Sports, Football

Addazio’s Eagles Deliver A Perfect Ending Against USC

The Dude storms in.

Red bandanna sticking out of his back pocket, Steve Addazio rips through the door like a tornado of unrelenting, unadulterated energy—this is Super Saiyan, Rocky IV Addazio—the highest form of Dudeliness. Blasting through the room, Addazio stares it down from end to end and demands more energy, violently clapping in the faces of the reporters in the front row, literally screaming, “Where’s the juice?”

The media has no juice for Addazio, but he will indulge reporters anyway—he makes it to the table and plops down. Addazio starts speaking immediately, and within seconds both of his eyes are closed and his hands are flat on the table. He speaks, soaking it up. On his left rests a poster with Boston College’s “Time Tested & Infallible plan to win.” It reads, “Play Great Defense. Win The Turnover Battle. Run The Football. Score In The Red Zone. Play Great Special Teams.”

A week and a day before the USC game, BC failed to do almost every single one of those things, and lost—terribly. But on Saturday night, Addazio’s Eagles transformed into the living, breathing, season-blowing-up embodiment of those words—and executed perfectly on almost all of them. And oh, did they ever win. Playing like men possessed by a coach possessed, BC took down No. 9 University of Southern California 37-31 in the biggest game Chestnut Hill’s seen in years.

When Tyler Murphy cranked into top speed, it all became starkly real. Like a stutter-stepping Messiah with a firm handle on the read option, Murphy leaned into a sea of worshipping fans and absorbed the madness as hand after hand reached out for his golden helmet. Murphy’s 66-yard, flat-out sprint of a fourth quarter touchdown marked a significant turning point in the mental atmosphere of Alumni Stadium—as soon as the quarterback reached open space, it became clear BC was actually going to do it. Before going up 37-24 on the Trojans, history suggested heartbreak was imminent for BC. Be it a dagger of a touchdown from Jameis Winston just before halftime, a missed field goal against Duke, or a crippling fumble against Clemson—BC found so many ways to lose over the last few years that a devastating collapse seemed inescapably imminent. The law of BC football clearly stated that the missed extra point from the first quarter would throttle the Eagles late in the fourth—but somehow, it didn’t.

BC’s unexpected, field-storming victory over USC was a throwback to that of an older ilk, a program-defining victory largely absent from Alumni’s recent history.

“Waking up this morning, just knowing that it was a night game, it was going to be a little rainy, it was going to be a BC-style football game, and those are the things I’ve heard about ever since I came here,” said captain and center Andy Gallik. “Those were the types of games BC was winning in its heyday—the cold, wet games versus tough teams. I think that the O-line really took that personally and accepted it as a challenge to play like that tonight.”

Three games into the season, only psychics, liars, and time travelers can confidently say how good Addazio’s team is—week two to week three was a roster-wide performance deviation of a Jekyll and Hyde nature. One thing is absolutely clear, though—the Eagles will go as far as their legs can take them.

Like a shoulder pad-wearing phoenix, BC’s run game rose from the desolation of the Pitt game and began picking the Trojans apart one carry at a time, working its way up to 452 rushing yards over the course of the night. Myles Willis finally showcased his speed on a 52-yard breakaway after two fairly disappointing games and finished with 89 yards on the night. Addazio threw Jon Hilliman, a 6-foot, 215-pound freshman, into the fire of the main north-to-south running load, and Hilliman responded with a defense-bruising, trust-validating performance, rushing for 89 yards and two touchdowns.

Sophomore Tyler Rouse and freshman Sherman Alston chipped in a touchdown each, with the 5-foot-6 Alston hitting speeds upward of 64 mph on his 54-yard dash to the end zone. For the third game in a row, it was Murphy leading the rush—the quarterback averaged 14.7 yards per carry and rushed for 191 yards on the night. For as much as Murphy’s struggled in the air, he’s run the ball brilliantly and remains BC’s most dangerous weapon.

BC’s passing offense stalled out again on Saturday, accounting for a total of 54 yards, but BC’s running ability made up for the drops, mistimed routes, and pick thrown by Murphy.

The emergence of a dominant defense was just as striking as the run game’s renaissance. After tackling terribly against Pitt, the Eagles knocked the crap out of each other all week to prepare for USC. BC captain Dominique Williams was extremely confident leading up to Saturday, promising the defense’s greatest performance, and his crew delivered, lighting up USC quarterback Cody Kessler with five sacks and limiting USC to 20 rushing yards in the entire game. BC came up with 11 stops when the bells rang on third down, and corners Manny Asprilla and Bryce Jones provided lights-out coverage when called upon.

Emily Fahey / Heights Editor
Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

“We worked very hard this week,” Williams said, emphasizing the ‘very.’ “It started in practice. You gotta hone in and realize what you have to do to win. And that just shows—we grinded it out this whole week in practice, we tackled a lot. And it paid off.”

“That was a tough game last week and that was a hard loss on us,” Williams said. “The coaching staff—they really emphasized that we’re better than that, and we bought into what they were telling us, and this win is a testament to everything we put in.”

BC’s work paid off in front of a prime-time, national audience on an emotional night honoring Welles Crowther, a BC grad who died helping at least a dozen people to safety in the World Trade Center on 9/11. It was a game no one watching at home or on scene will soon forget. While Addazio made sure to say that the win doesn’t make a season, it’s without a doubt the type of win capable of saving it, especially one that looked ready to spiral a week ago.

Saturday will go down as the most perfect game BC football’s played in years. Faith was rewarded on the field, and for a generation of fans begging for just one shining moment to hang on to, faith was rewarded in the stands. The defense played like it was up against a fateful last stand on every down, and the offense capitalized on its opportunities, running like a bat out of hell destined for the end zone.

Addazio’s been talking about energy, heart, and passion ever since he arrived in Chestnut Hill. By the end of the night, it was nearly impossible to find a spot on campus devoid of his famous pillars, a place lacking in jubilant BC fans just soaking in the night. The Dude came into the press conference shaking reporters and begging for more juice, but he was being greedy—he’ll have to wait a week for more. Right now, BC has plenty.

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

September 14, 2014