Near Broad Street in Philadelphia, probably right outside Lincoln Financial Field, Ryan Day is wiping the nervous sweat from his forehead.
Despite training quarterbacks who rarely overachieved in the passing game, the other Eagles—the ones who play in the NFL—saw enough in Boston College’s ex-offensive coordinator to hire him as the man tasked with coaching up Sam Bradford.
Somewhere, perhaps in his hometown of Cheshire, Conn., Sean McGowan is probably giving a hearty laugh from his couch. BC’s ex-special teams coach was promptly fired after last year’s on-going debacles with missed extra points and field goals.
Hell, most would probably even kill to get a look at Frank Spaziani.
Okay, maybe not that far. But by the looks of today’s game between BC (3-3, 0-3 ACC) and Wake Forest University (3-3, 1-2 ACC)—a 3-0 loss for the Eagles—they all got out just in time. And all three men who have taken their places have looked ill-prepared—and have improperly prepared their players—for the challenge of playing games against ACC teams.
Let’s begin the trip through BC’s coaching staff with Coleman Hutzler, the man tasked with reviving BC’s poor special teams play. Last season, the Eagles’ kicking trio of Alex Howell, Mike Knoll, and Joey Launceford combined to go 12 of 19 on field goal attempts, plus an additional 35 of 42 on extra point attempts. The percentages ranked near the bottom of the FBS, dead last for the PATs. Ideally, Hutzler was supposed to come and revive the kicking game, or at least move it away from the deep bottom-half of the league.
Midway through the season, BC kickers have already failed on five of their seven attempts. That includes four in a row by true freshman Colton Lichtenberg. In his defense, Lichtenberg hasn’t been helped by poor snaps and holds—one of his attempts last week against Duke was stopped before he even got the chance to kick the ball, going down in the scorebook as a team rushing loss. And Howell, the most experienced kicker on the roster, has a quad injury that prevents him from place kicking.
But it’s also worth noting that, even if you take that one attempt out, Lichtenberg’s three misses were the difference in BC’s games against Duke and Wake.
Move on to the offense and Todd Fitch, the man who was supposed to replace Day. Fairly or not, Day was often criticized for an inability to get the most out of two quarterbacks that (many scouts at least say) had a lot of raw talent—Chase Rettig and Tyler Murphy—as well as for having a simple playbook that focused too heavily on the run. Over the last several weeks, Addazio has defended Fitch’s offense on account of rolling out a unit laden with a “young and inexperienced group of players.” Addazio has expressed a desire to cut down on turnovers as the reason to not take many chances, especially through the air, with his tandem of quarterbacks: Jeff Smith and Troy Flutie.
While that’s true, Fitch’s playbook has now become so conservative it could make Bill O’Reilly blush. And when an offense becomes too predictable, as BC’s has over the last six weeks, it’s hard not to expect any defense to make turnovers, even one like Wake Forest, which had not forced a turnover all year entering the game.
But in the end, all of the responsibility falls on head ball coach.
Four turnovers by a makeshift offense. Nine penalties for 51 yards, most of them by the offensive line. Those two missed field goals. And perhaps the worst game management this school has ever seen on the turf at Alumni Stadium.
Addazio’s indecisiveness for who should start behind center has never been more apparent than in today’s game. There was little correlation for why Smith and Flutie were shuttled to and from the sidelines. Though Addazio preaches that he’s trying to build the confidence in his young players, the lack of consistency of his QB substitutions has fostered neither poise in the pocket nor any sort of rhythm for either player. And after starting Flutie and playing him a good chunk of the first half, Smith took over for nearly the entire second half.
Yet with BC getting a golden opportunity at its own 49-yard-line and 2:12 remaining, he sent in Flutie. With 3rd-and-1 at the Demon Deacons’ 8-yard-line, Flutie dove for the QB sneak. Addazio justified his decision by saying Flutie has more experience in that particular situation. But he fumbled, seemingly sealing the game. That is, until BC’s shutdown defense, which still stands atop the nation in yards allowed and second in points allowed and has not allowed a touchdown in consecutive games—both of which, the Eagles have lost—forced a miraculous fumble.
And then came the worst clock management of all-time.
Smith dashed toward the end zone on an 8-yard run, getting stopped at the 1-yard-line. The zebras called for a measurement, essentially giving BC a free timeout with 29 seconds remaining. The quarterback went straight to the sideline to talk the play over with his coach. But for some reason, Smith went back into a huddle.
The first snap got off with 19 seconds remaining—10 off the clock because of the huddle, despite Addazio and Smith talking the play over seconds earlier—for a run up the middle with Tyler Rouse. He attempted, on second effort, to dive toward the end zone, getting caught up in a wall of Wake defenders. Because of that, the offensive line couldn’t get reset, and Smith’s spike came after time had already expired.
Addazio, never one to accept fault willingly, implied that Smith was responsible. “We had everything in mind,” Addazio said following the game. “It was all pre-done. There was no confusion.”
That’s not how Smith remembers it, however. He said in the postgame press conference that Addazio gave him more than one play, and wasn’t sure which personnel he should choose.
“We were thinking about changing the play, too,” Smith said. “We didn’t really have a play called yet.” And when asked if Smith took matters in his own hands, the freshman responded quickly and without wavering.
“No. That’s a decision from coach.”
And though many have given Addazio a mulligan for a rebuilding year—rightfully so, given BC’s youth and his team’s lack of talent—that inability to have control over his own offense is inexcusable. Even more importantly, it has the signs of a coach who isn’t ready for the big stage.
“The world likes to blame somebody, so blame me,” Addazio said. “Just get it done.”
Don’t worry, Steve. Everyone does.
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor