Sunday, November 11, 2007
The Boston College Eagles went down to College Park, MD on Saturday night and embarrassed themselves once again. After losing to unranked Florida State at home last week, the Eagles were out of the national title picture, but were still very much in the race for the ACC Championship and their first ever BCS Bowl berth. But after losing 42-35 to the 5-5 Terrapins, Boston College can no longer afford another slip up. The hefty cushion they had built up for themselves is now gone.
Boston College MUST win at Clemson next week in order to win the ACC Atlantic Division and go to the ACC Championship in Jacksonville. The only visiting team that has won in Clemson, SC this year has been #10 Virginia Tech. And if someone could explain to me how 8-2 Virginia Tech is ranked 10th in the AP Poll and 8-2 Boston College (who beat Virginia Tech) is ranked 18th, I'll buy them a beer. On the bright side, if BC beats Clemson, then they clinch the ACC Atlantic Division, no matter what happens in the Miami game.
The fact that BC went from 2nd in the polls all the way down to 18th is not what annoys me as a fan. It is how and why we fell. Had the Eagles lost to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, that would be understandable. Had they lost to Clemson on the road, that would be understandable. Hell, even if they had lost to Miami, it would be understandable, because we haven't beaten Miami in 23 years.
Had Boston College played their best and lost to teams that were simply better than them, it would be understandable. But they didn't play their best. In fact, Boston College seemed to save its worst play of the season for their most important games.
In the Florida State game, it was a complete lack of any ground game that cost the Eagles. Actually, there was no attempt to run the ball at all. Matt Ryan led the team in carries with 9. Andre Callendar and L.V. Whitworth combined for 11. Of the 74 offensive plays BC ran, 62 were all up to Ryan, who had an abysmal game. The Eagles were also penalized 8 times for 121 yards.
In the Maryland game, the defense completely collapsed. Coming into the game, Boston College's defense had allowed no opponent to score more than 28 points. They had also kept opponents to under 20 points in 6 games.
But Maryland was able to put up 472 yards of offense. The Terps were assisted by two huge Matt Ryan interceptions. Once again, BC went without much of a running game, gaining a net of 45 yards on the ground. But this time, they were on the comeback trail for pretty much the entire game.
What's really tragic for BC is that this was the most points Maryland has scored all year. They put up 31 against Villanova and 26 against Florida International. This was a mediocre football team that ran all over one of the best teams in the country.
But this isn't the first time that Boston College has let us all down.
Last year, the regular season ended on a sour note as Boston College lost 17-14 to a hapless Miami team (on my birthday). BC also suffered an embarrassing 17-15 loss on the road to NC State. But they recovered from that, crushing Virginia Tech on a Thursday night. Then they went to Tallahassee and beat Florida State. But their dreams of making it to the ACC title game were dashed when they fell to Wake Forest, 21-14. Matt Ryan threw for 402 yards in that game, but with only 1 TD and 2 INTs.
In the 4th quarter of that Wake Forest game, here are how Boston College's drives ended. Keep in mind, it was 21-14 when the 4th quarter began.
Drive #1: Missed 40 yard field goal
Drive #2: LV Whitworth fumbles at WFU 37 yard line, recovered by WFU
Drive #3: On 1st and 10 from the WFU 25 yard line, Matt Ryan's throw is intercepted by Patrick Ghee of Wake Forest at the goal line
Boston College played like crap and lost that game, just like they lost to NC State and Miami that year; just like they lost to Maryland and Florida State this year.
In 2005, Boston College finished with a 5-3 conference record, tied with Florida State atop the division. Of course, FSU held the tie-breaker, as they beat BC 28-17 that year. However, Boston College's 3 conference losses include a shocker. BC lost to Florida State, Virginia Tech, and...THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA!
UNC was 4-4 at the time of the game, and would finish the season at 5-6. Who else did UNC beat in 2005? Virginia, NC State, Utah, and Duke. But BC lost to them, and it not only cost the Eagles a chance to play in the ACC title game, it cost them a warm weather Bowl game. Instead, they had to go to the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise to play none other than Boise State.
