Sports, Top Story, Football

Eagles Erase Fourth-Quarter Deficit Only to Lose Another Heartbreaker to FSU

Last season, Boston College football continued a late-season slide at Florida State when cornerback Brandon Sebastian was beat deep by Tamorrion Terry, who hauled in a 74-yard touchdown pass with 1:49 on the clock, sealing a 22-21 win for the Seminoles.

On Saturday afternoon, it was almost deja vu. 

Not only did Terry catch a 74-yard touchdown—which kickstarted a run of 21 unanswered points from FSU—but Seminoles’ wideout D.J. Matthews turned a simple slant route into a 60-yard touchdown with an uncanny 1:49 left in the fourth quarter. It broke a 24-24 deadlock and created breathing room for FSU, which would score once more and fend off a BC comeback effort in what became a 38-31 win.

The Eagles (5-5, 3-4 Atlantic Coast) watched as a 14-10 halftime lead disappeared to the Seminoles (5-5, 4-4), as FSU came away with the victory despite firing head coach Willie Taggart earlier in the week. Quarterback James Blackman was 18-for-26 for 346 yards and two touchdowns, while option-friendly quarterback Jordan Travis took three carries for 94 yards and a pair of scores, the latter a 66-yard sprint that iced the game with a minute left in the fourth quarter.

BC running back AJ Dillon recorded a career-high 40 carries for 167 yards after teammate David Bailey left with an apparent injury after his first rushing attempt of the third quarter. Quarterback Dennis Grosel was an impressive 20-of-29 for 227 yards and two scores through the air—and a one-yard touchdown run to tie the game in the fourth—but had a costly interception that set up Travis’ insurance score.

It continued a year of inconsistency for Steve Addazio and the Eagles, who gave up 524 yards to the visiting Seminoles—the fourth time allowing more than 500 this year. BC was without starter Mike Palmer while Connor Grieco, who got the nod over safety Mehdi El Attrach last week against Syracuse, was additionally ruled out for the year. 

Still, the team’s defense has been unable to string together respectable performances, and even an improved pass rush couldn’t overcome Blackman’s ability to move around the pocket and find open receivers. Terry created separation throughout the game to the tune of seven catches for 156 yards, while three other receivers had 30-plus yards on multiple receptions.

“Listen, this isn’t complicated,” Addazio said about the defense struggles. “I mean, we lost a fair amount of players on defense, and we’ve got some very talented players that we’re trying to plug in on defense, and they’re young.”

Talented linebacker John Lamot—who had a team-high 11 tackles—offered a different analysis when asked about the team’s inexperience on defense.

“We’ve got guys that haven’t started previously, but they’ve had enough playing time and experience to limit that excuse,” the redshirt junior said. “So I feel like that shouldn’t be an excuse anymore—not really an excuse in the first place. To me, I feel like we just gotta play better.”

The game could not have gotten off to a better start for the Eagles, as they ate up almost six minutes of clock, running 14 plays and marching 75 yards downfield on their opening drive. Blown coverage from the Seminoles resulted in Grosel connecting with a wide-open Kobay White on 3rd-and-Goal, allowing BC to take a quick 7-0 lead. The Eagles’ defense bent but didn’t break on FSU’s first possession, forcing the visitors to settle for a 20-yard field goal from Ricky Aguayo.

Then, in the second quarter, BC took a 14-3 lead on the strength of its rushing attack. The Eagles, after trading punts with the visiting Seminoles, covered 61 yards on just six plays—all runs—allowing them to take a two-possession lead via a Bailey 11-yard scamper.

That’s when things started to turn. FSU trotted out, and Terry once again burnt Sebastian, running by the second-year starter and catching a perfectly-placed pass from Blackman for the lengthy touchdown. The Eagles had a chance to answer, working with four-plus minutes, but questionable time management at the end of the half ended in a missed field goal. Addazio ran the clock down with BC facing a 4th-and-4, eventually taking a timeout with three seconds on the clock. He sent Aaron Boumerhi out, and the graduate transfer missed his second field goal of the game, this time from 46 yards out.

FSU, who deferred on the opening toss, scored right out of halftime after Danny Longman’s kickoff bounced out of bounds to set up good field position. It went 65 yards on seven plays with Travis, who transferred from Louisville, running a well-executed option and following his blockers for a 26-yard score. Just like that, the Eagles were on the wrong side of the scoreboard—trailing 17-14—and they would never lead again.

The teams traded punts before BC turned the ball over on downs—Grosel rolled out and overthrew White—and the Seminoles struck again. This time, it was Cam Akers, who punched it in from 13 yards out. Outside of Travis, FSU largely struggled on the ground, managing just 84 yards on 27 carries between Akers, Blackman, and Tre’Shaun Harrison.

Boumerhi somewhat redeemed himself in the fourth quarter, sinking a 30-yard field goal after a lengthy 15-play, 57-yard drive that took five minutes off the clock. Then, the defense stepped up, with FSU shooting itself in the foot with a false start as it prepared to go for it on 4th-and-1, and the Seminoles had to punt. That set up Grosel’s heroics, as he found Ethon Williams for a third-down conversion, ran 24 yards to the FSU two-yard line, and then flipped into the end zone on a quarterback keeper to tie it up.

Two plays later, though, the Eagles’ defense was left chasing Matthews downfield after a missed tackle, and he reached for the pylon with a dive from six yards out to give FSU the lead for good. It was a brutal turn of events in which BC had just one defender in the middle of the field—Tate Haynes—and he couldn’t bring down the speedster. Neither could El Attrach, who was also in the area.

“That last quick gain they threw a three-step drop, quick-gain slant route that went for 60, that was a backbreaker right there to me,” Addazio said. “I mean, it was just quick gain, and goes for 60. That can’t happen. You knock them down at that point, get the ball back, you’re in great shape. But we didn’t.”

The loss was a disappointing one for a number of reasons. FSU came in with an interim head coach in Odell Haggins and had lost three of its last four in the conference—the lone win was against cellar dweller Syracuse. It also had a propensity to blow leads late, having squandered a trio of fourth-quarter leads on the season. That didn’t matter against the Eagles, though, as the Seminoles bounced back and broke off a pair of 60-plus yard touchdowns to secure the win. Now, instead of having bowl eligibility locked up, BC faces an uphill battle with tough road games against No. 15 Notre Dame and Pittsburgh looming.

Featured Image by Kait Devir / Heights Staff

November 9, 2019