Jeff: It seems since Matt Ryan left three seasons ago, BC has beaten many teams that we expect to be inferior on the scoreboard, but not on the stat sheet. Saturday however, BC won a close game against a team that, if you're a fan who expects BC in an ACC Championship Game, BC should beat regularly home or away. BC beat Syracuse by nine but dominated the stats. BC had more total yards, was better on third downs and had possession for almost two-thirds of the game. We'll talk about the season as a whole more later this week and after the bowl game, but were you happy with this end to the season, especially considering Montel Harris was out with an injury along with 3 other would-be starters?
Brian: Was I happy with this end to the season? It's an interesting question.
Certainly, I was impressed with the defense all season, despite key injuries on the defensive line and in the secondary. The BC defense finished their regular season as the top defensive unit against the run in the country, allowing just 80 yards a game on the ground. And the pass defense played well enough down the stretch despite the absences of Wes Davis and DeLeon Gause. The BC D was stout against inferior opponents, allowing just three offensive touchdowns in the final four games (and one of those three touchdowns was on a patented Jim Grobe gadget play).
The offense though leaves a lot to be desired. I understand that the unit is young, and it has a big upside with players like Rettig, Harris/Williams and a very young receiving corps. But the offense was pretty woeful this year, a mix of poor execution and bad playcalling. The offense was especially dreadful when it came to third down conversions and red zone conversions. The BC offense converted just one-third of their third down attempts -- good for 106th in the country -- and only a 1/3 of their red zone trips ended in touchdowns, which was dead last in the country. You can dominate the stat sheet against lesser opponents, but if these trends continue next year, BC is bound to lose a game or two to a team they should beat.
Finally, other than the kicking game, where kicker Nate Freese and punter Ryan Quigley far exceeded my preseason expectations for them, BC's special teams were awful this year. I can't count the number of times that we let punts roll or took kickoffs out of the end zone only to gain 10-15 yards on the return. Our kick returns (119th best) and punt returns (105th best) put BC's young offense is pretty poor field position all year. If there isn't an appreciable difference in the return game next year, I think we'll see this team continue to struggle against a tougher slate of opponents.
I'll definitely take a 5 game winning streak to end the season, but the offensive and special team trends worry me going into the bowl game and next season.
Jeff: Well we are going to be analyzing the season as a whole a lot and hopefully our bowl matchup will hopefully give us a good measuring stick going into next season. But looking at Saturday as just one single game, I am optimistic about the future. I didn't love the playcalling, but the playcaller might not be around next season. The team didn't have to rely on turnovers or mistakes by the other team to come away with the comfortable win in the end. The 'Dome is a tough place to play and can get very very loud even with just a small crowd as we found out when we traveled there in 2003.
The offense has been young all season but is really, really, really young when Montel Harris is not in there. With a healthy Harris and Colin Larmond Jr. next season, along with some playcalling that shows a little more confidence in the QB, I like our chances against a lot of teams. The announcers during the game talked about our youth a lot and usually when you talk about youth on a football team you are at least talking about redshirt freshmen and sophomores, not true freshmen. The true freshmen we have that played huge rolls in Saturdays victory make me feel better about next season and the way we controlled the ball makes me feel better about the Syracuse win than our win against Duke for example. Considering where we were a few weeks ago, I couldn't imagine a better realistic way to finish the regular season.