So now it is over. The television trucks will head to other venues. The crowds and the interest level will shrink considerably and Boston College football can again return to what it has been for the past several years–a fringe player in terms of national attention.
Upset? Dejavu all over again for an unbeaten Notre Dame team when it faced Boston College? Sorry folks. Not this time, which is why Saturday night’s 21-6 victory by the Irish will be duly noted as one small part of a season-long profile which still could carry ND to a spot in the BCS title game in Miami in January.
Oh, it was fun for a while on Saturday night at Alumni Stadium. Big time stuff. Brent and Herbie and ABC were watching from the press box. Fireworks before the game–rather than during or after the game and a setting which suggested that on a day when No. 1 Alabama had been beaten by Texas A&M, more chopping of the unbeaten, top-tiered teams was possible, if not probable. Sellout (first and last of the year) crowd who actually showed up at kick off.
BC came into its game against Notre Dame with an abysmal 2-7 record and very little on its list of accomplishments to suggest that an upset of the 9-0 and No. 4 ranked Irish was even a possibility. They left with a 2-8 record, adding another chapter of frustration to the tale of this year’s season.
Still, this was Notre Dame AND BC and there was a history of strange things happening to unbeaten Irish teams when it faced the Eagles. In 1993 and in 2002, Notre Dame fans saw their hopes of winning a national championship disappear after a loss to BC.
Going into the game, there was little to suggest that this edition of BC football could come up with that kind of magic. All BC really had going for it was a sense of history.
Throwing the Alabama loss into the formula didn’t hurt since it at least put the idea of an upset in the minds of both BC and Notre Dame.
Embattled BC coach Frank Spaziani, almost certainly down to his final two games at BC, could have used it in his “anything is possible” pre-game speech to the Eagles.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, who is now 2 games away–Wake Forest and USC– from an unbeaten regular season,certainly reminded his team that nothing could be taken for granted after Alabama’s loss rattled the rankings and all but eliminated one of ND’s prime challengers for a spot in the BCS title game.
Not that the Irish needed any reminders after surviving a triple overtime win last week over a Pittsburgh team that proceeded to lose to a mediocre UConn team this week. On any given Saturday night, anything is possible.
The Irish weren’t spectacular on offense or defense. But they were efficient. No where was that more evident than in a stunning 10 of 10 third down conversion ratio against BC in building up a 21-3 lead over the Eagles.
Was this BC’s worst effort of a season which has only games remaining against Virginia Tech and North Carolina State? Hardly. Notre Dame could only manage a 7-3 lead after one-quarter, a 14-3 lead at halftime. BC made the Irish work for everything.
“BC played very well tonight offensively,” said Kelly. “I think they ran every play imaginable.”
The Irish handled most, if not all , of them.
Even when the Irish opened the 3rd quarter with a text-book 9 play 65 yard drive to make it 21-3, there was still a glimmer of hope that BC could put together one drive that would flip the momentum back towards BC.
But that never happens any more at BC against good teams. The last ranked team to lose to the Eagles was Florida State in 2008. Notre Dame was the 8th consecutive ranked opponent to beat BC.
This season, the Eagles wins have come against Maine and Maryland, hardly an ego boosting combination of opponents. BC has lost to good teams (FSU. Clemson and Notre Dame).They have lost to bad teams (Army and Wake Forest). They have lost to average teams (Northwestern, Miami and Georgia Tech).
All of it is wearing the Eagles down to the point where they might indeed be looking for the end of the season, rather than their next game.
“It’s been the same story all year,” said BC quarterback Chase Rettig, who without a running game (53 net yards) was forced to throw the ball 43 times, while being sacked 4 times and harassed almost every time he dropped back. “I’d rather win.”
Winning will become even harder the next few weeks since wide receiver Bobby Swiggert is probably out for the season with a major knee injury and middle linebacker Nick Clancy is out at least temporarily after suffering a concussion in the first quarter.
Defensively, the frustration was even more evident. Although the Eagles came up with enough stops to keep the game competitive well into the second half, they didn’t make stops when they needed to make stops.
No where was that more evident than the 11 of 14 third down conversion attempts by ND, including a perfect 10 of 10 at the start. “We get them third and long and we can’t get them off the field,” said BC linebacker Steele Divitto. “That’s something that we have struggled with this year.”
More than anything, it has been the thing that has killed BC’s chances each week.
Spaziani, with a defensive pedigree, knows that as much as anyone. “You have to play good defense to win,” said Spaziani. “”And you certainly have to play good third down defense. We have to make some plays.”
In the end,on the biggest stage the Eagles have played upon all season in terms of national exposure, BC didn’t make enough plays.
Watching all of this with more than a casual eye was new BC athletic director Brad Bates who will determine the process for what comes next with Spaziani and BC football.
As the clock was winding down on Saturday night, Bates stood in a corner of Alumni Stadium, watching another Eagle loss being finalized. As the assistant coaches and the players ran off the field, Bates remained quiet and expression-less.
There wasn’t really much to say really. At least not now, not yet. But that will soon change as the season from hell at BC winds its way to a crash landing.
© 2012, Mark. All rights reserved.