Impressions From Friday’s Win Over Miami
By Stephen Sikora
Some observations from Boston College’s 24-17 win over Miami on Friday, aside from Luke Kuechly being … well, Luke Kuechly:
Chase Looking Great
At one point in the game late in the second quarter, Chase Rettig was 8-of-9 for 101 yards and a touchdown. He finished 13 of 17 for 196 and two touchdowns; of his four incompletions, two were drops by his receivers. All game long Rettigs’s passes were sharp and on target, as he routinely hit receivers in stride on 5-12 yard routes through the air, whether he was standing in the pocket or throwing on the run in play action rollouts. The announcers of the game went from saying early on that “Rettig’s numbers aren’t all that sexy,” to him playing “pretty impressive all day.” He certainly looked it. Having said all that, Rettig only attempted one deep ball that he badly overthrew, and didn’t try any sideline plays to receivers that require a tight window to throw to. The sophomore quarterback is definitely improving, as this game he showed he could find open receivers, stand tall in the pocket, and deliver short to intermediate passes accurately. He connected with tight end Chris Pantale for 70 yards and two TDs, after establishing a solid rapport with him last week at Notre Dame. With the ground game working, the intermediate throws were all that were needed to come up with a win. But against a better defense and when facing a deficit, deep balls and sideline outs will need to become plays that Rettig is comfortable with, or the offense will face the same fate as it did this year. If we see as much improvement out of Rettig this offseason as we saw from this year’s first game to its last, BC should be in good hands with its quarterback next year.
Offense Sputters on Short Gains
BC did not show many weaknesses against Miami, but there was a glaring one: failure to convert short yard gains. On important plays of two yards or less, head coach Frank Spaziani often opted for the running game, understandable given how well the backs and O-line were playing. The first significant short play was 4th and 1 at the Miami 13; at the time, BC was down 14-10. But rather than let Rettig stay on the field after he had engineered a solid drive, Josh Bordner’s number was called—a guy who has thrown two passes all year. So of course Miami knew the Eagles were running, and predictably stopped Bordner in the backfield for a one-yard loss. Later on in the third quarter BC was up 17-14, having just drove down the field with a 1st and goal at the two, offense in rhythm. But as the first down play approached, Spaz put Bordner in, then called timeout. Not only did he ruin the momentum the offense had going, but after deliberating, he put Bordner in again, who promptly fumbled and let Miami recover. Spaz, I’m sorry, but the Josh Bordner experiment is not working out. Stop messing with a good thing in Rettig, and when you need a short gain, there is a host of running backs to choose from. Rolandan Finch had a rock-solid game of 22 carries for 96 yards; I’m sure he would have been fine gaining a couple more.
Defense Rallies After Tumultuous First Few Minutes
I’m not sure even the coaches have an answer for what transpired with the defense this game. The first play from scrimmage, BC gave up a 60-yard completion, and two minutes later Miami scored after the Eagles hadn’t stopped a play of theirs yet. Miami’s next possession: 79-yard touchdown run. With the game 14-7 already, this looked like it was going to be a blowout. However, from then on the defense slammed the door shut, allowing a measly three additional points the entire game, which were given up on Miami’s last drive when BC was playing prevent defense. Of Miami’s final 10 possessions of the game disregarding their last one, BC forced six punts (five of which were three-and-outs) and intercepted Miami four times. The Hurricanes QB, Jacory Harris, had five interceptions the entire year before this game. After starting 6-of-7 for 91 yards and a TD, Harris went 11-of-24 for 88 yards and four picks until that final drive. Aside from the continuing dominance of Kuechly, Donnie Fletcher had a nice jump ball interception against a Miami receiver, Max Holloway had a couple of tackles for loss, and Ryan Quigley continued to put BC in great field position with his punting. Overall, a quality effort from the 44th ranked college football defense.
Season Wrap Up and Future Outlook
Four wins in a season is not acceptable for a BC football team, even if it did go 3-2 in its last five games, including a two-point loss at Notre Dame. Back in the middle of the year when the Eagles were 1-6 with no progress in sight, I was done with Spaz and telling everyone who listened that I wanted him fired. Now, I’m not so sure. The past five games have almost certainly guaranteed Spaz another year, so what’s the sense in pleading for his exit when it’s not going to happen? We’ve seen glimpses of BC’s potential throughout the season, and we saw a lot of it in this game, a solid effort from both sides of the ball. The established reasonable expectation for next year should be six wins and a bowl game. If we continue playing under .500 football, Spaz may in fact need to leave the team he’s been with since 1997.