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Signs point to Eagles being at crossroads

Challenges mount early in the season

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / September 10, 2011

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ORLANDO - Is the second game of the season too early for a team to reach a crossroads?

Not if you are Boston College, looking for any sign that the things it worked on throughout training camp are coming together.

Not if you are a BC team that has a mixture of youth and experience, and yes, talent, but still needs leadership to make it work.

And not if you are playing a Central Florida team that doesn’t have the reputation of the Bowl Championship Series or Atlantic Coast Conference teams that make up the majority of BC’s schedule.

Even so, coach Frank Spaziani’s Eagles come into tonight’s game as 7 1/2-point underdogs.

They enter with offensive and defensive lines that are in transition. And although the Eagles produced 479 total yards in their 24-17 loss to Northwestern last week, they squandered numerous red-zone trips.

They also allowed Northwestern to roll up 424 total yards, including 227 rushing, a disheartening number for a team that led the nation last season in rushing defense.

Spaziani sees the potential for trouble tonight. “I see them on offense with a big offensive line, with speed at receiver with quality and skill, big backs, a quarterback who gives everybody problems,’’ he said. “They are well coached on defense. George [O’Leary] is always solid on defense. They are big and athletic. That’s a good football team.’’

Despite all that, the Eagles carry a sense of optimism. “They are definitely fast, faster than Northwestern,’’ said Nate Richman, who was moved back to his natural left guard spot from left tackle this week. “But they are smaller, too. So I think we can come out real physical, like we have been known to in the past, and just get bodies on bodies and try and run it up the middle on them. I think we can control them in that way.’’

The problem for the beleaguered BC defense is that Central Florida’s game plan may be similar. Led by quarterback Jeff Godfrey, the Knights rolled to a 62-0 win over Charleston Southern last week, rushing for 316 yards and eight touchdowns.

Spaziani has had to mix and match, especially along both lines, as he dealt with injuries, defections, and dismissals. The latest injury knocked leading receiver Ifeanyi Momah out for the season with a torn left anterior cruciate ligament.

Spaziani said many of the Eagles are not quite ready (or as ready as he would like) for the exposure they are facing, and will face over the next few months.

“We have to get a sense of urgency on this team, which we don’t have yet,’’ said Spaziani of not scoring consistently in the red zone. “They have to take ownership of the game. We’re not quite there yet in terms of leadership.’’

Spaziani hopes the leadership comes from players such as quarterback Chase Rettig and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. But he needs it to spread throughout the locker room.

And to avoid an 0-2 start, he needs it to start tonight. Playing on the road will increase the pressure, but Kuechly, for one, welcomes the challenge.

“I love road games,’’ said the All-American, who has registered double-digit tackles in 23 straight games. “Hostile crowd, in Florida. It’s what college football is all about.’’

Spaziani has moved freshman defensive back Manny Asprilla to wide receiver. Spaziani expects sophomore Johnathan Coleman to move into the receiver mix as well . . . Richman’s practice time was limited this week because of a back injury . . . Tonight marks the end of a two-game series between the schools. BC won, 34-7, at Alumni Stadium in 2008.

Mark Blaudschun can be reached at blaudschun@globe.com.

BC vs. Central Florida
When:
Tonight, 8
Where: Bright House Networks Stadium, Orlando
TV, radio: CBSCS, WRKO (680)