Andre Williams listens to the question, but he doesn’t have the answer.
“What happened?”‘ repeats the Boston College running back when asked about a fumble in the end zone against Maryland, which cost the Eagles a TD last Saturday and made the game much tougher at the end than it was at the beginning.
Williams feels the pain as much as anyone, even though it was mitigated by BC’s 20-17 come-back, final-minute victory.
“I was in (the end zone) and my elbow was down,” said Williams, who is the Eagles’ leading rusher, “And then someone knocked the ball out. But I thought the play was over. I had scored. They (the officials) didn’t see it that way.”
If the Eagles were 6-2 instead of the 2-6 mark they will carry into Saturday’s game at Wake Forest, losing 8 fumbles in 8 games would be an aberration which would be annoying, but not devastating.
If it were just one running back, making a simple mistake, BC coach Frank Spaziani could deal with it in a variety ways from bench time, to making the back carry a football wherever he went on campus.
But BC has been an equal opportunity fumbler this season. Williams, and other teammates such as Tajh Kimble and Rolandan Finch have all given up the ball at the wrong place at the wrong time, which means in the Red Zone in key situations which the Eagles need to dominate to win the game.
BC is not good enough against anyone to win games while making crucial mistakes. It was that way against Army and Northwestern, two games the Eagles easily could have and perhaps should have won. It was that way against Miami, in a game in which the Eagles jumped to a 14-0 lead and then gave the lead and the ball away.
It was that way against Georgia Tech in a game which could be argued was out of reach by halftime when the Eagles fell behind 28-3, but other mistakes made by the Eagles in other areas was the key in that game.
Williams, a 6-0, 220 pound junior may be the Eagles’ best running back. He has shown the most potential for success, with a 191 yard rushing, 2 TD day against Army being the latest example.
Since this is college football, and not the NFL, where the Eagles can pick up a running back on waivers, the options for Spaziani are limited. Putting players in a coach’s doghouse is one way to send a message, but what happens when their isn’t enough room in the dog house?
Williams says, correctly, that it does no good to dwell on the past or what might happen. “I don’t run holding the ball like this” he said on Wednesday, holding his elbow out with an imaginary football. “I understand that I have to take of the football.”
The challenge the Eagles face is to play virtually mistake free football during their final four games, a task which will increase in difficulty week by week against opponents which include Wake Forest on Saturday, unbeaten Notre Dame the following week and two final games against Virginia Tech and NC State, each of whom still has ambitions of winning an ACC division title.
It is one thing to have a game plan without a running game, it is quite another challenge to go into a game without a running back that instills confidence in the coaching staff.
The Eagles aren’t there–yet. Williams attitude is still good and he is capable of having a 200 yard game with a quick burst through a hole at the line of scrimmage as he did in a spectacular 99 yard TD run against Army.
Spaziani says he and the coaching staff have used every method they know to not only instill confidence, but minimize mistakes. They also know they need to run the ball consistently to win games.
They were lucky in pulling out a win over Maryland after rushing for only 27 net yards rushing against a tough rushing defense. Those stats are a little bit misleading since Williams actually gained 60 yards against the Terps, but the number of negative yards created with sacks against BC QB Chase Rettig (43 yards) reduced the total.
They will face a softer defense against Wake Forest, but then next week it will get incredibly tougher against a Notre Dame team which has allowed only one rushing TD all season.
The key elements for BC, however, remain the same. Run with the ball. Hold onto the ball.
“We have identified the issue and we just need to keep working on it,” said Spaziani when asked about the effectiveness of the running game. “We need to rush the ball better because we are missing some cuts and some blocks. We’ll address it and make a couple of changes this week, hopefully it will get to the point where we need it to be.”
Spaziani explained the solution to the problem.
“We’re trying to find the right plays for our backs” said Spaziani before practice on Wednesday. “Once again, we had two fumbles in the last two games. That’s a problem. We focused on it and focused on it. Last week magnified it. Dre’s a great kid. It’s just a matter of concentrating on what he has to do. He’s practiced hard. He’s working hard.”
Spaziani says he believes in the tough love theory with his backs. “I believe in the theory that if you keep doing it (fumble), someone else takes your place,” said Spaziani.
New BC Director of Athletics Brad Bates announced on Wednesday that the Eagles had agreed to a 2-year home and home series with Ohio State, starting in 2020 (Columbus) and 2021 (Alumni Stadium). Bates is still working on a deal to get a 12th game for the Eagles for 2013, with UMass the leader in the clubhouse. Still no word on the status of wide receiver Colin Larmond Jr. who was suspended by Spaziani last week for a violation of team rules. Announcement could be coming in the next few days, but the odds of Larmond returning appear to be diminishing rapidly. He was not at practice on Wednesday…Game time for BC-Notre Dame will be announced on Sunday. Either 12 noon (likely if Notre Dame lose to Pittsburgh) or 8 p.m. (likely if Irish beat Pittsburgh) are the two choices.© Copyright 2012 Mark, All rights Reserved. Written For: A Jersey Guy