Initially, when he felt someone grab the back of his jersey, pull him down along the sideline and fall on his left heel, Deuce Finch never heard anything in his ankle pop so he never thought anything of it. He just finished out the Eagles's scrimmage.
Then, he couldn't run. Then, he couldn't put pressure on it. Then, it bothered him to the point that he couldn't practice. And that's when it started to worry him.
“I thought I had broke a bone in my foot or something,” he said.
Ultimately, X-rays came back negative, but a sprained left foot kept him out of practice for 10 days, and even though he had improved enough to dress for the Eagle's season opener against Miami last week, he was never called on to carry the ball.
This week, the Eagles's top rusher from last season will be healthy, joining the running back tandem of Andre Williams and Tahj Kimble, but how much he'll add to a running game that accounted for 96 of BC's 537 yards of total offense remains to be seen.
“He's 100 percent,” said coach Frank Spaziani. “He finished up last week 100 percent. He's probably out of shape a little bit and he was certainly rusty, just by definition, not being out there and easing his way into. And with his issues with the ball and stuff, we just made a decision to put him on as the third guy.”
As explosive as the Eagles's offense was, Spaziani was disappointed with the ground game, which averaged 2.8 yards on 34 attempts. Williams scored the Eagles's first touchdown of the season, but carrying 18 times for 54 yards, he struggled to turn the corner and rip of a long run (his longest rush was 11 yards).
“Offensively, we take pride in if in bad conditions -- we aren't hitting passes or whatever -- we can just put it on our shoulders, take the air out of the ball and we'll march down the field,” said captain and left tackle Emmett Cleary. “We were splitting some runs, but it wasn't at the consistent level that we need to be.”
The other concern looming of the running backs is ball protection. Williams and Kimble both lost fumbles at crucial points in the second half. Last season, the Eagles fumbled 14 times and lost 10 of them.
Spaziani said it's clearly a concern.
“You fumble for two reasons,” Spaziani said. “You're either afraid or you're not concentrating.”
In practice and preseason before he was injured, Finch carefully cradled the ball. Spaziani said he had the backs spend a lot of time working on handoffs, making sure they were holding the ball correctly, and even having defenders punch the ball out.
Also, botched snap in the red zone killed what could have been a touchdown drive, and the Eagles had to settle for a field goal. Spaziani said there had been a problem with clean snaps early in the preseason.
“That's just carelessness,” Spaziani said. “There's no reason for that. You get caught up in a situation and you lose your concentration. It's a point of emphasis. There's not much more you can do besides make a point of emphasis out of it, which we do anyway.”
Vomiting on the sideline with what was determined to be bruised lungs after a collision in last week's loss, sophomore free safety Spenser Rositano is doubtful for this weekend. So is his backup Josh Keyes who suffered a concussion.
Their likely absences mean sophomore cornerback Sean Sylvia will move to free safety and redshirt frosh Ameer Richardson slide to the cornerback slot, and the young defensive backs will have to do some learning on the job.
“You can't teach experience,” Spaziani said. “Prepping them and making sure you're not making them think back there. You can't be vanilla but you've got to watch how many flavors you use. If they've got the right makeup they can do it.”
It also means more responsibility will fall on the shoulders of senior strong safety Jim Noel, who's in charge of the calls in the secondary.
“Jimmy, he's accepted his captain's responsibility back there,” Spaziani said.
DOING THE HONORS
This year's Varsity Club Hall of Fame inductees Mark Chmura and Mike Mamula will be honored at a dinner ceremony at Conte Forum Friday night and recognized at halftime of Saturday's game. Chmura won a Super Bowl in 1997 with the Packers. Mamula, who holds BC's record for career sacks (24), played three seasons with the Eagles … Opening their season on the road at the Heights, the Black Bears will be playing the 1,000th game in their program's history, the first time they've started their year with an FBS team since 2008 when they played Iowa.
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell