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Oh Boy, That Fourth Quarter Punt Was Inexcusable

Hafley noooo

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Boston College Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Big oof. There is going to be a whole mess of steamy poo to unpack from this game. The Boston College linemen — take your pick as to which line you want to talk about — were getting bullied like we haven’t seen in a while. Phil Jurkovec struggled to make things work with scarlet gloves in his face all afternoon. And the game winning drive featuring 96 yards of unopposed scampering from the Rutgers running backs was just all kinds of brutal.

Still, even with all that, Boston College at least had some clock left and an opportunity to pull out a (very) ugly win to start the season. But alas, the afternoon’s Satchel of Bad Things still wasn’t quite empty.

The sacks were bad, obviously, and let’s be real, BC probably wasn’t going to win the game from this point. But the call from the coaching staff to punt away the football (and this wasn’t the only questionable punting decision of the day) effectively ended the game early.

Let’s set the stage here. The Eagles tailed 22-21 and had 1:57 left on the clock with one timeout remaining after the second sack made it 4th and 25. There weren’t really any great options available, but the worst one was most definitely the one that BC went with: burning a timeout and punting away the football with under two minutes remaining.

Consider that the best case scenario here is actually what the Eagles pulled off: get the three-and-out, burn the last timeout, force a punt. That best case scenario gave BC just 17 seconds to play, which would have whittled down to about 10 if the kicker didn’t get run into (Jesus, that Satchel of Bad Things was really something special, huh?), with a whole lot of yardage to cover to even get an attempt at a game winning field goal. You’re hoping for a miracle — even if everything worked out.

Even with the game at 4th and 25 and on their own 10 yard line, going for it on fourth down was the no-doubt-about-it decision that should have been made.

What’s your worst case scenario if you go for it? You don’t convert the 4th down, Rutgers gets the ball at 1st and goal from the 10, and you’re not in a materially different situation from if you had punted — but at least you gave yourself a shot down the field. Yeah, if you don’t make it, Rutgers has the opportunity for the field goal to make it a 4 point game. But whether you’re down 1 or you’re down 4, you’re still probably going to need a touchdown. If BC had gotten the ball back at the end of the game, they would have had to get a good 50+ yards in one play just to get a chance at the field goal. No, we were in Hail Mary territory at that point — being within a field goal wasn’t important. So in essence, the worst case scenario by going for it was the same as the best case with punting.

Why is that the worst case? Because failing to convert the 4th and 25 instead of punting actually gave the Eagles another out. With the Eagles trailing by just 1 at the time, you could give Rutgers the end zone and be down by 8 points with some meaningful time on the clock. You would certainly feel better about BC’s chances at putting together a long drive down the field for a W with an 8 point deficit and, say, 1:30 on the clock than you would down 1 with 10 seconds left.

You could maybe forgive the coaching staff for not thinking this through if they were scrambling to just get off a snap while burning as little clock as possible. But once the timeout was burned, there was plenty of time to rethink this — and without the timeout, even less time to play with by electing to punt. Hell, they should have just intentionally taken a penalty; a ten second runoff would have been better than using the timeout.

Yeah, sure, this certainly wasn’t the reason Boston College lost the game. But this was definitely the reason why the Eagles didn’t at least give themselves an opportunity to pull out an unlikely win in the end.