Eagles End Season With Sense Of Uncertainty

By Greg Joyce, Sports Editor

RALEIGH — It was never about the game. It was never about what happened on the field at Carter Finley Stadium on Saturday afternoon. It was never about whether Boston College could end its season with a win against North Carolina State.

Instead, it was about the uncertain future of a fallen program.

To many, that meant it was about one man who paced back and forth on the BC sideline for 60 minutes—head coach Frank Spaziani.

The Eagles lost their tenth game of the season, 27-10 to the Wolfpack, but most of the conversation after the game wasn’t about where the game was lost or what personal achievements were recorded. 

Instead, the conversation honed in on the uncertainty surrounding the program—who will be the head coach next year? Where does the team go from here? How do you fix what went wrong this season?

Spaziani was first. He entered the room to give his press conference, a white towel around his neck. He was offered a stat sheet, but turned it down, saying he already had it all in his head. He congratulated NC State, talked about how turnovers and penalties killed his team, and answered a few other questions about the course of the game.

Then it got down to what everyone wanted to know: what’s next? Spaziani was asked if he would have a meeting with Athletic Director Brad Bates in the coming days. He paused, then faced the reality of the situation.

“Um, I would think I would,” Spaziani said.

And in that meeting, if he was given the chance to make a case for why he should be kept for a fifth year as the head coach in Chestnut Hill, what would he say? Spaziani kept his thoughts mostly to himself, as he has throughout his tenure, especially this year.

“It wouldn’t be here right now,” Spaziani said. “I wouldn’t be stating it right now for public laundry.”

“I do have a case.”

Beyond that, Spaziani was not up for talking much about his future.

“It is not to be discussed right here,” he said. The rest of the questions he answered by telling reporters they should probably ask Bates directly. That’s because at this point, it’s out of Spaziani’s hands. His work over the last four years speaks for itself, mainly in his 22-28 record as head coach. There are positive intangibles that he brings to the job, but at the end of the day, those will be outweighed by his win-loss record.

And for that, Spaziani days in Chestnut Hill are likely numbered.

Pushed one last time for whether Bates had asked to meet with him, Spaziani deferred the question again, before giving one last answer under his breath.

“I don’t even tell my wife that,” he said.

While Spaziani kept his thoughts on the future close to his chest, his players were more willing to talk about next year, knowing they’ll still be around.

Quarterback Chase Rettig took a beating in the game, but still came out with a positive outlook.

“I can promise everyone that this offseason, I’m going to do a lot to improve,” Rettig said.

Rettig had a tough game, but it did not reflect the leaps and bounds he’s taken this year as a college quarterback. In the second quarter, he surpassed 3,000 yards passing for the season, becoming the fourth Eagle to do so, but the first non-senior to pass that mark.

 Yet that record doesn’t mean much for Rettig in a season like this. He had his head down the whole time after the game, clearly emotional after the loss and the end of a trying season.

“It gets emotional for guys,” he said. “We had some opportunities to maybe have a better day today, we just didn’t get it done. But there are bigger things in the scheme of life for those guys that are leaving, and you just got to go tell them how much they mean to you and how much you’re going to miss them.

“You just got to talk to all the seniors. Those are your brothers and your friends. Regardless of the talk, it always ends whenever the last game of the season or postseason is. You just go talk to the guys you’re not going to be around next year and hug them. Everyone worked so hard, it just didn’t happen for us this year. Those are our closest guy friends and you want to send them out with a win. But unfortunately we weren’t able to tonight, so now we got to go and do something next year for them.”

In the end, Rettig left it up to the media to sum up the season. He gave his piece—one of hope despite the plight of the program—but seemed to know it might be painted in a different light.

“I think you guys know how we feel,” Rettig said. “I think it’s pretty obvious. There’s just a million different—I wouldn’t say negative feelings, but … we had a lot of hope this season in different times. You can break down the season however you want. But we had opportunities and obviously we didn’t take advantage of them. However you want to write that, that’s how we feel.”

Another player who set a record on the night was wide receiver Alex Amidon, who became BC’s single-season receptions leader. That achievement does not mean anything to Amidon right now though, as he’d rather have the wins. Despite the tough season, he has a message for next year, and it starts with him and his teammates.

“We’re going to turn it around,” Amidon said. “It’s on the players. It’s on me. I take responsibility for a lot of what happened this year—not being a leader, not stepping up, not holding people accountable. The kids coming back next year—we’re going to change it. We’re all going to change it.”

