“Ah, come on…”
Chase Rettig let the final word hang, hands up in the air, while he turned his back to Spiffy Evans. It came after a simple screen pass. Rettig dropped back, Evans stepped off the line opening his body, and the senior quarterback fired the ball into the flat hoping his explosive wide receiver would take care of the rest. The ball fell down to the turf, though, and up went Rettig’s hands.
The Boston College offense ran that same screen over and over again during Saturday’s scrimmage. The play was used for quick gains, explosive bursts, and as a setup for later plays down the field. On the pass that Evans dropped, the Eagles didn’t get to use the screen for any of those things, forcing Rettig’s exclamation. But for all of the snaps the first team offense took, this play was the exception.
During the rest of Rettig’s reps under center, he didn’t have much to voice besides ‘attaboys’ and encouragement. His offensive line gave him enough time to throw. His receivers, including Evans, gave him open targets. The running game was even at least decent.
They did this with defensive coordinator Don Brown throwing multiple looks at the offense, and it all came with left tackle Matt Patchan, starting running back Andre Williams, and record-breaking receiver Alex Amidon watching from the sidelines. Sure, defensive starters Kevin Pierre-Louis, Kaleb Ramsey, and Sean Sylvia sat out as well, and the BC defensive line doesn’t induce fear like some of the other ACC front lines do, but this was still a welcome sight for the Eagles’ senior signal-caller.
Rettig will go as far as the rest of his offense takes him in 2013. It will also help if the defense can start getting off the field on third-downs. He’s not the perfect pocket passer, but how far he’s actually deviated from perfect in his college career has been difficult to measure.
There’s a rhythm to good quarterback play, one that builds off timing, completions, and plays in the ground game that keep the defense guessing. Rettig hasn’t had any rhythm to work with on the field, and that doesn’t even factor in the five offenses in three and a half years in which he’s been forced to try to find this rhythm.
Of the 35 teams that allowed 30 or more sacks last season, only eight also had a 3,000-yard passer*. Rettig was one of them. These eight teams averaged 126 rushing yards per game. BC only averaged 90. The other schools in this grouping also didn’t have to rely on one receiver so heavily, like the Eagles did with Amidon. All of them, except for BC, had at least two wideouts bring in more than 600 yards.
Defenses knew that Rettig was going to throw, they knew where he was going to throw, and they also knew that they could pressure him at will. Still, he stood strong enough in the pocket to become just the fourth 3,000-yard passer in school history.
Yes, there were questionable throws, but 2012 was essentially one long flu game for Rettig. Only a machine could maintain flawless decisions under those conditions. He has to hope that new head coach Steve Addazio and OC Ryan Day can heal him by healing the offense.
Unlike some quarterbacks, Rettig isn’t just falling in line when he says he’s excited to run the ball more in 2013. He said he wanted more of the ground attack plenty last season, and he meant it then too.
Almost every week, he would explain that in order for the passing game to work, and not just get by like it had been, there had to be significant gains from the backs on first and second down. He did his best not to let on much frustration, expressing confidence that, yes, this would be the week the Eagles figured it out.
It never was, and that aggravation eventually boiled after the nationally televised loss to Notre Dame.
If everyone can stay healthy, he might be able to avoid all of those headaches this year. He might finally be able to do his thing. With Amidon out of the second scrimmage, he still impressed with Evans and Harrison Jackson. With a rotating arrangement on the offensive line and no Williams to protect him or bulldoze carries, Rettig was still able to sit back, make throws, and benefit from David Dudeck’s solid running.
Before Rettig took his spot on the sideline for the second half of the scrimmage, he sold a handoff and then rolled out to his left. The defensive line bit, following Dudeck. Jackson was streaking down the field on a post to the right and there wasn’t a defender within a five-yard radius. Rettig set his feet and fired away without any pressure from the pass rush. Everything had come together.
But Jackson had to hurry to catch up with the ball. Rettig overthrew him by just a hair. Luckily, the sophomore wideout saved his quarterback, still making it there in time. He reached down and scooped the ball up near his knees before it hit the ground, then stayed upright and sprinted ahead for a 48-yard touchdown.
No, it wasn’t perfect. No one asked for perfect, though. It just has to work.
*BC, UCLA, NC State, Pitt, ASU, Miami (Ohio), Clemson, Louisville