Top Story, Football

Football Fails to Grab the Fruit in Loss to Syracuse

Steve Addazio stepped solemnly into the Yawkey Athletic Center.

His head down, his face taut, Addazio sat in front of the media to give a brief opening statement. Gone is the rambunctious King of the Dudes, the man who took social media by storm with hilarious Vines in 2013. Gone is the hungry man who demanded juice after an improbable upset victory over Southern California, or who eyed pizza after Boston College football’s record-breaking win against lowly Howard.

In his place is a man whose program has been through the ringer in the last 12 months, one in the midst of an ACC losing streak mocked across the country for its offensive futility. His eyes funereal, Addazio noted the things that didn’t go his team’s way: injuries to Connor Strachan, Jonathan Hilliman, and, toward the end of the game, Patrick Towles; a strong performance from Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey; an inability to pass the ball whatsoever. But when reminded that this Saturday was the final day the Eagles would be favored in an ACC game for the rest of the year, Addazio stuck to his message: that his team is close to figuring it out. They’re just one or two plays away from putting the embarrassment behind them.

“You can see where the places are to fix them, you can see where they are,” Addazio said. “The fruit is there. We have got to grab the fruit.”

But he knows what everyone knows. The Eagles couldn’t grab the fruit.

They haven’t all season. And now, when they had the best chance yet this year to do so, they failed more painfully than they had all throughout this trying 2016 season. They had every opportunity on a rainy homecoming Saturday afternoon against their biggest rivals on the football field. But they simply couldn’t slow down the high-powered Orange offense, nor could they muster enough points, in a 28-20 loss. With the defeat, BC has now dropped 12 consecutive games in the ACC.

The Eagles (3-4, 0-4 Atlantic Coast) began the game with an eye on that fruit, showing a brand of fight that eluded them in blowout losses to Clemson and Virginia Tech. On the opening drive for Syracuse (4-4, 2-2), Dungey made a poor pass down the middle of the field right into the hands of Will Harris. The safety, who has had a rough season in coverage, dashed down the middle of the field for 60 yards. He cut to the sidelines with only Dungey to beat rather than going to the middle. Showing frustration over his pick, Dungey ripped Harris to the ground out of bounds. Panic ensued as both benches cleared. Replays showed that a Syracuse coach may have put his hands on a BC player. Addazio was visibly livid after the game about the incident, yet did not want to jump to conclusions as he hadn’t seen a replay.

“I think there’s some stuff on the video that will need to be addressed on that play,” Addazio said. “Some stuff went down over there that I could see myself, and that’s going to be addressed over there. … Let’s let the proper people take a look at it and make the proper decision.”

Like against Clemson, the turnover set the Eagles up with prime position, only this time against a defense that has routinely struggled to shut down even its worst opponents. Yet on 3rd-and-short, Patrick Towles failed to grab the fruit. He had a running lane wide open, but instead decided to throw the ball. Whether the receiver caught it didn’t matter—Towles was well past the line of scrimmage. A prime scoring opportunity led to a 30-yard Mike Knoll field goal. Yes, it was three points, but it was another four left on the field that really stung the Eagles.

Then the Orange is the New Fast offense came alive. Under new head coach Dino Babers, Syracuse employs a fast-paced, no-huddle scheme designed to make sure defenses can never take a breath. He unleashed his biggest weapons against a BC secondary that has struggled to take down the best the ACC has to offer. Dungey repeatedly mixed his passes and runs, efficiently balancing when to go to his many weapons and when to tuck it and run. In total, Dungey finished with 488 yards of offense by himself, 434 of which were through the air.

“I think the quarterback is the real deal,” Addazio said of Dungey. “You know, he made some plays to win that game.”

It wasn’t without the help of BC’s now-porous secondary. Dungey spread the ball around primarily to four different receivers, all of whom had over 70 yards. Steve Ishmael went over the top of John Johnson to get one foot down in the end zone. Amba Etta-Tawo made a one-handed grab and pushed Kamrin Moore to the ground on a 68-yard pass, too.

Yet the Orange just kept BC in it. Myles Willis showed off his incredible speed with an 89-yard kickoff-return touchdown. Cole Murphy missed a 40-yard field goal. Towles even did his best Tyler Murphy impression with a perfect 75-yard play fake touchdown run, one which ultimately cost him the fourth quarter because of a pulled hamstring and forced backup Darius Wade to play with the game on the line.

Instead, the Eagles failed to execute. No play better exemplifies their struggles than the final one of BC’s second drive of the third quarter.

The Eagles drove down the field largely on the ground, mixing in jet sweeps and off-tackle runs. Towles rarely went through the air—something he couldn’t do for most of the game—except for one pass to Michael Walker in the flats that went for 17 yards. On 3rd-and-12 from Syracuse’s 20, Towles went back to Walker. The sophomore bobbled the ball, turning upfield before securing possession. It bounced out of his hands and into those of Parris Bennett.

Between that and Towles’s inexcusable past the line of scrimmage penalty, BC got three points when it should have had another 14.

“Those are just two right off the top of my head that are just glaring,” Addazio said. “They’re right in front of you to be had. I mean, they’re touchdowns any way you shake that stick. In a game like this, those two touchdowns matter, obviously.”

Yet the Eagles couldn’t grab the fruit.

They got their opportunities and repeatedly failed against a team they should have beaten. And because of that, they’re staring down the gauntlet of yet another winless ACC season, and little certainty of what lies ahead.

Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Staff

October 22, 2016