Before the season, in our preseason roundtable post, I remember distinctly thinking about the offensive line in practice. Its struggles, how it was being beaten by the defense, I remember thinking about how it could undo the improvements to the skill position. Even though I believed this team could get to where it needed to be, I remember thinking one or two steps the other direction would be a disaster.
Even at the time, I realized the margin for error is so slim in the ACC, that one or two missteps in one direction could unravel the entire season. With that, I came back to one observation about this year: maybe BC isn't that good. They took those one or two steps the wrong direction, with youth, inexperience, and injury, and they wound up falling behind some other teams. In a world where one step the wrong way results in a complete defeat on the scoreboard, I don't think about what might have been if it went the other way. I think about, instead, how the warning signs were right there all along.
Like I've said time and time again, I don't think fans fully understood how deep the rebuilding process went. We identified there could've been issues before the season, but instead of expecting issues, they cranked up the volume and assumed everything would be okay. Now they're getting disillusioned because trends went against BC.
The preseason wrote on the wall about the offensive line's struggles, but I don't think people realized the depth of how far that went. Now that it's not going the way they wanted it, people are calling for the offensive coordinator, the coach, the players to all be shipped elsewhere. They're not looking at this from a realistic view which is that they might have been wrong from the beginning.
This team has done everything it can with its current skill set to not let each other down, but there are so many players who aren't ready or shouldn't be seeing the field right now. The offense lost two starting wide receivers, a starting tight end, a starting running back, and a starting quarterback. The offensive line, as predicted, took a step back. That's literally every position on the offense. Yet everyone still wants to point the finger and say it's unacceptable that this team isn't moving forward.
They're looking at it from when they thought this team should've been 8-4 instead of saying their original prediction was ill-advised and misguided. To say "this team should have six wins if we didn't mismanage it" is the same thing as what they would say if the Eagles did have six wins, which unquestionably would've been that "despite our mismanagement, we still have six wins."
Again, I knew it would be frustrating, and I myself get extremely frustrated in game with mistakes. But I know I'm watching this team play out the stretch with lowered expectations. They could conceivably lose the next three games in a row - two swing games and one "guaranteed loss" in my book - before playing a team that's currently lost four in a row and is starting their own tailspin. Anything's possible the rest of the season - from 3-9 to 6-6. But you have to be realistic - something fans struggled to do from the day training camp opened up.
This Week's Storylines (Friday Night Lights edition)
Even though FNL is probably one of my all-time favorite shows, I'm passing it up in favor of the movie from 2006 starring Billy Bob Thornton.
"I've seen you fight. I've seen you not quit. Can you give me a great effort and just a little bit more?" -Gary Gaines
All season long, we've waited for the Eagles to bust out and play like we hoped they would. Each week, though, they seem to be going up against a big, nasty, physical defense. Florida State, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson, Louisville - they all came into the season with highly-touted defenses. That won't change this week when the Eagles take on Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech came into the season with one of the best defenses on paper in the nation. They've been limited thanks to injuries to Dadi Nicolas and Corey Marshall, and the linebackers are struggling to cover the middle of the field. The secondary lost Kendall Fuller to a torn ACL. They've taken a step back, but, like Louisville this past Saturday, they're still a unit to fear until the offense can show us even once they can take advantage of something.
"Perfection is being able to look your friends in the eye and know you did everything you could not to let them down." -Gary Gaines
If you're a coach, you look for positives. I found a television analyst incredibly inflammatory when he said that Steve Addazio "knew a bowl game wasn't possible this year." I found it even more inflammatory when someone actually asked about it in the postgame press conference. It's like asking a coach about his chances at the College Football Playoff in October when there's still six games left to play. Like Utah just proved, all of that talk can be shelved until after the last week of the season.
The key for BC this week is to keep competing. They simply need to continue pumping forward and compete hard against a very good team who will travel a good chunk of fans. They need to keep getting better, working on what they need to work on. At some point, you have to think that will help them break through.
"He designed his offense around one player. We're dead." -Mike Winchell
"We're not dead. You just need to start throwing the ball." -Brian Chavez
"We're dead." -Don Billingsley
With the struggles in the passing game, it's now incredibly obvious defenses are keying on the run. Against Louisville, BC lost the ability to run between the tackles. The tackles couldn't contain, so they couldn't run read option (or anything else for that matter). So it's time to go back to the drawing board and spend the week working on something different.
When you build your entire scheme around something that's not working or has been taken from you, it's worth tweaking your train of thought. BC's done that, and their play calling is much more balanced than any other time in the Addazio era. Their execution, however, is still poor, whether it's on the quarterback, the offensive line, or the receiver. Heading into Saturday, there will still need to be marked improvement.
Matchup Fun Facts
School Name: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
National Championships: 0
Conference Championships: 10 (2 South Atlantic, 1 Southern, 3 Big East, 4 ACC)
Bowl Games: 28
Postseason Bowl Record: 11-17
Head Coach: Frank Beamer
Years at School: 29th
Head-to-Head With BC
All-Time Series: VT leads, 15-8
Streak: BC, 2
Last BC Win: 2014 (33-31 at Virginia Tech)
Last VT Win: 2012 (30-23 at BC)
First Meeting: 1993 (BC won, 48-34, at home)