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Column: A Step Back While Moving Forward

Sports Editor

Published: Sunday, September 9, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

It’s strange how sometimes a loss can give you more hope than a win. And that sometimes, your biggest flaws can be magnified even more in a win.

Boston College’s Week One loss to Miami was no doubt disappointing, but there were so many positive things to take away from that game. It made you feel like the Eagles were there to play for real. Sure, there were things to work on as there always are, but work out a few kinks on the defensive side, and all would be good, right?
At least, that’s what I thought. Instead, I left Saturday’s win over Maine feeling a little bit less confident in this BC squad. While many were grim about the season’s prospects from the start, I had hope and big expectations for this team. That hope and the expectations are still there, but I’m a little less confident than I was a week ago.

Zero points in the first quarter? I know Maine is no slouch, and you always have to look out for FCS teams ready to pull off upsets, but how is it that these same Eagles marched down the field last week and in just over seven minutes had scored 14 points, but against Maine they couldn’t light up the scoreboard once in the first 15 minutes?
I don’t think it was a case of BC looking past Maine, and then realizing the Black Bears were for real midway through the second quarter. It’s tough to look past an opponent when you haven’t even won your first game yet, never mind the fact that head coach Frank Spaziani constantly reminded his team throughout the week that it was not going to be an easy game by any means.

I do think it may have been a case of playing down to your opponent. There’s a clear difference and atmosphere between playing a big-time program like Miami in your home opener and playing Maine in front of a half-full Alumni Stadium. The pace of the game seemed to be a lot slower than it was in Week One, at least in the first 15 minutes of the game.

But regardless of your opponent, there’s one thing that’s happened in both games so far, and it’s got to stop: the fumbles. There’s not many things worse than coughing up the ball to end a stellar drive, especially in the red zone. The Eagles have now lost four fumbles in two games, and when the defense has only recovered one on their side, that just can’t be happening. It’s been a point of concern for Spaziani, even before Saturday’s game against Maine. Last Thursday, he said that not coughing up the ball was a “point of emphasis,” and that they’ve spent a lot of time on making sure the ball was secure in the hands of the running backs.

“There’s not much more you can do than make a point of emphasis over it, which we always do anyways,” a frustrated Spaziani said. “We usually don’t play anybody if they fumble. If they’re afraid to fumble, then they probably shouldn’t be out there. But if everybody’s fumbling….”

Against Miami, it was Andre Williams and Tahj Kimble who turned the ball over because of fumbles, and on Saturday it was Kimble and Deuce Finch. Finch had problems throughout last season with ball control, but Spaziani said that he looked fine during the preseason securing the ball. He said that about Williams too, but the statistics have showed otherwise through the first two games.

Asked further about the fumbling issues on Thursday, Spaziani gave his opinion on why the loose balls were happening.

“You fumble for two reasons: you’re either afraid or you’re not concentrating,” Spaziani said.

So what is a coach to do when all three of his featured backs cough up the ball in the same game? Pass more. Spaziani even said himself on Thursday that if everyone’s fumbling, passing the ball more might be the answer.

I’m not saying to completely shut down the run game. That obviously is not going to happen, and all three of the backs have great potential to do big-time damage in any given game. But there’s another part of the offense that has been thriving in the first two games: Chase Rettig.

It’s a small sample size, but Rettig has been more of what BC needs him to be. He’s not all the way there yet, evidenced by a few poor decisions on Saturday and a few snaps he’d probably like to have back. But I do think Rettig, if given the chance to air it out 50 times like he was against Miami, is capable of big things.

You can still involve the running backs if you want to give them more opportunities to not fumble the ball, as screen passes to the backs in the flat have been clutch.

While two of Rettig’s big targets in Chris Pantale and Bobby Swigert have been out, he’s still been able to effectively drive the offense down the field. Alex Amidon has been Mr. Dependable, while Jonathan Coleman and Spiffy Evans both scored their first collegiate touchdowns on Saturday, hopefully a sign of things to come. Look for two true freshmen to get their feet wet in the passing game as well in the near future: Dan Crimmins and Harrison Jackson. They are ready to step in, and the coaching staff seems high on these two wideouts.

There is plenty of talent in the BC backfield. And in the right situations, Williams, Kimble, and Finch can be lethal. But if they keep fumbling like they did in the first two games, there’s only one thing to do: ride Rettig. The new leader of this offense is ready to air it out, and if Rettig is given the chance to do so for a majority of the game, the running backs might not have anything to worry about.


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