By no means do the problems that have plagued Boston College’s football team this season go away with one come-from-behind win, coach Frank Spaziani said.
But beating visiting Maryland Saturday, 20-17, gave the Eagles a shot of confidence after they had lost five straight. The tone in the locker room was dramatically different than it was after the most recent defeats, to Army, Florida State, and Georgia Tech, and that is valuable for a 2-6 team trying to make the most of its four remaining games.
“I believe that if the mind’s right the body will follow, and that was very important,” Spaziani said. “We had some spontaneous excitement in the locker room. You start to feel good about yourself and it validates some things that you’re doing and it gives you confidence that you’re doing the right things.”
But they still ran for just 8 yards, fumbled at the goal line, gave up four sacks, failed on 10 straight third-down conversions, let the Terrapins convert on fourth down twice, and settled for field goals on two of their five trips to the red zone.
They were able to win for the first time in more than a month in spite of it all.
“The problems are still there and we need to work our way through them,” Spaziani said. “But we were able to make enough plays in all phases to get the job done.”
The past three weeks, the Eagles have seen three of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s five best defenses. Against Florida State, junior running back Andre Williams ran for 104 yards, accounting for nearly half of the Eagles’ total offense. But the past two weeks he’s spun his wheels, running for 51 yards against Georgia Tech on 11 carries, and 60 against Maryland on 16 carries.
The Eagles again were in several long third-down situations, passing on 10 of their 13 third downs. They handed off to Williams just twice (once on third and 23 from the 10, the other time on a third and 2 from the 35) and came up short. Williams fumbled at the goal line on the second Eagles possession, which cost them the chance to go ahead, 14-0, early, which only compounded the frustration.
“We need to rush the ball better, there’s no question about it,” Spaziani said. “We need to be better, we’re missing some cuts and we’re missing some blocks and we’re dropping the ball at inopportune times.”
On the game-winning 85-yard touchdown drive, the Eagles gained all their yards through the air.
“We had runs available,” Spaziani said. “But we didn’t feel like we wanted to call them at that time.”
The offensive line, Spaziani said, had been without question the team’s most consistent unit this season, but part of the reason the ground game looked so anemic on paper was because Maryland’s four sacks set the Eagles back 43 yards. Part of the problem was protection and part of it, Spaziani said, was missed reads.
“A couple times [QB] Chase [Rettig] didn’t go where we needed him to go, then the pressure was there and he had to get rid of the ball,” Spaziani said. “That’s just the way the game flows.”
Even on the final drive, Rettig took a sack and lost 7 yards, but the Eagles were able to regroup and push down the field.
“They had a couple problems,” Spaziani said. “But they certainly stepped it up in the last four minutes and responded well.”
And as good as it felt to win, Spaziani isn’t fooling himself. The Terrapins were down to fourth-string quarterback Caleb Rowe, who threw two touchdown passes and nearly played well enough to steal a win on the road. Rowe suffered a torn ACL and he’s now out for the season.
The Eagles are at Wake Forest Saturday to face the team directly above them in the Atlantic Division, and for all the struggles the Demon Deacons are having, Spaziani said, they are another challenge.
“To keep it in perspective, that was a freshman that played against us and his first time starting,” Spaziani said. “This is a different animal. There’s going to be some real problems facing us.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org