Notebook: BC Fails to Capitalize on Defensive Stands Against Syracuse

It looked like a perfect pass. Patrick Towles aired out a beautiful throw to hit Michael Walker.

It looked like a touchdown in the making. As Walker turned toward the end zone, he was already picturing the end of the dreaded ACC streak for Boston College football. These dreams stayed purely in the realm of imagination. Walker quickly lost control of the football as it began to bobble around out of his grasp. His game of personal hot potato soon got out of hand as the ball bounced out of his arms and into the waiting hands of a Syracuse linebacker Parris Bennett.

What had once looked like a moment for the highlight reel had quickly turned into yet another busted opportunity for BC football.

This in many ways sums up the Syracuse matchup for BC. The Eagles had so many opportunities, but they were ultimately unable to convert the possibility of an opportunity into the reality of points. This lost opportunity was squandered by BC’s inability to adapt to Syracuse’s tempo and the Eagles’ failure to capitalize on several defensive stops.

  1. Tempo

The time of possession for both teams was fairly even with Syracuse only controlling the ball for two more minutes than BC. Despite the similarity in time of possession, Syracuse outgained BC by 245 yards. This can be primarily attributed to the quick pace used by the Orange.

The Eagles, on the other hand, utilized a play strategy aimed at slowing down the pace of the game. The discrepancy in play style gave Syracuse the immediate momentum edge and succeeded in getting BC off balance early. Syracuse’s continual use of a no-huddle offense meant that the Eagles defense would struggle to get totally set. Conversely, BC gave too much away with its predictable play-calling and slow speed. This resulted in Towles’ and Darius Wade’s combining for only seven completions. The run was performed better due mostly to the aggressive style of running back Davon Jones and a 75-yard run by Towles. It was still not enough, as the high tempo pace of Syracuse kept the Eagles back on their heels throughout the game.

  1. Inability to Capitalize on Defensive Play

The game should not have been as close at it was. Syracuse dominated throughout, but timely turnovers on the part of BC’s defense kept the Eagles in the game until the fourth quarter.

Just as Syracuse’s first drive was nearly the BC redzone, William Harris picked off Syracuse’s quarterback Eric Dungey. He managed to run it back 60 yards before an ill-advised cut to the side forced him out of bounds. The anger from the Syracuse side bubbled over until players from both benches—and reportedly some Syracuse coaches—became engaged in the scuffle. BC defense continued to capitalize on Syracuse offensive mistakes, as the Eagles went on to record more turnovers: two fumbles recovered off of the Orange quarterback.

While these turnovers put the offense in position, the defense as a whole was unable to protect well especially in the secondary and over the middle. The Eagle offense was unable to capitalize on the bursts of defensive momentum with Towles not even managing a completion until late in the second quarter. The majority of BC’s points came from two impact plays: a kickoff run back by Myles Willis and a 75-yard touchdown run on the part of Towles.

The defensive plays that should have served as momentum changers did not do enough to halt Syracuse progress due to a combination of average defensive play against the cannon of Dungey and the inability of the offensive to maintain long drives.

  1. The Streak

As of this Saturday, BC football has spent more than 15 percent of its time in the ACC in this long losing streak against conference opponents. The matchup against Syracuse was one of the few opportunities—likely the best opportunity—this season for the Eagles to end the streak. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they must carry the streak’s weight on their shoulders for at least one more week.

The importance of this game and the pressure of the streak was not lost on the players or the coaches before or after the matchup. For Steve Addazio and his Eagles to walk away from this season with something redeemable, they need to end their ACC streak.

The odds, however, placed this game as the only remaining ACC matchup this season in which the Eagles were favored. After this lost opportunity, the motivation to clear the weight off of their backs may instead turn into a constant reminder of their failure over the past season and a half. The weight of the world may finally come crashing down upon BC, and only time will tell if this will be reflected in the rest of the season.  

“That game was anybody’s game, and we had an unbelievable opportunity,” Addazio said..

Unfortunately for the Eagles, they let this opportunity slip through their fingers and only time will tell if they will be able to bounce back to find something redeemable in their so far lackluster season.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

October 23, 2016