FOOTBALL: Off And Running
Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2013 01:10
Until last night, the members of the Boston College football team had no idea if they were going to have their Homecoming game on Saturday, or if they were going to get a rematch with an opponent who forced one of the most disappointing losses in program history last season, or if one precious opportunity to build toward bowl eligibility would be taken away. The federal government shutdown had caused the Eagles to prepare with complete uncertainty this week, but on Wednesday night it was announced that Army and BC will indeed face off in Alumni Stadium on Saturday. Even before the decision was announced, the message after yesterday’s practice was the same from top to bottom: there will be a game.
It appeared that Army might not be able to make it to Chestnut Hill on Saturday because the program needs federal funding to make the trip, and it was possible that funding would not be allowed during the government shutdown. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel had to decide if private funds could be used to make Saturday’s game possible, as well as the Air Force-Navy game, according to ESPN. But the BC team didn’t let the drama surrounding the shutdown distract from the game plan.
“Quite honestly, I haven’t even addressed it with the team,’’ said BC head coach Steve Addazio. “I’m planning on playing Saturday. And I’m not trying to play, like, mind games. We’re playing on Saturday. We’re rolling. So I haven’t even addressed it, because we’re playing on Saturday.’’
Senior running back Andre Williams addressed the strange situation slightly directly, but was adamant that the Eagles were not letting in the distraction.
“It’s crazy that a political situation is really having an effect on the season, but it’s another distraction just like anything else that can come up. You just have to keep preparing like you’re going to come out Saturday and play a great game.’’
Williams almost had a great game the last time these two teams played, but he left Michie Stadium with unfinished business. Although the back had what was then a career day with 191 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns, there was one key possession when the running game fell short. BC had the ball pinned deep in its own territory late in the game with a small lead. Williams had three rushing attempts, but only managed to gain seven yards.
The Eagles punted and Army scored on the next drive, securing a 34-31 victory.
BC’s rushing attack is completely revitalized this year, with Williams leading the conference in rushing behind an offensive line that has created plenty of holes through which he has been able to run.
Although No. 8 Florida State left Chestnut Hill with a victory last Saturday, BC flashed bouts of impressive play, especially offensively in the first quarter.
“That’s the best offensive performance of the season against the best defense, against a really good opponent,’’ Addazio said. “That’s a lot of output against a really good defense. It’s not something a lot of people have been able to do, so that’s a positive.’’
Addazio has stressed time and time again the importance of the energy that he saw from his team last Saturday. He knows that the same sort of drive is needed, not only when the Eagles face a top 10 team, but in every game that his team plays at this level.
Army has a middle of the pack rush defense, giving up 156 yards per game through five contests in 2013, and the Eagles will have to win the battle up front to get a revenge victory.
“We played an upper, upper, upper-echelon offense, and now we’re going into a radically different, and in itself unique, whole set of groceries,” Addazio said. “You go into this game—all I measure this game as is finding a way to get a W. Anywhere I’ve ever been, any time we’ve played these offenses. I don’t care about what the stats are. Let’s just find a way to go win this game and get ready for the next one.”
Army presents a weaker challenge in terms of talent level compared to the stacked roster of Florida State, but the triple options could level the playing field. The Black Nights have posted 325 yards rushing per game so far this season. Out of the entire FBS, only Oregon has a higher average.
It is this run game that will pose the biggest threat for BC, but the Eagles are embracing the challenge.
“Find a way to win it because it’s really hard to win these games. These service academy games are really tough. When they get that thing going in sync it’s a total pain in the rear end. They can control the ball and they can really create a lot of havoc on you really quickly.”
Things like possession, blocking, and penalties are aspects of the game that the Eagles might be able to control on Saturday.
If the team starts off as strongly as it did against Florida State and controls the pace of the game, the Eagles’ fate will be in their own hands. n