Amidon talked more about a need for leadership and coming together as a team to hold each other responsible for playing up to their potential.

“We’re not going to let people slack off anymore—not that that necessarily happened, but we need to step up as leaders,” Amidon said.

The one player who won’t be around to see the future unfold is Nick Clancy, the fifth-year middle linebacker who rose to the starting spot in training camp and took full advantage of his opportunity. He was the last player out of the locker room to talk to the media, almost in fitting fashion. He won’t get to suit up in the maroon and gold next year, but he had five years to look back on and think about what he’d change if he had the chance to do it all over again.

“Personally, my leadership role would have been more vocal, in terms of pulling guys aside and letting them know the right way of doing things,” Clancy said. “I feel like that was something we missed this year in terms of leadership, was guys not calling other guys out. That’s just how it is on a team. You can’t be afraid to call somebody out when he’s not doing something right. On the other half, the guys getting called out should be man enough to know that what he’s doing is wrong and he needs to change it for the betterment of the team. That’s one thing I wish I could have done a better job of.”

He won’t get a chance to fix that, but the underclassmen on the team will. They’re planning on it, and Clancy will remind them of it.

“I’m going to definitely reach out to a few individuals,” Clancy said. “It’s going to be the guys that I think have leadership qualities, guys that are going to be older guys next year. What the message from me is, ‘Hey man, you just need to go out there and you need to lead by example. You need to do what’s right. You can’t be afraid to call anybody out because that’s just the way it is.’

“Iron sharpens iron. If you’re going to say you want to be the best, then you have to perform like you’re going to be the best. You can’t just BS people—you gotta be about it, you can’t just talk about it.”

Right now, all the Eagles can do is talk. They won’t get a chance to prove themselves again until September of 2013. Until then, all they can do is go back to work, and take each day to get better.

Who their coach will be next September is uncertain. That’s out of their control, and it’s out of Spaziani’s control. Bates will likely make that decision in the coming week.

But what is certain is that there is a renewed sense of urgency in the locker room. The players are tired of losing. They saw what brought BC to a 2-10 season, and they’re ready to correct it. They’re not playing for the name on the back of their jersey—the records they set meant nothing to any of them. They’re playing for the name on the front of their jersey—Boston College.

They want to win. They want to revive a falling program. And now, it seems they’re ready to hold each other accountable for doing just that. 

A little over nine months from now, they’ll get another chance to prove it.

Spaziani Trying To Get The Right Mentality Back To BC

By Greg Joyce, Sports Editor

Yesterday, fifth-year captain Emmett Cleary said that much of the Boston College football team’s struggles over the past two seasons could be attributed to a lack of seniors and fifth-years. Multiple players from Cleary’s class have left, either for personal or academic reasons.

Today, head coach Frank Spaziani tried to put into words the effect that the attrition has had on the Eagles and their downfall in recent years.

“It was something that you would rather not have happen,” Spaziani said about the players leaving. “You would rather have those guys being fifth-year seniors or seniors now. That would be more of a strength, but it just wasn’t. You worry about who’s here rather than who’s not here.”

Spaziani has been a coach on the Heights for 16 years, but he said it wasn’t always the case that this many players left BC.

“There weren’t many people leaving,” Spaziani said. “In the first 8 to 10 years I was here, there weren’t many people transferring out, I don’t remember any. And then did we lose somebody academically? I don’t remember any of those.”

The perfect example of the kind of player that made BC what it was during its successful years a few years ago is BJ Raji, Spaziani said. The night before Raji was set to begin his fourth year on the football team at BC, he was declared academically ineligible for the season.

“He could have just went, ‘I’m going to the NFL,’” Spaziani said. “But he went, ‘Okay. I’m going to class, I’m going to scout team, and I’ll play next year. That was the quote ‘attitude.’ That’s what we need.”

Asked if that “attitude” has changed or if it is not present among the current group of players, Spaziani backtracked a little.

“Attitude wasn’t the right word,” Spaziani said. “It’s just what the place represented and why you came here and all of those things. The guys, even though maybe it wasn’t working out for them—because it doesn’t work out for everyone. You recruit 20 guys, you don’t have 20 starters in four years. It doesn’t work out that way. But they liked it here. They came here for the education, the community, and that blend. It was worth it to stay here for them. And then it got changed. “

Why did that mindset get changed? Spaziani paused for some time, then chose his words carefully.

“Recruiting…three coaches in four years,” he said. “Different stuff.”

Despite the change, Spaziani said he thinks it’s moving back to BC getting the right players—the ones who want to be in Chestnut Hill for the right reasons.

