Two games into the season, with a disappointing conference loss and a standard-issue win over an FCS school to his team’s credit, Boston College coach Frank Spaziani says he has a better sense of how good his team is as it prepares for its first road game of the season against Northwestern.
Even though it was an opportunity squandered, scoring 32 points in their loss to Miami two weeks ago gave the Eagles reason to be optimistic. Sloppiness killed a couple of early scoring chances in the Eagles’ win over Maine Saturday, but the defense nearly pitched a shutout and Chase Rettig threw for three touchdowns.
“We learned a little bit after the first game,’’ said Spaziani. “We got a little bit of a feel for what we had to do, and how we had to do it. You always revert back to your fundamentals. That’s where you start. Those are the building blocks. It’s about trying to get our guys to do what they do best and execute as needed.
“We learned that we’ve got some potential in a lot of areas. But it’s just that: potential. We need to tap into it and hone in and focus in a little more, be a little more precise in certain areas.’’
The cliché is to take the schedule one game at a time, but the level of difficulty of the next five games (at Northwestern, Clemson, at Army, at Florida State, at Georgia Tech) is impossible for Spaziani to ignore.
“Other people are looking at you on tape, and they see certain things,” Spaziani said. “They’re game-planning a little bit more. We’re going to see a lot of precision from our opponents down the line here, and that will pose some problems.”
The Eagles can help themselves by cleaning up some of their self-inflicted damage over the first two games. Running backs Rolandan Finch, Andre Williams, and Tahj Kimble have combined to cough up four fumbles. Two of them killed drives that appeared headed for scores. Williams’s not only put the brakes on a crucial fourth-quarter march but was 8 yards from the end zone. Finch’s was the result of stopping when he thought a whistle had blown.
The giveaways have undermined an offense that’s gained more than 900 yards in two games.
“We addressed it and keep trying to focus on what we need to do to correct it,” Spaziani said.
After giving up 415 yards against Miami, letting freshman running back Duke Johnson race for 110 on just two touchdown carries alone, the Eagles defense held Maine to 193 yards. The unit was more firm on third down (15 of 18 against Maine, 10 of 21 against Miami) and senior captain Jim Noel and sophomore corner Manny Asprilla hawked down interceptions.
Seeing the way Northwestern came back to knock off Vanderbilt Saturday, a week after stunning Syracuse, Spaziani is putting next week’s game in “another stratosphere.”
“We’re going to see more problems coming down the road here,” Spaziani said. “So we’re going to have to solve that. But I like fundamentally how we’re playing and I think the proof will be in the pudding how we handle some of the stuff.”
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Fullback Jake Sinkovec was on crutches after injuring his right foot Saturday, but X-rays showed no signs of a fracture. His foot was still bothering him Sunday, Spaziani said, and the plan is to evaluate him again and proceed from there.
After catching three passes, including a 15-yard touchdown, in the season opener against Miami Sinkovec was quiet against Maine, leaving with the injury in the third quarter.
An abnormal number of foot injuries have plagued the Eagles since the preseason. Al Louis-Jean and Harris Williams are both wearing boots and walking on crutches and will be out for several weeks. Finch returned Saturday after missing the opener (along with 10 days of practice leading up to it) with a sprained left foot.
“We’ve called around to people who are wearing our shoes, but there doesn’t seem to be a pattern or anything along those lines,” Spaziani said. “Right now, I’m putting it into the coincidence category.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @julianbenbow.