For the second time in three years, Boston College quarterback Anthony Brown will have his season cut short by a knee injury.
Brown will undergo surgery this week to repair the left knee injury he sustained two weeks ago against Louisville. Brown collapsed without contact at the end of a 14-yard run in the first half of that 41-39 loss. The procedure will force Brown to miss the rest of the season.
As a redshirt freshman late in the 2017 season, Brown tore the ACL of his right knee in a 17-14 loss to North Carolina State at Alumni Stadium. He bounced back in 2018, throwing for 2,121 yards and 20 touchdowns, and he came into this season ready to embrace a role as the leader of the offense.
“It’s a tough deal, but he’s a tough guy and he’ll bounce back, and we’re going to love him and support him, but his season has come to an end,” said BC coach Steve Addazio.
With BC on a bye last week, Brown met with doctors and went through a series of tests.
“It was very clear cut what needed to be done,” Addazio said.
With Brown out, redshirt sophomore Dennis Grosel will assume the starting job as the Eagles prepare to face North Carolina State Saturday at Alumni Stadium.
The Eagles have had to withstand injuries at quarterback throughout Addazio’s tenure. In his seven seasons at The Heights, nine players have started at quarterback, including 2015 when a rash of injuries forced Addazio to empty out the depth chart and use four players under center.
“Quite honestly, I’m proud of the fact that having to weather all of those things — one year we had a non-bowl-eligible team, we had no linemen, no running back, no quarterback — but every other year, we have weathered all of those injuries and continued to move this program forward,” said Addazio, “which I think is something we can all be proud of.
“I can’t control injuries. There’s nothing I can do about that. You roll. And that’s exactly what we’ve done. The better recruited you are, the more developed your program is, the more you can absorb that.”
Brown saw this season as a chance to make the leap into the top tier for ACC quarterbacks. In six games, he threw for 1,250 yards on 59.1 percent passing, with nine touchdowns and just two interceptions. He was beginning to regain the confidence he showed as a freshman in his running ability, getting out of the pocket and rushing for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
Addazio’s penchant for “special plays” put Brown in situations where he was also an option as a receiver. He caught one touchdown pass in each of his three seasons.
Eagles star running back AJ Dillon said Brown was in good spirits despite the setback.
“I have a very good relationship with AB, and obviously it’s a very tough situation for him, him being a quarterback and a leader on the team,” said Dillon. “But he’s handled it tremendously.
“From the time that I talked to him, he’s had a positive spin on it, a smile on his face. I guess that’s really all you can do. He’s been doing everything that he can.”
Brown’s injury gave Eagles receiver Kobay White a strange sense of deja vu, taking him back to the play against North Carolina State that ended Brown’s season two years ago.
“He went down, and you just hate to see it, honestly,” White said.
“When it happened, you kind of knew it was bad already.
“He became a different type of leader this year,” White said. “So when he got injured, you could tell that his support for the team and just his joy to see the way the offense was still flowing even when he was down, out there on crutches, it might not seem like a lot but that gives everyone a lot of confidence.”
When Brown left the game against Louisville, the Eagles called on Grosel, a walk-on out of St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, who completed 9 of 24 passes for 111 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.
He will make his first career start against a North Carolina State defense that’s allowing 249.4 passing yards per game, fourth-most in the ACC.
“My mind-set [against Louisville] was just simplify it and make it easy for me,” Grosel said. “Now that I have time to think about it and get my mind right, instead of just hopping in there and playing, just really fine-tuning everything, whether it’s mechanical or whether it’s schematics with the offense.”
The Eagles will have to adjust on the fly at a crucial juncture in their season. They’ve lost five of their last six games against conference opponents going back to last season, they play two of their next four games on the road, and all four opponents are teams they lost to a year ago.
Grosel will have to adapt quickly, but Addazio said the Eagles (3-3, 1-2 ACC) will stay the same system.
“We’re running what we run,” said the coach. “We’re rocking and rolling. You saw him in full, live color the second half of the game. He played, I thought, really well.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.