FOOTBALL: Road Work
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 08:10
After blaring “Tribute To Troy” and “Tiger Rag” from Shea Field earlier in the year, the Boston College football team has resorted to playing nothing but simple, loud, crowd noise during practice this week in preparation for Saturday’s road matchup at North Carolina. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Dating back to 2011, the Eagles have lost 12 of their last 14 away games.
“I think it’s all experience,” said BC head coach Steve Addazio when asked what it takes to win on the road. “So we’re right back at it again. We’re utilizing that crowd noise at a very, very high decibel level right now. I think the other thing I like about it, you get in these team periods, the coaches can’t monopolize them. The players have to create their own energy in the huddles. Everyone has to be accountable for knowing what they’re doing.”
The BC position coaches haven’t been able to harp on every little detail as much or correct mistakes before they happen. Instead, with the crowd noise seemingly coming from every direction, each individual player is almost stuck on an island during practice, according to Addazio.
“You get a sense of who can get it done,” Addazio said. “I kind of like that piece of it. Then, of course, I think you have to prepare for that environment so when you hit it on Saturday, it doesn’t faze you.”
Any edge could help the Eagles, as away games haven’t been kind to BC in the last three years. Opposing teams have outscored BC by an average margin of more than 12 points, compared to the less than one point margin in BC’s 16 home games during the same timeframe.
“We are a work in progress,” Addazio said. “We’ve been in some tough football games ourselves and played some tough teams but what we need to do is sharpen our execution on both ends of the ball and we need to get on the road and win a road game.”
Execution has been the biggest issue for BC, on both sides of the ball, in road losses during this drought. The Eagles have accumulated, on average, 56 fewer rushing yards per game on the road than at home in the last three years, while also giving up 106 more yards of total offense to opposing teams. More importantly, while BC has had an average turnover margin of about .2 in these home games, besting opponents by a turnover every fives games or so, that number switches to nearly -.6 on the road.
“I think what it takes is great maturity, senior leadership,” Addazio said as other ways to earn away victories. “You have to have that maturity. You got to play great defense so you don’t get yourself out of a game early. You have to stay in a game so you get a chance to fight throughout the game. Those are all pieces of it for me.”
The defense through the first three quarters will be key for BC, as the Eagles haven’t fared well in the fourth quarters of recent away games. Consistently trailing late in road games, BC has been forced to speed up its attack, throwing off the run-pass balance and knocking the offense out of sync. The Eagles have averaged fewer than four points per game in their last 14 fourth quarters on the road, while giving up 8.5 to their opponents. They have been outscored in the fourth quarter 10 times and have been held scoreless twice. For BC to leave Chapel Hill with a successful start to kick off the second half of the season, the team will need to keep that fighting chance heading late into the game.
“This is a new start to the second half of the season now,” Addazio said. “It’s a new slate and we have to get to 1-0 right now. We have six games and we have to establish and pick up where we left off with a high energy, high emotion, high octane, physically rough football team and we have to take that to Chapel Hill this weekend. So that’s our edge and we have to live that and be that.”
An important aspect of that edge, for Addazio, is not allowing his team to focus on the close games with some of the conference’s top teams like Florida State and Clemson.
“I think a concern I have right now is that, and I just said this to the team today: we’re going into week seven and we’ve been in some battles,” Addazio said Monday. “People have told you ‘You played this team tough and you played that team tough.’ Don’t take any solace in that. Don’t think we’re okay. We’re 3-3. That’s why, to me, we gotta be 1-0. We can ill-afford to stroll out like we strolled out to California and play kind of in a malaise. We have to play at the very top of our game. It’s hard to do that week in and week out. The margin for error for us is small.”
And the margin between home performance and away performance has been wide in recent years, especially late in games. BC gets a chance to change that on Saturday, and along with that comes a chance to continue to move forward.
“We’re looking at this as a new season,” said senior captain Ian White. “We’ve got a six-game season.”
“We’ve got to do everything we can to get to 1-0,” said senior quarterback Chase Rettig.