Spaziani's focus is on Bible study
The going-away party for Tom O'Brien had just finished, with a small circle of O'Brien's friends and colleagues at Boston College. Lots of laughs, mixed with tears, that a 10-year stay was coming to an end.
It was time to move on. Walking out of the restaurant into the parking lot last December, Frank Spaziani and Dana Bible, O'Brien's defensive and offensive coordinators, were saying their goodbyes. They had worked on O'Brien's staff for eight seasons, sharing triumphs and defeats. Now they were separating. Bible was joining O'Brien at North Carolina State, Spaziani was staying at BC under new coach Jeff Jagodzinski.
But Spaziani and Bible will both be on the sidelines again at Alumni Stadium tomorrow as North Carolina State takes on BC in an Atlantic Coast Conference game that will have a special feel, one filled with the tension of competition, and also emotionally charged because it's a homecoming.
O'Brien likened it to a chess match of offensive moves vs. defensive moves, both Bible and Spaziani searching for an edge.
"It's going to be like a spring game," said Spaziani, "only this time we'll really keep score."
When he heard Spaziani's description, Bible laughed. "As usual, Spaz has it right," said Bible by telephone yesterday from Raleigh, N.C., where he was working on finding holes in the BC defensive front.
The major story line is of O'Brien returning to BC and his team going up against the players he recruited and coached. But as Jagodzinski has said, O'Brien will not be suiting up for the game.
Therefore, the matchup between Spaziani's defense and Bible's offense is more intriguing.
"You can study all the game plans you want," said Spaziani, "but it's knowing personalities, knowing what's in their heads, how they perform, that could be an edge."
Using that criteria, the edge belongs to Bible. "They know our personnel, they know our strengths and weaknesses," conceded Eagles linebacker Mark Herzlich. "That could be an edge. We simply have to perform better to overcome it."
BC has more talent, offensively and defensively. But that wasn't enough when N.C. State came back for a 17-15 victory in the last minute last year in Raleigh, a loss the Eagles say was their most painful of the season and is their primary motivation tomorrow.
It is more than that, of course. "The human element comes into play," said Bible, who has known O'Brien since they were children. "From a personal standpoint, it's going to be strange when we get off the plane. I'll say to myself, 'I know this neighborhood.' And when we get to school, there will be a rush of emotions. Positive emotions. Which is as it should be. I had eight great years there in a city and a school that I like and with people that I like. It was a great place to live and raise a family. I have really strong feelings about Boston College."
But Bible knows the reality of the business. "In the coaching profession, you can't get too attached," said the man who has been coaching for 31 years and has had stops at Stanford, Cincinnati, Miami, and San Diego State in college, and with the Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals in the pros. "There is always a fine and balanced line."
The line will become clearer tomorrow afternoon. Bible and Spaziani know how the other thinks. "He's a very good football coach," said Spaziani. "I have a lot of respect for what he has done. We know what kind of talent they have down there."
"It's a veteran defense, coached really well," said Bible. "We're going to take advantage of anything we can. Scheme-wise, both of us really know each other very well."
Bible has the edge because he knows the BC players better than Spaziani knows the N.C. State players. But BC could have an edge on offense, because offensive coordinator Steve Logan is an unknown factor to the N.C. State staff, with a proven quarterback in Matt Ryan.
"We'll come up there, play the game, and then meet some people and then we will go our separate ways again," said Bible.
Just the way it was in December.