Jeff: BC escaped Durham with a victory on Saturday. This left the BC optimists excited that this team won their second straight road game, third straight ACC game, and won on a day that Harris fumbled twice in the redzone, including one fumble that got returned 92 yards for a touchdown. On the day the defense only gave up three field goals and the offense had to put legitimate drives together for their three touchdowns while Harris spoiled the chances for two more on top of that.
The game was in jeopardy until the final minute though when BC needed a stop on fourth and goal to hang on for the victory. This left pessimists and Spaz haters plenty of opportunity to be grumpy after the win. As usual, Spaz did make some calls that were questionable. BC failed to score a point in the final 21 minutes which would've allowed for a much more comfortable victory. Are you hating Tranquill, Spaziani and the team today after a second viewing, or are happy that BC got an ACC road win which we know is tough even when the opponent is Duke?
Brian: The short answer is I'm indifferent. Because BC won, as you said, this will silence a lot of the Spaz and Tranquill critics. But even with the two Montel Harris fumbles in the redzone, and the ridiculous 10-to-14 point swing on Duke's fumble recovery for a TD, I basically saw a very even game that probably could have gone either way. That, and I saw a lot of questionable / poor coaching decisions.
If BC had lost, Harris would have been an easy scapegoat, but everyone has to remember that Harris did some good things on Saturday, too. The game wouldn't have been as close as it was without the two red zone fumbles. But at the same time, BC probably isn't in a position to win the game without Harris' 100+ yards, touchdown and Harris' ability to keep the Duke D honest, opening up the passing game for Rettig and the receivers. Also, when you hand it off to Harris as many times as BC has over the last few weeks and the entire season, fumbles are going to happen. The odds just seemed to catch up with Montel on Saturday.
The good news was that BC seemingly got out-bad coached by David Cutcliffe. Duke had four redzone possessions and came away with just 9 points (3 field goals). That's terrible. On each redzone possession, Cutcliffe threw in backup running QB Brandon Connette during the middle of the drive. Connette had very limited success (2-5 passing for 22 yards and 5 rushes for -8 yards). Sean Renfree was having much more success against the BC D in the passing game, and I think if Cutcliffe sticks with Renfree, Duke may have converted one or two of those field goals into touchdowns. Certainly, a better team would have buried BC after getting into the red zone on four separate occasions. That said, I don't want to take anything away from Cutcliffe, who has turned a BCS doormat of 10+ years into a respectable ACC outfit over the last 2-3 years.
Regarding BC's coaching, I disagreed with the coaching staff on benching Montel for a drive in the fourth quarter when BC desperately needed a first down to move the chains and kill some clock. The clock management on Duke's final drive was pretty bad, too. Finally, I didn't care for BC turtling up in the fourth quarter. But overall, it wasn't the worst coaching performance of the season.
The Eagles now need just one win in their final two games to become bowl-eligible, with a home game this Saturday against Virginia before a regular-season ending road trip to the Carrier Dome to take on Syracuse. How do you see the rest of the season playing out?
Jeff: First of all, Montel was good on Saturday if you take away two fumbles in the red zone, but two fumbles in the red zone is really really bad and does not happen often to any team or any back, especially someone like Harris who has been so reliable with the ball over the past three seasons. I also don't think he was really benched after the fumble. Williams has gotten a second half series in every game since he's become the backup so why not give Montel a little rest at that point. I know the announcers called it benching, but we know the team better than they do.
Brian: I really don't care what you call it. Call it benching Montel, resting Montel, turtling up or playing not to lose on offense, TOB style. I still disagree with the move. When the other team has all the momentum and you desperately need to move the chains and kill some clock, you put your best 11 guys on the field. There is a time and a place for giving Montel a breather. That series wasn't it.
You can focus on the red zone fumbles and say this game wouldn't have been close without them, but that glosses over the fact that Duke also had two second half, drive-killing fumbles and went 0-for-4 scoring TDs in the red zone. For the most part, this was an even game, and everyone would be going ballistic if BC had lost. Instead, we're willing to sweep some poor coaching decisions, clock management and offensive execution under the rug.
Jeff: For the rest of the season, I see the Eagles winning this Saturday at home. The team should have some good confidence after these last three victories and should be able to handle a Virginia team which is similar to Duke and Wake Forest in terms of talent and ability this season. Syracuse is tougher because there will be a good crowd at the Dome for that game but I do not think Syracuse is half as good as there record indicates. The Big East has gotten destroyed out of conference this season and I think the Eagles can and will beat the Orange as long as they are healthy.