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Column: Eagles Are Floating In Between Good And Bad

Heights Editor

Published: Monday, September 17, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

As the Boston College football team heads into a much-needed bye week, Superfans have already endured an unpredictable rollercoaster ride to kick off the 2012 season. The small yet telling sample size that head coach Frank Spaziani’s squad has provided thus far isn’t without its highlight-reel moments and breakout performances, but a 1-2 record through three winnable contests can’t help but awaken the dormant frustration surrounding this team.

Now let me set the record straight—I’m not out to be a Debbie Downer and crush the Eagles’ hopes in the middle of September. A guy like me, who predicts a World Series title for the New York Mets every year and inexplicably rooted for the Detroit Lions during their winless season, is not in the business of writing off his school’s football team after three turbulent weeks. Realistically speaking, the early stages of any sports campaign is time to work the kinks out, develop cohesion, and improve for a successful stretch run. During Saturday’s 22-13 loss to Northwestern, however, BC was haunted once again by an onslaught of uncorrected flaws.

Any cynic would say that you can summarize the Eagles’ first three games with a short laundry list of critiques: solid performance by Rettig, hard-fought effort by a defense that struggles making the big stop, and … where was the running game? Spaziani hasn’t had to expand upon his consistent “we did some good things, we did some not so good things” critique of BC’s play because he hits the nail right on the head every time. This string of eerily similar performances makes me wonder if the Groundhog Day effect has reached the gridiron. The Eagles haven’t been “bad,” but they haven’t exactly reached the strata of “good” quite yet either. Despite the mediocrity, the bye week might be their biggest asset to address two major voids: the defense and the running game.

The game at Northwestern was the D’s chance to continue its positive momentum from a valiant effort against Maine after being torn apart by Miami. While Kevin Pierre-Louis and company did hold the Wildcats to 22 points off of five field goals (yep, that’s been our luck so far), they also surrendered 560 yards of total offense. As much as Superfans sing the praises in memory of Luke Kuechly’s presence on the Heights—and deservedly so—he’s not coming back. Success for the Eagles will depend on improving their current personnel, and if KPL can serve as the defensive anchor he’s proving himself to be, there’s no reason why the Eagles can’t right the ship in this area.

And then there’s the running game. Other than several untimely fumbles, the Eagles’ backs have been virtually absent in the early stages of 2012, and perhaps reached their lowest point after gaining a mere 25 yards combined at Northwestern. After watching the progression of Rettig and the rushing attack’s inability to secure the football, I’m intrigued by the idea of penetrating opposing defenses primarily through the air, but this is not a feasible solution for any competitive college football team. Consistent success demands complete efforts on both sides of the ball, week in and week out. A productive BC backfield is not a luxury—it’s a necessity.

If the Eagles think that quick improvement in these two areas will guarantee them a win against Clemson in Week Four, they might be getting ahead of themselves. Yet a 1-3 record doesn’t sound so terrible if there are complete performances to back it up. For now, Superfans must buy into Tug McGraw’s famous “Ya Gotta Believe” maxim and trust that the current growing pains facing their team are signs of better days to come.

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