Losers of Two Straight, BC Returns Home for Rivalry Game Versus Syracuse

Two days after Boston College football suffered its most heartbreaking loss of the 2018 campaign—a 22-21 defeat to a reeling Florida State team—head coach Steve Addazio doubled down on his decision to burn a timeout, take a delay of game penalty, and punt the ball away to the Seminoles, rather than go for it on 4th-and-1 from the FSU 40-yard line with 2:52 remaining.

“That was clearly the right decision to make by every measure that was right, except for one: It doesn’t work out in the end,” Addazio said during his Monday weekly press conference. “Had the ball been 10 yards closer, there’s no doubt I would have went for it on fourth down. That’s easy—10 more yards.”

Deondre Francois and the FSU offense made the most of the opportunity, using three plays to catapult the Seminoles over BC, most notably completing a 74-yard pass over the top for the game-winning score, an image that will likely stick in the minds of Eagles fans for months to come.

After attempting to move the chains on fourth down five times—including twice at the same exact location (the FSU 40)—earlier in the day, Addazio’s conservative late-game philosophy raised questions, but it certainly wasn’t the only decision that frustrated fans.

Instead of rotating Ben Glines and David Bailey into the backfield—the two backs who shouldered the workload amid A.J. Dillon’s two-week absence this fall—Addazio fed the ball to Dillon a season-high 37 times. For the third-straight game, the sophomore, who tweeted on Nov. 15, “Been six games since I was above, don’t worry you’ll see the real me,” limped off the field.

“You’re going to limp a little bit,” Addazio said. “A limp doesn’t mean anything. Sometimes you come out, and it’s just what it is. If he feels like he’s been great—if he feels like he can’t go—[he] uses the words ‘can’t go.’ If he feels like he’s not going at the level he should be going, he tells us and we get him out.”

Despite the increased volume of carries and noticeable limp, Addazio says that Dillon felt better on Sunday than he has on any other Sunday since he first injured his left ankle against Temple back in Week Five.

Regardless of who it is in the backfield, the Eagles will likely need to lean on their run game this coming Saturday, in order to keep the sticks moving and slow down the Syracuse offense—the 12th-highest scoring unit in the country. Even though the No. 19 Orange are coming off their worst loss of the season, a 36-3 blowout defeat to Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium, head coach Dino Babers’ team has averaged 40.6 points per game this season, recording its first eight-win season in six years and cracking the AP Poll for the first time since 2001 in the process.

It all starts at the quarterback position with Eric Dungey, one of the best dual-threat signal callers in the ACC, let alone the country—someone that Addazio has praised for years.   

“I would say Eric is probably, maybe the best quarterback in the conference, and I’ve said that,” the sixth-year Eagles coach said. “I’m not saying something new. You know, you could argue, but I’m saying that guy has got great, great throwing capability, great running capability, [and] he’s got the intangibles.”

Dungey is currently stringing together the best season of his collegiate career. The senior has completed 59.5 percent of his passes this year for 2,203 yards, all while posting a 14-6 touchdown to interception ratio. His numbers on the ground are debatably more impressive. Dungey has scampered for 698 yards and a team-leading 12 touchdowns, ranking 16th in the ACC in rushing. Although the senior has always been dangerous, he’s been equally injury-prone.

Last week, Dungey left Syracuse’s game against the Irish in the first quarter with an upper-body injury, reaching for his lower back. The senior is a game-time decision, but if he can’t go, redshirt freshman Tommy DeVito, who led the Orange to a decisive win over FSU and a thrilling double-overtime victory against North Carolina earlier this year, will got the nod. In Addazio’s eyes, both quarterbacks are lethal and can run the Syracuse offense efficiently.

Like BC, the Orange facilitate a high-octane attack, averaging 81.3 plays per game. Luckily for the Eagles, they’ve been preparing against an up-tempo offense all season.

“Well, we practice against it every day,” Addazio said. “You know, there are times they go faster than us, and there are times they don’t.”

What makes this Syracuse team different than past Dungey-led iterations is the Orange’s run game and play-making defense. For the first time since 2013, Syracuse has a running back that has eclipsed the 700-yard mark on the season. At the moment, Moe Neal has rushed the ball 135 times for 786 yards and five scores, averaging 5.8 yards per clip. The one-two punch of Dungey and Neal keeps opposing defenses on edge.

As far as Syracuse’s own defense is concerned, the Orange is allowing 28.4 points per game—which might seem like a lot, but for Syracuse, it’s the lowest scoring output it’s held opponents to since 2014. Not only that, but the Orange have forced 26 turnovers this season, one more than the Eagles and tied for the third-most in the country. Starting up front, Syracuse consistently wreaks havoc: Defensive ends Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson have racked up a combined 16 sacks this year, rivaling Wyatt Ray and Zach Allen as the most explosive edge-rushing duo in the conference.

Denoted as Senior Day, Saturday marks the final home game of the season for BC, and the final home game of the collegiate careers of the last remaining Eagles who endured the infamous 2015 season, a year in which BC finished 0-8 in ACC play.

“We’ve spent so much time building this program and painstakingly building it brick by brick, if you will, and so many of these guys have been so instrumental in this—I mean, everybody is instrumental, but these guys have been through the real bulk of this deal,” Addazio said.

With an abundance of NFL talent spread across this senior class, this could very well be Addazio’s best chance to finally get over the hump and record BC’s first eight-win season since 2009, completing one of the more unlikely turnarounds in the Power Five.  

Featured Image by Howard Simmons / AP Photo

November 22, 2018