FOOTBALL: Hokies Ruin Senior Day In Overtime Win
Published: Monday, November 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
On an emotional Senior Day at Alumni Stadium, the Boston College football team faced off against ACC rival Virginia Tech in an attempt to salvage the remainder of its season.
Yet the Eagles came up short in the overtime thriller on Saturday afternoon despite a hard-fought effort, dropping their final home game in 2012 by a score of 30-23. After the two-win team squandered its fourth halftime lead of the season and converted a mere three third-down attempts out of 16 chances, BC couldn’t help but feel that the matchup was an unfortunate microcosm of its season.
“We had our chances,” said head coach Frank Spaziani after the Eagles’ ninth loss in 11 games. “We had our chances and weren’t able to convert them. We came up on the short end.”
The afternoon began with a solid start by Spaziani’s squad, which battled to a 3-3 draw in the first quarter thanks to a 36-yard field goal by junior Nate Freese that was set up by a 43-yard return from the emergent Spiffy Evans. Chase Rettig and the Eagle offense started the second frame deep in Hokie territory, however, thanks to a timely 38-yard rush from the resurrected Deuce Finch. BC’s junior running back, who was missing-in-action for six games this season, followed a solid showing against Notre Dame with a 133-yard breakout performance on Saturday.
“I’m just happy to be out there with my teammates,” Finch said. “This week, the offensive line did a great job opening holes, and all I had to do was just hit them.”
The 86-yard drive was eventually capped when Rettig rolled out to hit a wide-open Alex Amidon in the end zone, giving the Eagles a 10-3 lead. Although quarterback Logan Thomas and the Hokies threatened to break through in the first half, senior linebacker Nick Clancy and the BC defense held their opponent to three points through two quarters. Their impressive stand was marked by a devastating hit from Clancy that broke up a Hokie fourth-down try before halftime.
Yet the second half quickly saw the Eagles squander a 13-3 advantage, with Thomas keeping the ball on fourth-and-goal with a one-yard score to tie before launching a 31-yard touchdown strike to Marcus Davis on a third-and-17 soon after. Meanwhile, Rettig and the offense—the team’s most reliable weapons throughout the season—began to stall. When asked about his unit’s mid-game struggles, Rettig looked to Virginia Tech’s constant pressure as the worst he’s seen all year.
“Definitely the most [pressure],” Rettig said after a 129-yard performance. “We knew they were a blitzing team. Sometimes we were able to pick it up, and sometimes we weren’t.”
Thanks to the consistent kicking of Freese, who notched three field goals on the day, the Eagles were able to stay within striking distance despite the offense’s struggles. With BC trailing 20-16 and just over four minutes to play, the ball was placed in the hands of true-freshman running back David Dudeck. He burst through the line and found himself in the end zone with his first career rushing touchdown, a timely score that put the Eagles up 23-20 and seemingly sealed a dramatic victory on Senior Day.
If BC has learned anything from its 2012 season, though, it is that faulty defense can allow a lead to slip away. The Hokies used the end of the final frame to drive up the field on the Eagles’ D, setting up a 41-yard field goal attempt that kicker Cody Journell sent soaring through the uprights to tie the contest at 23.
With a little over a minute to play, the Eagles took the ball back at their own 17-yard line. Instead of attempting to orchestrate a last-minute drive to set up a reasonable field goal attempt for a near-perfect Freese and the win, Spaziani elected to play conservatively for overtime. Three straight runs amounted to minimal yardage, and after Rettig took a final knee to end regulation, the stadium erupted in boos. After Virginia Tech scored on its first overtime possession and stopped Dudeck short of a first down to end an excruciating Eagle defeat, many were left to question how a 2-8 team playing for its own dignity could pass up an opportunity to win.
“There are a lot of factors that are involved in it,” Spaziani said in reflection of his team’s final possession in the fourth quarter. “We ran the draw hoping we were going to get a good play on first down and we were going to up-tempo it. They could have made us punt, we could have thrown an incompletion, wound up punting, they kick a field goal, win the game and the game is over. We could have done some positive stuff. We were backed up and we felt our better chance was to go into overtime.”
Rettig was quick to defend his coach’s decision after the game, even though it forced him to take a knee rather than lead his offense downfield.
“Every competitor wants the ball, but it was a smart decision to play for overtime there,” Rettig said. “We were tied at that point. I don’t think that decision had an impact on the game.”
Unfortunately, Spaziani’s controversial strategy and the team’s inability to execute in overtime overshadowed a bittersweet farewell from the Alumni faithful to the team’s departing seniors. For Clancy, who tallied over 20 tackles for the second time this season, the game meant more than just another loss on BC’s record.
“It doesn’t get much worse than that being the last home game, to fight hard until the very end only to come up short,” Clancy said.
Such a disheartening loss leaves the Eagles looking for one last ray of hope to finish their season strong against NC State next week. Although Spaziani shared Clancy’s sentiment of disappointment, he made it clear that BC’s tumultuous struggles throughout 2012 are not the result of poor effort.
“We think the seniors came to play and played hard,” Spaziani said. “How efficient they played remains to be seen, but they played hard and so did everybody else. We’re playing hard.”