Then there was 2004, Boston College's last year in the Big East. Coming into the last week of the regular season, all Boston College had to do was beat Syracuse in order to win the Big East Championship and go to a BCS Bowl. Syracuse was 5-5 coming into the game after their loss to Temple. That's right, Syracuse lost to Temple! Boston College was ranked 19th at the time, was 8-2, and had beaten the likes of #10 West Virginia on the road, and #25 Notre Dame in South Bend. The game was also to be played in Chestnut Hill. Coming into the game, Syracuse was 1-4 on the road, with that one win coming against Buffalo.
Syracuse crushed Boston College 43-17. Diamond Ferri, a 2nd stringer, ran for 141 yards and 2 TDs. He also had an interception returned for a touchdown on defense. What made this even worse was that Syracuse recruited him from BC's backyard. Ferri went to Everett High School, a mere 11 miles from Boston College. The Eagles also turned the ball over 4 times, and racked up 9 penalties for 89 yards.
Instead of playing in the Fiesta Bowl, BC was sent to the Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte to play UNC.
The one bright spot to all these disappointments is that Boston College finished each of these seasons with a Bowl game victory. However, how much does a win in the MPC Computers Bowl really mean? It certainly doesn't mean much to the Boston sports fan. It helps for recruiting, but wouldn't a conference championship help even more. What if BC were able to make a BCS Bowl one of those years and pull out a victory? Wouldn't that lead to tons of recruits begging to go to BC? Wouldn't that mean more money? More exposure?
This phenomenon is not unique to the football team. The basketball team had a halftime lead over Georgetown in last year's NCAA tournament, but let that slip away. In 2006, Boston College lost the ACC Tournament Finals to Duke by a score of 78-76. They went to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament, but lost to Villanova 60-59. In both heartbreaking losses, the Eagles shot poorly at the free throw line. In 2005, BC was seeded 4th, but lost in the second round to 12th seeded Wisconsin-Milwaulkee. That was after starting the season with 20 straight wins, and then losing to West Virginia in the Big East tournament. BC lost 5 of their last 10 games that season.
The Boston College hockey team has also disappointed as of late. In 2006 they failed to win the Beanpot or the Hockey East Tournament, falling to BU both times. They then lost to Wisconsin in the NCAA Championship. In 2005, they won the Beanpot and the Hockey East, but were knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the 2nd round. Since BC last won the NCAA Championship in 2001, there have been high expectations and very little results. They've only managed to win 1 Beanpot title, and 2 Hockey East titles. They've managed to get far in the NCAA Tournament, but have always fallen short of total victory.
So what's in the waters of the Chestnut Hill Reservoir? What is the explanation for this uncanny ability to reach the summit of greatness and, like a drunk mountain climber, plummet to the bottom?
Boston College, unlike most college sport powerhouses, has academic standards. Looking at the other D-IA football schools with academic standards, and one will see a list of mediocre and bad teams. Stanford, Notre Dame, Army, Navy, Air Force, and so on. In the BCS Top 25 this week, Boston College is the only school listed that has some semblance of academic standards for their athletes.
Academic standards inevitably lead to a generally poorer quality of athlete. It isn't that dumb people are more athletic, or that smart people aren't athletic, it's just that academic standards reduce your potential recruiting pool. In sports like basketball or hockey, teams can get away with this. Just look at Duke basketball and Cornell hockey. However, football requires a tremendous depth of athletes.
But the failures of Boston College are not due to athletic inadequacy, or facing superior talent. Losing to Maryland this year, or Wake Forest last year, or UNC the year before that, or Syracuse the year before that; those losses were all mistake ridden games. They were played poorly by Boston College. It wasn't as if the Eagles played their best and simply weren't good enough to win, it's that they played their worst and blew it. In sports terminology, this is known as choking.
It seems as though the athletic department at BC is content and satisfied with being competitive and above average. After all, Alumni Stadium sells out, Conte Forum always has at least 4,000+ fans in attendance for basketball or hockey, the school is on the map, and the school was good enough to be cherry-picked by the ACC. But as a sports fan, I for one want more. I want a conference championship for BC football. I want the basketball team to make it to the Final Four. I want the hockey team to become a dynasty. These are not difficult tasks for BC athletics. They have the talent, they just need the attitude of victors.