Maybe I was a little too harsh on the Eagles; yes, they did lose to the Seminoles, but rather than a blowout – as I predicted – the Eagles kept the game close, only losing 24-19 to a 16th ranked Florida State squad that was favored to win by three touchdowns. While I am not ready to call it a moral victory, as the Eagles could have won, there were, for the first time this season, many positives in a game in which most expected few.
First and foremost, the Boston College defense deserves all the credit in the world. Besides surrendering a few big plays to players who have made a name for themselves as home-run threats (yes, you Greg Reid), the Eagles defense played the most complete game of the season, if not in recent memory. Against an offense that ranked 16th in the nation in rushing offense, the Eagles surrendered only 141 yards on the ground (many of those yards stacking up late in the game), giving up only 3.8 yards per carry. Against the pass, the Eagles were equally spectacular, surrendering only 170 yards through the air, while intercepting 3 Christian Ponder passes – a season high for the pre-season all-ACC selection. Credit junior corner back Donnie Fletcher and sophomore safety Jim Noel, who harassed Florida State receivers all day, as well as Ponder.
The BC defensive line also played its most complete game of the season. In addition to being stout against the dangerous Florida State rushing attack, the Eagles defensive line was consistently applying pressure on Ponder, often times able to get to him with just a 4 man rush. Defensive coordinator Bill McGovern also did a great job of drawing up effective blitz packages, as the Eagles were able to confuse the Seminoles offense throughout the course of the game, bringing pressure from all areas of the field.
Beyond the stellar play of the defense, most refreshing was the confidence that the BC defense exuded. For the first time this year, the entire defense played with swagger, unafraid to be aggressive – in pass coverage, in blitzing, and in tackling. At times the defenses over aggressiveness was detrimental – especially on the end around to Bert Reed that went for a 42 yard touchdown – but without it, Ponder would have picked apart the Eagles soft zone, just as Dayne Crist and Russell Wilson did in the weeks before. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the offensive production was nowhere near that of the defense, and despite some great individual play, was not able to put enough points on the board.
The Eagles offense, which today could be called Montel Harris, came out of the gate sprinting, with Harris rushing for well over 100 yards on just his first 6 carries. Without a doubt Harris’ best performance of the season, the junior showed why he is one of the ACC’s premiere running backs. Despite Harris’ outstanding play though, the rest of the Eagles offense was somewhat stagnant. Chase Rettig, while able to avoid turnovers, was unable to consistently move the chains, going 9-for-24 for 95 yards. Rettig’s play, while unspectacular, was not the problem with the Eagles offense though. Heading into the game, it would have been unreasonable for anyone to expect a stellar outing from the true freshman. In his first road game, a game in which he was consistently under heavy pressure from an aggressive FSU defense, Rettig preformed very well, showing glimpses of why he was such a highly recruited quarterback. Even the offensive line was able to improve upon its early season performance. Harris’ production speaks to the lines performance in run blocking, and while Rettig was under pressure all day, the lines pass protection was not the culprit of the Eagles inability to put the ball in the end zone.
The major issue on offense today? The play-calling.
It is hard to argue with Tranquil’s play calling early in the game, as the Eagles, behind Harris, came out to a blistering start. Understanding that a true freshman was under center, Tranquil made certain that he would not put too much pressure on Rettig to win the game for the Eagles. Luckily, Harris was able to rise to the occasion. Certainly the right move.
Tranquil’s play calling, for the majority of the game remained satisfactory; the Eagles coaching staff understood that they were better off punting the ball than turning the ball over and giving the Seminoles explosive offense with good field position. In other words, with a true freshman under center, being conservative made sense.
As the game drew to an end, though, with the Eagles trailing by 5, Tranquil failed to adjust to the situation. To win, the Eagles needed a touchdown, yet Tranquil remained conservative in his play calling. In trying to keep the pressure off of Rettig, Tranquil inadvertently put the young quarterback in situations difficult for even the most seasoned quarterback: third and long.
Specifically, I point to what would become the last drive for the Eagles offense. After Rettig converted on a key third down with a 20-yard completion to tight end Chris Pantale over the middle, Tranquil opted to run it on both first and second down, the first gaining 2 yards, the second no yards. After running ineffectively for the entire second half (Harris had rushed for only 23 yards in the second half, compared to 168 in the first half), Tranquil decided that the best course of action was to run on both first and second down, resting the outcome of the game rested in the hands of a true freshman quarterback on a high-pressure 3rd and 8. As could be expected, the pass fell incomplete, and the Eagles were forced to punt for the last time in the game. Rettig was not to blame; he was put in an incredibly difficult situation, as he had been all game. Tranquil should have realized that the Eagles needed to be more aggressive. The rush had been ineffective for the last two quarters, and even though you run the risk of throwing an interception by passing the ball, you cannot get lucky if you don’t put yourself in position to get lucky.
No matter how well the Eagles played today, the losing streak now sits at four. The Eagles have one week to prepare before welcoming a beatable Maryland squad to Alumni Stadium. The coaching staff will need to address many of the issues on offense, but one thing is for certain; if the Eagles defense plays at the level they did today, Boston College will, even without an offense to speak of, be in every game.
About the Author
Written by Ian Boynton
Student at Boston College. Avid fan of St. Louis Rams, Boston Red Sox, as well as all Boston College Sports.