“I think so,” Spaziani said. “You’ve got a constant. Whats been the constant?”

Pointing to himself, Spaziani answered his own question.

“Moi.”

"Let me say this about that [call]. And I do understand that it’s a point of contention and people would have different opinions on it. But that situation has been produced in practice and simulated in scrimmages. That exact situation came up in one of our scrimmages, which we script. We script different times, we script overtime … That situation came up. We hailed off the cuff as you would in a scrimmage, in simulated game. We made a decision on that day, and then we went back in and reviewed it and discussed how we would do this in a game, was that right—we second-guessed ourselves ahead of time. Some of the factors that went into it were, ‘Okay, well we decided to go to overtime. Well why would you decide to go to overtime?’ How was your offense playing? How was your defense playing? How was the flow of the game going? What was the pulse of the players? It’s a little bit more than just, ‘Oh there’s 59 seconds left, let’s make this decision.’ And I do understand that. But we as coaches have to do a little bit more than that. Is there second-guessing? You better believe it. But under those circumstances, we thought that was our best chance to win. I’ll tell you why: throwing the ball we were 13-for-something. We were getting sacked. Our guys weren’t open. We were having pressure there. We were playing some good defense. We felt going into overtime was our best calculated [chance] to win. It turned out wrong. Now, did it turn out wrong because of that? I don’t know. There were a lot of other things. There’s a lot that goes into that. Second-guessing? I don’t know, maybe we would have thrown a screen rather than run a draw on the first play [of overtime]. But the decision? I would do the same thing. I would do the same, taking into account everything that I just told you. It’s a little bit more than—that’s why we try to take the feelings out of it. We try to do a professional job with it. That’s what coaches do.”

“You can disagree. That’s what fans are. We got great fans and great students. Gotta love that—anyone can disagree. But it’s 59 seconds on our 16-yard line. And my job is to give our kids the best chance and make a calculated judgment on what our best chance is to win. And we felt going into overtime that we could hold them to a field goal and we felt we could score. We felt we would not give up a touchdown. That’s the way we felt. It didn’t turn out that way, but not for a lack of effort or thinking about it. A lot of thought went into it.”

— Head coach Frank Spaziani on if he had any second-guessing of his decision to take a knee at the end of regulation and take the game into overtime, which BC lost 30-23.
Deuce did what Deuce is supposed to do. He looked like the guy that we were familiar with at the beginning of the year. Once again, he has to practice and continue doing what he did to get him where he got to last night, and then his role will certainly increase. Once again, there’s certain things you have to do. We just can’t project him into a more active role until he demonstrates that he has earned it, and he certainly stepped up and looked like a good back [Saturday] night. — On Sunday after reviewing the tape, head coach Frank Spaziani talked about what he saw from Deuce Finch’s performance in Saturday night’s loss, Finch’s first action since Week Three at Northwestern.

"I wouldn’t put anything past Dave. But Dave is new with the whole position. He does have instincts and some of our better runs we had last week—whatever ones we had—Dave made. Can he be a 30 or 40-carry per game guy? I don’t know. We’re not projecting that."

"I would think they’re both … What have we done in the past? We’ve had two backs play. It depends on how the flow of the game goes and what needs to be done."

— Head coach Frank Spaziani on how he saw the running back situation going on Saturday between David Dudeck and Deuce Finch

Bits And Pieces From Spaz

By Greg Joyce, Sports Editor

After Boston College came into the season with what looked like a three-headed monster of a rushing attack, the backfield has turned into a one-man show with Andre Williams. The junior has taken over for the Eagles, with Deuce Finch still in head coach Frank Spaziani’s doghouse after early-season fumbling issues, and Tahj Kimble set to have knee surgery next week.

Williams has proved himself over the past two weeks, with impressive 100-plus yard games at Army and Florida State. Spaziani said Williams will likely be the go-to guy for the rest of the season, with true freshman David Dudeck serving as his backup.

“Well, that’s usually the way it is, yeah,” Spaziani said about depending on one running back in Williams. “You watch teams every week and stuff like that, and there’s not three tailbacks rotating in there. There’s a tailback and then there’s another guy that comes in to give him a blow, and then there’s a specialty kind of guy sometimes.

“These guys all understand that the philosophy is ‘Nothing’s tattooed on you.’ You earned it, and you keep it. ’Dre is doing a good job, and [Dudeck] has been real good, so they’re giving us what we want.”

Dudeck has been mainly used on third down, and has played a big role in the screen passing game.

