I want nothing more than to be able to write an optimistic piece on the heels of Saturday's loss to Georgia Tech. After all, it became pretty clear that, in year four under Steve Addazio, Boston College has replenished its stock of recruits, and has put a number of playmakers on the field on both sides of the ball.
The defense seems like it hasn't missed a beat, even in the absence of Don Brown. With the exception of the first drive of the game, Georgia Tech's option offense was unable to get anything going. The defense just kept making stops, even as the offense sputtered through the first half, showing the resilience they had on display all of last season. The 4th-and-20 completion seemed to finally break their will, but you really can't blame the defense when you only give up 17 points.
On offense, BC showed that, as expected, they have a number of guys who can run the ball. The multi-pronged running attack kept GT guessing and moved the ball effectively for much of the game - again, with the exception of a few drives early in the game. The passing attack looked at least competent, with Towles coming as advertised: he's tough and has a decent arm, though he's maybe not the most accurate. But he's certainly better at throwing than anyone we've seen line up under center since at least Chase Rettig. Even in BC's scoreless first half, they had a number of good drives, sputtering due to missed field goals and interceptions. Even the play calling was a pretty good mix between run and pass.
But ultimately, I can't write a fully optimistic piece today, because even with the talent on this team certainly being good enough to have a decent season, we got pretty glaring confirmation that Steve Addazio's in-game management can be summed up in one word: disaster.
I think Addazio has done a very good job rebuilding the talent pipeline in a really difficult situation following repeated coaching turnover at BC. But his fatal flaws in-game are going to prevent BC from being able to get over any sort of hump; this year, that hump may be bowl eligibility, in a future year it could be a big game that could move BC in to an upper tier bowl.
BC has now lost 10 of its last 14 games decided by one score or less - including seven in a row. At this point, it's not a particularly small sample size. We've seen mind-boggling decision making and clock management cost BC 5 or 6 of those highly winnable games, and the trend shows no sign of balancing out any time soon.
As has been discussed here repeatedly, two things really stand out as particularly abhorrent: deciding to kick a field goal on 4-and-2 with the game tied in the 3rd quarter, despite the fact that the offense was starting to look comfortable and confident while the kicking game not so much. To make matters worse, BC burned a timeout to set up that play, a timeout that would have come in handy later in the game.
And then of course, there was the decision to drain clock and waste a timeout before punting with 3:39 to go and Georgia Tech having their timeouts. I'm pretty sure everyone in the stadium could appropriately do the math at that point - there were really two possibilities coming out of that drive: GT would score and leave BC with precious little time left to try to move the ball themselves, or BC would stop them and would be in a position where they could try to kill the game off with about 2 minutes left. There was pretty much no way having "only" 3:39 would put much pressure on Georgia Tech given their timeout situation - it's not like they had to drive with under 2 minutes left.
If BC had at least punted a little more quickly and saved their timeout, Georgia Tech would have at least left BC maybe 90 seconds and two timeouts to work with to try to move down the field and attempt a game-tying field goal - FG struggles aside, something that's certainly within the realm of possibility. A half a minute with one timeout is too steep a hill to climb for most offenses, let alone BC's.
Ultimately, Saturday was a maddening example of what the destiny of the next few years looks like; I'm prepared for more galling one-score losses. I do think, based on what we saw from the team on Saturday, that they're likely to win some games this year, and I think you'll see a BC team that continues to be competitive going forward. Barring another complete disaster of a season, Addazio isn't going anywhere - and even if he did go, it would take another rebuilding cycle to deal with even more recruit turnover.
So we're stuck with this: mind-boggling game management. It's going to keep costing BC games, as it has over and over again.