If Saturday's game between Boston College and Wake Forest had strictly become a defensive battle, it would've been okay. After all, plenty of low-scoring football games feature excitement, almost like a pitcher's duel in baseball. The game turns into a battle and a grind, but those aren't detracting words. You can have a 14-10 or 10-7 final score and walk away wholly satisfied.
Saturday's game between BC and Wake, however, was the opposite. It was completely unsatisfying, and it was destined for laughter and ridicule regardless of who won. Instead of being about defensive dominance, the game's narrative was about offensive ineptitude. Both sides missed plays, committed unforced errors, and wound up in a struggle that would come down to the game's final play.
A series of fumbles snatched defeat from the jaws of victory then victory of the jaws of defeat for both teams. BC's Troy Flutie fumbled on a QB keeper, giving Wake Forest the ball with a chance to run out the clock. Three plays later, Wake's Matt Colburn fumbled it back, giving the Eagles a first down with less than a minute to play. They ran a couple of plays with Jeff Smith under center, getting down to the one yard line with 18 seconds left. That's where we pick things up:
Let's start with the formations. Boston College lines up with two tight ends, a full back, and one receiver over the top of the screen. Given BC's history of not throwing to the tight end, Wake counters with a goal line package featuring five players in a down setting. They stack three linebackers over the top with a deep safety, one other linebacker off the tight end position, and the one defensive back against the receiver, Charlie Callinan.
By stacking the two tight ends on the same side, Boston College unbalances the line and makes it heavy to the left, which is where the fullback is lined up. As a fan of an unbalanced line, I like that Boston College is overloading to one side, and that's the side closest to the middle of the screen. It isolates the linebackers against the tight ends, allowing the receiver to go one-on-one with the defensive back. It takes the safety clear out of the game because he's not covering anyone. Even if you're running left, it opens up a hole between the end of the line and anyone blitzing off the edge, as long as the blockers get a surge.
The play design, however, is strictly a run up the middle. This is strength on strength, meaning the offensive line, including the tight ends, need to surge up the middle and collide with the defensive line. They don't necessarily have to blow anyone off the line, but they have to be able to push someone to the side. That will allow the full back to go up the middle, clear out the proverbial garbage, and allow the running back to dive into the end zone.
It's all predicated on getting that surge, though, and opening the hole.
This is one second after the snap. As you can see, there is no surge. The interior offensive line is occupying space, and the defensive line is standing them up. This is still okay, as long as they can push someone to the side. But without the surge or the initial block, they fall to a distinct disadvantage.
By the time the running back gets the ball, this play is as good as dead. There's absolute carnage in the middle. There is maybe a hole up the right side, but it's about to be filled by a linebacker. There's maybe a hole on the left, but it's about to be filled by a different linebacker. The safety now becomes a factor because the fullback's disappeared into the line, meaning the deep tackler is free to engage the middle of the play and make the last possible stop.
There is absolutely nothing in the middle of the play, though.
The possible holes don't matter, though, because Tyler Rouse is never getting to that point. Because the offensive line had zero surge and didn't hold any blocks, there are at least six Wake Forest defenders who are going to tackle him before he even gets to the goal line. On top of it all, he's running up the middle and slightly off right, which is the opposite side of the unbalanced line.
When you combine everything, think about what's about to happen. You have a hand off deep behind the line of scrimmage, but you have an offensive line that is blown off the one yard line and is about to get their running back blown up at the three or four yard line. Barry Sanders isn't scoring in that situation, let alone Tyler Rouse.
Tyler Rouse is in there somewhere, but there's no chance of a second effort because there are three white jerseys on the maroon mass at the one yard line. Still, that's somehow what he's able to do. He's able to break free and create a second effort despite having three white jerseys hanging on him. A couple of blockers come over to help push the pile, but it doesn't go anywhere.
It's important to note that Wake Forest wasn't actually going for a tackle there. They were making an attempt at the ball while holding up the ball carrier.
The entire sequence devolves as more people join the fray, but the clock continues to roll. As more Wake guys jump into the pile, they realize they can end the game because BC has no timeouts and need to clock the ball. Smith can't spike it, and the Eagles lose.
My biggest bone in this whole thing is the play call. On first down with 18 seconds left, you don't have to plow the line on the first try. Since BC clearly can't run a no-huddle two-minute drill, I'll never understand why they didn't clock the play and spike the ball on first down. Not only would they have had more time, but they probably would've had a couple of more options available.
I understand the hesitation to throw the ball with Smith under center, but this is a clear-cut example of over coaching. Steve Addazio and Todd Fitch outcoached themselves by not spiking the ball on first down at the one to set up a play, then running a run play up the middle behind mediocre to poor blocking was never going to work. In that situation, you need to be able to take more than one shot, and the coaching calls combined with poor execution to deny the team that right.