The pressure has increased each week. Find a way to stop the losing. Do anything. Say anything. That’s what losing teams do.
They’re have been no “player only” gatherings per se. But there have been plenty of one on one and other “big brother-little brother” discussions in meetings about attitude and experience and the BC way of doing things–win or lose.
Boston College is in that situation as it faces Maryland on Saturday at Alumni Stadium. One more loss means that any chance of a bowl game will disappear for the second consecutive season. One more loss will drive more fans away from a shrinking core base of support. One more loss will increase the intensity of the voices yelling, screaming and pleading for the departure of BC coach Frank Spaziani.
The players are not living in a bubble. They hear the yells, they understand the frustration and they FEEL the pain, more than the fans, more than Spaziani.
“We have tradition of winning here,” said senior middle linebacker Nick Clancy on Wednesday. “We know what’s that about. We have been to the ACC championship game. We don’t want to be known as the class that screwed that up.”
Clancy says there is no internal problem in terms of unity. No one has stopped trying. No one has chalked up the 1-6 start as a lost cause.
But it is an issue in terms of reaching the common goal and it is a concern among the veterans, well aware of a tradition that is being tarnished with each loss.
“We’re looking for different things, different ways to fix this,” said Clancy, who leads the team in tackles. “This week in the drills we had first team defense working against first team offense. That’s going to help us (defense) in terms of the team speed you find during games.”
Spaziani said he switched from the traditional 1st team O vs. 2nd team defense way of practicing as a way to energize his team in terms of enthusiasm as well as preparation. “They have been busting their tails,” said Spaziani. “We had to give them something different.”
Clancy says the frustration level is increasing on an individual basis, particularly among the seniors. “We don’t want the freshman to think this is the way it is around here,” he said.
Clancy will not play the “what if” game, but he acknowledges that much of the game luck that BC has had this season has been bad. “You can go to any of the games we played and say, there was this moment that changed the momentum around,” he said. “It’s tough to take.”
The BC way in the past has to let senior leadership set the tone and style for the incoming freshmen, many of whom were being redshirted.
“Freshmen always come in with a sense of entitlement,” said one former BC player who has watched the breakdown this season with a mixture of disappointment and anger. “But in the past they had to wait their turn and by the time they were in the rotation, they understood what this place was about. They had to wait their turn when players like Matt Ryan and Mike McLaughlin played and showed us the way.
“But this year is different because so many freshmen have been thrown into the mix right away. They think they can just step in and do the job and they can’t.”
For the seniors on the team, such as offensive co-captain and tight end Chris Pantale, the combination of youth and experience melding into the BC system has been an exercise in frustration at times.
Pantale, who missed the first half of the season with a broken foot, says one of the most frustrating parts of the season has been in seeing the reputation of BC football being chipped away with each loss.
Like Clancy, Pantale does not want to be part of a class in which the tradition of winning headed south.
“You see things that happen and it drives you crazy”, said Pantale. “And then you see the freshmen and you keep telling them, this is not what BC is about. But they haven’t experienced anything else at BC, so sometimes its tough.”
Spaziani, like most coaches, follows the theory that the best thing about freshmen football players is that they become sophomores. He hasn’t had close to the luxury of doing that with this group of players.
The 2-deep depth chart which BC posted before the Maryland game includes 14 freshmen. The beleaguered defensive line will have two freshman starters–defensive tackle Conor Wujciak and defensive end Kieran Borcich. The defensive backfield includes two sophomores and a freshmen.
There is more maturity on the offensive side, which may be one of the reasons why the offensive unit has been relatively effective in almost all of its games.
The Eagles–both the coaching staff and the senior leadership–which includes only five starters–are in a classic “one game at a time” mode.
“It’s win this one and then try and win the next one” said Pantale. “We were in the same spot a year ago and we beat Maryland and won three out of last five games.”
Last year’s version of BC was an older group. Whether this year’s team is wiser remains to be seen.
© 2012, Mark. All rights reserved.