Despite Finch improving in practice each week, Spaziani doesn’t expect to use him today at Georgia Tech.

“Deuce is working and practicing hard, but I don’t think you’re going to see him,” Spaziani said.

Looking for execution

Both Spaziani and various players have come out after the last few weeks as saying that a lack of execution has been he issue in the losses, not a lack of preparation.

“How we’re lined up, and how we’ve played these offenses in the past has not been the issue,” Spaziani said. “It’s been execution.”

As that lack of execution has been repeated as the problem week after week, what’s the key to actually executing in the game?

“Part of execution is experience, and being in the right place,” Spaziani said. “And then part of execution is being in the right place and then winning that battle that has to be won. And part of the other thing is this: sometimes you can put them in a little better spot. You can make a better call sometimes. So it’s all a team issue.”

Depleted defensive line

BC’s defensive line has been hit hard by the injury bug, as four of the top eight linemen will not be on the field today against the Yellow Jackets. Kaleb Ramsey, Dillon Quinn, Brian Mihalik, and Mehdi Abdesmad were all declared as out of the game.

However, Spaziani sounded optimistic about the linemen who will be playing today, because of their consistent presence at practice over the past few weeks.

“The bad news is that those guys are out; the good news is that the guys who are in there have been practicing and they can only get better,” Spaziani said.

The starting linemen are projected to be Kasim Edebali and Kieran Borcich at defensive end, and Jaryd Rudolph and Connor Wujciak at defensive tackle.

True freshman Malachai Moore saw his first collegiate action last week at Florida State playing defensive end, and he will be on the field more today.

“We’ve recognized Malachai real fast early on that he is a prospect and a football player,” Spaziani said. “His body is not developed yet. But he’s still a physical presence, and he’s done a lot of good stuff since he’s been here.”

While Spaziani and his staff had thought about redshirting Moore this season, the decision to burn that redshirt was basically made for them because of injuries piling up.

“We had a hard discussion early on about what we were going to do with him,” Spaziani said. “It wasn’t clear-cut that he was going to be redshirted. Mehdi and Mihalik were doing some things. We thought he’s probably going to be the fifth guy and it wasn’t going to be worth it at the time [to burn his redshirt]. But then with the injuries, it was a no-brainer.

Spaziani said that they wouldn’t have put Moore in there if he didn’t think he was ready or wasn’t comfortable with it. The staff had a similar discussion about using Borcich last season, but the defensive end said he felt he wasn’t ready, so he kept his redshirt. The case with Moore, however, was different, and that’s why he is out there playing.

“[Moore] is going to be fine. He’s a football player,” Spaziani said. “Once again, ‘Next man up.’ It was just ‘Let’s go.’ Necessity is the mother of invention, or something like that.”

While there is a lot of youth on the Eagles’ two-deep, especially on the defensive side of the ball, Spaziani said that those players have injected a lot of positives into the team.

“Those guys usually bring what you would expect: youth and enthusiasm, excitement, and they’re happy to get going and get playing.”

Larmond, Jr. Suspended From Football Team

(Photo by Graham Beck / Heights Editor) Colin Larmond, Jr., (number one) before the season opener.

By Greg Joyce, Sports Editor

In head coach Frank Spaziani’s weekly meeting with the media, he revealed that Boston College senior wide receiver Colin Larmond, Jr. has been suspended from the team.

“He’s been suspended,” Spaziani said. When asked if the suspension was indefinite, Spaziani said, “Nothing is definite.”

Asked if it was due to a violation of team rules, Spaziani took a long pause, and then said, “Yeah, I guess you could categorize it as that.”

Larmond was in Tallahassee for Saturday’s game against Florida State, so Spaziani was asked if the reason for suspension was due to something that happened before or after the Florida State game.

"Let me just say this: We don’t let things linger. So justice is swift. I’ll leave it at that," Spaziani said.

Larmond has seen limited action this season, only having one catch for eight yards, which came in a 34-31 loss at Army. Last year, Larmond started in 11 of the 12 games, leading the Eagles with 528 receiving yards on 39 catches. In 2009, he also put up big numbers, going for 596 receiving yards and five touchdowns.

The fifth-year senior has not been listed on the weekly two-deep depth chart since the first week of the 2012 season.

FOOTBALL: Time Running Out For Spaziani, BC

By Greg Joyce, Sports Editor

Less than 24 hours after the most disappointing loss of the season for Boston College, head coach Frank Spaziani held his weekly teleconference on Sunday after a team meeting and watching tape of the game.

