If the FBS distributed progress reports to all 128 of its teams, what would Boston College’s look like?
Disorganized. Fail to learn from prior mistakes. Poor time management skills.
The observations sound like the report card comments of a struggling middle-school student. Nevertheless, following Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Wake Forest, these remarks certainly apply to the current state of affairs for BC football. Harsh and critical, these are not the type of comments that parents expect to receive in the mail and post on the fridge.
Everyone likes positive feedback, but perhaps the Eagles deserve a more honest mid-season assessment. After all, BC's record of 3-3 (0-3 in ACC play) leaves fans with far more questions than answers.
Halfway through the 2015 season, the Eagles evidently lack basic organizational skills, especially on offense. Let’s start with the guy under center.
Following Darius Wade’s injury, Coach Steve Addazio has opted to split time at the quarterback position between Troy Flutie and Jeff Smith. But Addazio’s quarterback rotation seems to have no clear rationale. Flutie has started the last three games, but Smith played the majority of Saturday’s abysmal loss to Wake Forest.
The oddest part of Addazio’s two-quarterback system has been his decision to swap signal callers in the middle of drives. Both Flutie and Smith need experience to improve, but plugging in a different quarterback mid-drive only creates confusion. More significantly, it points to the team’s inability to organize and execute a clear strategy.
To his credit, Addazio announced on Monday that he intends to start one signal caller for Saturday’s game at No. 5 Clemson. While the head coach has not revealed who the starter will be, perhaps he finally realizes that choosing one quarterback might provide the Eagles with some sense of direction moving forward.
Whoever starts against Clemson will inherit an offense that ranks 110th out of 128 FBS teams in scoring (20.7 points-per-game), and 119th in overall offensive production (323 yard per game). While the quarterback controversy might easily claim all the attention, we cannot ignore the alarmingly dysfunctional character of the entire offensive unit.
Perhaps wins over FCS opponents Maine and Howard merely padded the stats, prolonging the larger problems with this offense. Regardless, the glaring holes in the Eagles’ offensive game plan (or lack thereof) have become recently evident. These difficulties have been magnified over the past three games, as Boston College has averaged merely 256.6 yards over that stretch.
Under first-year offensive coordinator Todd Fitch, the Eagles’ offense has failed to establish an identity. The decision to mix pro-style and read-option quarterbacks indicates an ambiguous game plan. Moreover, this lack of resolve reflects greater organizational issues that only the coaching staff can be held accountable for.
Speaking of holding people accountable, let’s talk about the kicking game. Fresh off last season’s deplorable kicking performance, the Eagles have only seen these miscues continue this season. Through the first six games, Colton Lichtenburg and Alex Howell have combined to go 2 for 6 on field goal attempts.
Despite the hiring of new special teams coach Coleman Hutzler, the special teams unit continues to struggle mightily. With a sluggish offense, the kicking game becomes even more imperative. Unfortunately, placekicking continues to be as unreliable as ever for the Eagles.
In the 9-7 loss to Duke, the Eagles botched a snap in the second quarter, blowing a key chance to put points on the board. Then, with 3:35 remaining in the game, Lichtenburg missed badly on a 45-yard attempt, which would have put the Eagles ahead.
Against Wake Forest, kicking was an even greater issue. Despite adequate snaps and protection, Lichtenberg botched field goal attempts of 31 and 25 yards. You can do the math. In a 3-0 loss, those misses are crucial.
While the unorganized offensive game plan and kicking woes are certainly frustrating, Saturday’s loss to Wake Forest was marred by an even more brutal mistake—time management.
Neither Flutie nor Smith have played exceptionally well in their limited action—that’s for certain. However, it would be a mistake to pin the Eagles’ offensive woes solely on the signal callers. In the end, Addazio and Fitch must be held accountable, especially for what they're paid to do—call the plays and manage the game.
With four turnovers and two missed field goals, the Eagles made plenty of mistakes throughout the game. Despite these blunders, Wake Forest literally handed BC the game when quarterback John Wolford fumbled with less than a minute remaining. Smith and the offense trotted out for one final chance to leave Alumni Stadium victorious. Yet, the Eagles squandered another golden opportunity in agonizing fashion.
Earlier in the fourth quarter, Addazio opted not to call a timeout before Wake Forest punted the ball—a puzzling decision. But the appalling clock management at the end of the game proved even more fateful for the Eagles.
Smith went under center from the 11-yard line and scampered all the way to the goal line. With twenty-nine seconds remaining, and one yard to gain, running back Tyler Rouse was met before crossing the plane by a swarm of Wake Forest defenders. Smith scrambled to try and get the snap off, ultimately failing to spike the ball before time expired. The Demon Deacons celebrated, and Addazio emphatically spiked his headset in disgust.
Ultimately, clock management rests on coaching, and Addazio must be held responsible for that task.
With big games against Louisville, Virginia Tech, and the highly anticipated matchup against Notre Dame at Fenway on the horizon, Saturday’s game at Clemson will set the tone for the remainder of the season. Certainly, Saturday’s game at Clemson’s notoriously raucous stadium—Death Valley—will be an incredible challenge. Maybe the loss to Wake Forest was the wake-up call the Eagles needed.
Half of the 2015 season remains, offering the BC plenty of time for redemption and a shot at reaching a third-straight bowl game. Coach Addazio and the Eagles must commit to a well-defined offensive strategy, address the issues in the kicking game and manage the clock. If not, fans should prepare for an agonizing second half of the season in the cellar of both ACC and FBS standings.
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