but fragile. It was a lesson they could have learned from a year ago, when they started the season 3-0, went to Purdue (ranked for the first time in a decade) favored by 6½ points and lost, 30-13.
The confidence-building process felt like a game of Jenga. One of the buzzwords around the Heights this week, as the Eagles washed off the loss and prepared for their first road game of the season against Rutgers on Saturday, has been “complacency.” Once again, the Eagles had to learn the hard way that the difference between confidence and complacency is razor-thin.
“I just think that our team had the tendency to get complacent and satisfied with two wins and I think a little bit of that went into the Kansas game,” said BC linebacker Max Richardson. “And I’ll speak for myself personally, we did not play to our potential and we’re going to learn from the loss and we’re going to be angry and we’re going to keep trucking along.”
If the Eagles believed they could sleepwalk through their early schedule, getting stung by a Jayhawks team that was on the rebound served as fair warning.
“It’s a wake-up call,” quarterback Anthony Brown said. “It shouldn’t have happened, but it did. Now we have to learn from it and build from it.”
Going in as an 18½-point favorite against Kansas was foreign territory for BC. The Eagles hadn’t been favored by such a margin against a Power 5 school since 2006 (and that was against Duke).
“When we start getting a little too comfortable, we ease up a little bit,” defensive back Brandon Sebastian said. “That’s not what we’re supposed to do. We’re supposed to go against every team and go as hard as you can. We can’t ease up, no matter who the opponent is. You’ve just got to go there with the same mind-set that you have in camp.”
In a perfect world, that mind-set would be consistent, whether the Eagles were favored or underdogs, but that hasn’t been the case.
“I don’t think anybody enjoys being the underdog, but it gives you more humility to understand where you are,” Brown said. “Just us knowing that we have our backs against the walls is a little bit different than us being complacent and we need to learn how to not be complacent when we are up and just learn how to have the fight of an underdog when we are the team that’s not picked to win.
The Eagles can hardly afford to overlook a 1-1 Rutgers team that trucked UMass, 48-21, in their season opener but fell flat against No. 20 Iowa last week, 30-0.
For Brown, the starting point should be attention to detail.
“I just feel like we need to be on the same page, play together and execute,” Brown said.” A lot of plays, we missed [against Kansas] that we had there and just execution was down and we needed it. I just feel like the only people that can really stop us right now is ourselves and last week, we definitely put a stop on our own play.
“We harp on it and it gets redundant, over and over again hearing it, but it’s the truth,” BC coach Steve Addazio said. “We have to pay attention to the details and focus on each rep. Each rep has its own set of things that come at you. And I would say, just me focusing more and playing at a higher level, playing faster would help.”
It took a sobering pratfall vs. Kansas to humble them, but the Eagles will once again go into Rutgers with the same edge they had at the start of the season.
“Just keeping the same energy,” Brown said. “Never switch up because you never know what’s going to happen. Last week was a complete dip in our season. Of course, we have the rest of the season to go, but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. So we’ve just got to learn from it and grow from it.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.