Notebook: Turnover Happy BC Hands ACC Opener to Wake Forest

Everything was set up perfectly for Boston College football to open its 2017 home season with a victory over conference foe, Wake Forest. The sky was blue and sunny, the temperature was perfect, and fans turned up to support the Eagles at Alumni Stadium. BC, coming off of a season-opening victory against Northern Illinois last week, seemed poised to defeat the Demon Deacons for the second-consecutive season. But from the opening drive, the Eagles never seemed to click, while Wake Forest took advantage of its opportunities. In the end, BC fell to the Demon Deacons, 34-10, in a sometimes painful, perpetually frustrating performance. Here are a couple of takeaways from the game.

Squandered Opportunities

The game may very well have gone completely differently had BC capitalized on some prime early opportunities. After being forced to punt to end their first possession, the Eagles then made a defensive stand to earn the ball back. Wake Forest’s punter Dom Maggio gifted the Eagles with good field position when his punt only went 29 yards.

BC seemed to start the ensuing drive off strong. Rushes from Jon Hilliman and starting quarterback Anthony Brown resulted in a fresh set of downs for the Eagles. Then Brown connected with Jeff Smith for a 23 yard gain. But just as the Eagles seemed to heat up, an ill-timed mistake from freshman center Ben Petrula, who filled in late for the injured Jon Baker, derailed the momentum. Petrula’s snap sailed over Brown’s head, forcing Brown to retreat and fall on the ball to preserve possession. The play resulted in a 24-yard loss for the Eagles, and they couldn’t overcome it. The drive ended in a punt.

Rather than make up for the lost opportunity, BC failed to capitalize on prime field position again in its next drive. Maggio’s punt was short again, and the Eagles started their drive on the Demon Deacons’ 49-yard line. This time, however, there was no momentum built up at all—Brown couldn’t connect with Smith, A.J. Dillon’s run was stuffed short, and then Brown couldn’t connect with tight end Tommy Sweeney. The drive, beginning in Wake Forest territory, resulted in a three-and-out and another wasted opportunity for the Eagles.

These drives both occurred in the first quarter, when the game was scoreless. Had BC managed to take advantage of its opportunities and put points on the board, the momentum of the game would have swung firmly in its favor. Instead, the Eagles just wasted prime opportunities.

Quarterback Struggles and Turnovers

BC struggled immensely with turnovers, surrendering one fumble and three interceptions over the course of the game. Wake Forest scored 17 points off of turnovers, ensuring that the Eagles paid dearly for their mistakes.

The first turnover came courtesy of Hilliman, who fumbled the ball deep in BC’s territory in the first quarter. Although the play was reviewed, the refs ruled that the original decision would stand, gifting the Demon Deacons prime field position to set up a scoring drive.

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A few plays later, Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford connected with Greg Dortch to put Wake Forest up 7-0.

But Hilliman wasn’t the only player to struggle with ball control. Brown, who put up a rough overall performance on the day, threw three interceptions.

The first, a tipped pass intended for C.J. Lewis, stopped another BC drive just as it threatened to head into Wake Forest territory.

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The second was far more brutal for the Eagles. In the final two minutes of the first half, trailing 14-7, Brown looked to lead BC down the field and put points up heading into halftime. Instead, his pass was picked off by Essang Bassey, who took it to the house and doubled Wake Forest’s lead.

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Brown started the second half in spite of this, but showed his inexperience as he threw his third pick of the game in the third quarter. He threw into double coverage, straight at Jessie Bates III. Bates III returned the interception to BC’s two-yard line, and just a couple of plays later Wake Forest ran it in for another touchdown.

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Predictably, Darius Wade came on to replace Brown after the third pick. The redshirt senior failed to revitalize the slumping offense, however, and BC continued to look out of synch with Wade under center.

“You can’t turn the ball over,” head coach Steve Addazio said after the game. “Our kids had a great look in their eye, they played hard, they did some good things …  but you’re gonna turn the ball over like that, you’re gonna turn the ball over. That can’t happen.”

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Staff

September 10, 2017