Spaziani sounded somber and defeated throughout most of the call, as he tried to move past the devastating 34-31 loss to Army and look toward a daunting opponent in Florida Sate.

“After looking at the tape, it’s still a very tough defeat in a lot of ways,” Spaziani said. “How it happened…it’s something that we have to put behind us and put our nose to the grindstone and keep moving forward.”

The last-minute loss to Army came after the Eagles made one of their biggest defensive plays of the season, a goal-line stand against the Black Knights that seemingly put the game away. Just a few minutes later though, Army had run over the BC defense and secured its first win of the season.

(Daniel Lee / Heights Editor)

Now, Spaziani must figure out a way to put such a tough loss behind him and his team, as a road trip to Florida State is looming.

“We just had our team meeting and we worked hard at it,” Spaziani said about putting the loss behind him. “Once again, there’s some things that we think we need to do. We’ve been addressing it all year and we still need to keep addressing it. These guys have responded for 16 years, I don’t see them not responding again. But we’ll get on the practice field and see how it goes. We’ll see.”

The most frustrating part of it all for BC has been the paradox between the major improvements on the offense this season, while the defense has suffered. Chase Rettig and the offense have put up over 30 points in four of the five games this season, but the Eagles only have one win to show for it. BC is ranked 104th in the country in total defense, allowing 469.8 yards per game. The rushing defense has been even worse, ranking 117th in the country (out of 120 FBS teams) by allowing 259 rushing yards per game.

“You can always do stuff to improve it,” Spaziani said of the defense. “Looking on what has happened the past couple of weeks, I think we’ve been in the right places, but we just haven’t been able to execute. Now we’ve made mistakes, you’re going to make mistakes, but we just haven’t … there’s nobody erasing the mistakes and making some big plays. We made a couple over the last few weeks, but not enough. They did make a couple big plays down on the goal line at the end. We just have to get some more of them, and then we’ll be better off. You can always help them by calling and trying to understand better what they can do and what they can’t do.”

Spaziani thinks the reason for the disparity between the offense’s success and the defense’s woes has been an issue of consistency and depth.

“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “We knew we’d be better over there on offense. All signs pointed to that [the offense] was going to be much better. And one of the things that has happened over on offense, besides the scheme and the coaches, is that we’ve had some more depth over there, we’ve got some more consistency, guys have been out to practice, and if somebody did miss, it was a quality backup in there. That’s one of the things that has hurt us over on defense.

“Once again, these are not—I can’t emphasize that enough—these are not excuses, but it’s part of the problem. We haven’t had any consistency that you need. That always shows up on defense first. Guys that maybe missed practice or we have to move guys around, and that’s a tough thing to do.”

Asked what it would take to turn things around, Spaziani answered, “a whole team consistency.” If the Eagles can figure out a way to maintain that consistency, Spaziani believes they could be a different team.

“Winning breeds a lot more confidence, and losing creates a little more doubt,” Spaziani said. “[There are] a lot of extraneous factors out there. There are a lot of things working on their minds. They have to understand it’s their team, and they can have as much success as they want.”

Time for that success is slipping away with each passing game though, as the schedule from here on out only gets more difficult. Each week sounds more and more like the last: the offense doing its job for the most part, while the defense struggles to execute properly. The excuses of consistency and depth are starting to become tiresome, and it’s looking like BC is headed toward another lost season under Spaziani.

“Realistically, we knew our margin of error was slim, and we had to have some things go right,” Spaziani said. “We’re 1-4 … and we’re playing hard. We’re playing hard. A couple of games could have gone either way and stuff, but we have to figure out why that’s not happening.”

I don’t know what goes through their mind as far as that. But it’s their team. They’re playing for themselves, their school, and all the work they’ve put in. That’s who you’re playing for, it’s as simple as that. We think we have good leadership, and we’ve got the respect of the team, we’ve had it always. I don’t think that plays into anything.

If a spaceship came down and took me away tomorrow, it’s [still] their team. At the end of the year, they’re gonna look at the record, and it’s what they did. I think that’s a healthy way to approach it.

— Frank Spaziani on if he thought the team might be playing to show they had his back
Well, It could be debilitating if you pay attention too much to it, if you dwell on it. You’re a human being, you don’t like to hear that. But the perception is reality of what’s happening. The only way to change perception is to change the facts. The only facts that we have here to change are the W’s and the L’s. Change the W’s and L’s, and life will go on. If you want your job, do your job. — Head football coach Frank Spaziani, on the hot seat talk surrounding his name