It was the kind of precision coach Frank Spaziani wanted to see from his team in a season opener that also had the potential to be a statement game. But it didn’t last.
The first drive of Boston College’s 2012 season was a seven-play clinic. Chase Rettig threw it four times. Andre Williams carried it three times. The offense raced 75 yards and scored a touchdown like it had been waiting all offseason to do it.
On their next drive, the Eagles did it again. Nine plays covering 70 yards, capped by a 15-yard hookup between Rettig and little-known linebacker-turned-fullback Jake Sinkovec.
BC had a 14-0 lead, and looked as if it was ready to send a message. Then everything went haywire.
The Eagles saw a drive stall after three plays when senior wideout Colin Larmond dropped a pass along the sideline.
Miami marched 83 yards and scored on its next possession.
The Eagles also paid dearly for Rettig not checking his blind spot when he saw Alex Amidon open on the right side, but didn’t see Miami’s Denzel Perryman in between. Perryman snagged Rettig’s pass and ran it back 41 yards for a touchdown, killing BC’s momentum.
For all the ways the Eagles looked sharp, they found ways to sabotage their success. It added up to a 41-32 loss, putting them in a hole in the Atlantic Coast Conference right out of the gate.
“I thought we played sloppy,” said Spaziani. “Made some mistakes that hurt us.”
How the Eagles went from sharp to sloppy — and eventually to scrappy, driving late to try to pull within a field goal — was difficult to explain.
They came away feeling confident in an offense that put up more yards than in any of its games last season. Rettig threw for a career-high 441. As a whole, BC put up 542. Both Amidon and running back Tahj Kimble submitted 100-yard receiving performances.
But doing it in a loss, when they both gave points away and squandered additional opportunities to score, was deflating.
“We kind of beat ourselves,” Kimble said. “Definitely a winnable game.”
In the week leading up to the opener, when Spaziani would say to expect the unexpected, it was difficult to tell if he was grinning or grimacing.
His team was drastically different from a year ago, but he couldn’t be certain until it took the field if it was for better or worse. He now has signs to go on, both positive and negative.
The negatives, though, were glaring.
After going up, 14-0, BC was outscored, 41-18, its defense overwhelmed by Miami’s pace and explosive freshman running back Duke Johnson, who needed just seven touches to pile up 135 yards and two touchdowns.
Johnson ran for a 54-yard TD in the second quarter and a 56-yarder in the third, not waiting to throw his coming-out party.
In all, Miami compiled 415 total yards, even though the Eagles spent the week preparing for their no-huddle.
“We needed to execute a little bit better,” said BC linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis.
“We were right in spots, we just needed to execute better. We were ready for [the no-huddle]. We were in the right spots. We just need to make those plays.
“The big plays kidded us today. We were unable to stop them a lot on defense.”
More than anything, though, turning the ball over three times in crucial moments was disheartening.
Along with the pick-six, Kimble fumbled after hauling in a 24-yard pass to the Miami 25 early in the fourth quarter, ruining the Eagles’ shot of closing to within a field goal.
Before that, with the Eagles down, 31-23, Williams fumbled at the BC 8, killing a drive before it could get started.
Spaziani didn’t like seeing balls dropped. He didn’t like seeing his running backs cough it up, either. He could accept his quarterback turning it over when he’s throwing the ball 51 times.
But on the whole, this was the kind of game where Spaziani said he’d take the good with the bad.
“There’s some good signs there,” he said. “So we’ve got to build on it and go forward.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.