Huddled on the 50-yard line with its offense fresh off another touchdown drive, Arizona’s kickoff team formed a dynamic circle of bouncing jubilation as 11 Wildcats danced, shook their arms, kicked their legs in the air, and sprung up and down with enthusiasm. As fans poured out of Independence Stadium, nearly 30 yards away, Boston College’s return squad stood rooted to the turf, utterly motionless—a perfect contrast to the Wildcats’ display of elation. There were over 13 minutes left to play—nearly an entire quarter—but the game was over. It had been over since the second quarter.
The Eagles’ return to postseason action following a three-season exile was supposed to be a showcase of two elite running backs, a rushing duel. It was billed as a statement-making opportunity for a resurgent program, and a legacy game for the senior class. As it turned out, BC’s 42-19 loss to Arizona in the AdvoCare V100 bowl wasn’t a duel by any stretch of the imagination. Rather, it was an ugly football game for the Eagles—a bloodbath in Shreveport, La.
When halftime rolled around, the game was, in effect, already finished. The momentum had been sucked out of BC. There was no game-saving fire-breathing locker room speech capable of turning the momentum around, and there was no second-half comeback in the cards—just two garbage-time touchdowns.
BC began the game with offense on the mind. Electing to receive, the Eagles came out of the gate with an Alex Amidon-heavy effort, but turned the ball over when Chase Rettig’s pass was tipped and intercepted. BC would get the ball back off of Ka’Deem Carey’s fumble a few plays later, but failed to fully capitalize on its opportunities and rare breaks throughout the game.
“Football is a fine line,” said head coach Steve Addazio in a postgame press conference. “I just think that certain plays are made positively that go in your favor and negatively that go against you, and the pendulum can swing. I thought Arizona did an unbelievably great job of taking advantage of those opportunities with momentum and then really putting the pedal down on it.”
From early in the first quarter, the Eagles’ defense was victimized by the Wildcats’ no-huddle offense. Starting from their eight-yard line on their second possession of the game, the Wildcats broke the score open. Four plays, 92 yards, and 41 seconds later, the Wildcats were up 7-0, quarterback B.J. Denker and the Wildcats’ fast-paced offense left the Eagles reeling. Recovering from his fumble, Carey scored from two yards out, but it was the two-pass, 79-yard connection between Denker and Nate Phillips that worked Arizona down the field.
Needing an answer, the Eagles came back with a 14-play, six-minute drive and settled for a 32-yard field goal from Nate Freese. Come the end of the first quarter, the score would remain 7-3. Then, the bottom began to fall out.
Arizona traded possession back to the Eagles early in the second quarter, and after putting together an 11-play drive, BC settled for a 41-yard field goal—Freese’s final of the season, leaving him a perfect 20 for 20 on the year.
A few minutes later, a muffed dribbling punt was recovered by the Eagles on Arizona’s 40. Three plays later, though, the game’s momentum was irreversibly shifted when Rettig’s pass was picked off by William Parks and returned 69 yards for a touchdown.
“The guy’s trying to make a play,” Addazio said. “Those things happen, the kid made a great defensive play. I blame myself on that.”
The teams traded possession back and forth, and the BC defense, a group that bent all season and suffered key collapses in pass coverage at times, began yielding yards to an increasingly effective Denker and Carey.
With time dwindling in the half, the BC defense broke, and Denker fired a backbreaking 27-yard touchdown pass into the back right corner of the end zone to put Arizona up 21-6. The Eagles would not rebound.
Much of the game’s second half followed a pattern—BC punting the ball away and Arizona scoring touchdowns. On its first drive of the second half, Arizona increased its lead by seven.
“We needed to get three and out on the other side of the ball,” Addazio said. “We needed that to happen so we could keep reloading and reloading. That’s the way we’re wired, and we didn’t do that.”
While Williams and Rettig were never able to get going, Carey and Denker shredded the BC defense repeatedly. Carey finished the game with 176 yards and two touchdowns rushing, and Denker put together 55 yards and one touchdown rushing and 275 yards and two touchdowns in the air.
Leading up to the game, a buzzword surrounding this BC team and these seniors has been “legacy.” While it didn’t play out the way they planned it, in the end, this final game might have been the most fitting end to their BC careers.
Until they were pulled off the turf during the game’s waning minutes, Williams, Rettig, Amidon, Ian White, Steele Divitto, Matt Patchan, and the other senior Eagles out on the field refused to give up, just as they rejected surrender this season after coming off a 2-10 campaign in 2012. Williams battled through every tackle, desperate for an extra inch of yardage; Rettig threw his body into the line of fire, at one point flipping in the air; and Amidon raced all game to shake his defenders—making 10 catches for 129 yards and breaking Pete Mitchell’s career receptions record.
In the end, though, Arizona was too much, and after a season of working to turn BC back into a winning program, there wasn’t enough left in the tank.
“These guys, they’ve got to have a mindset of feeling tremendously proud of what they’ve accomplished, what they’ve done for our program to lift it back up to where it is,” Addazio said. “That will not be forgotten, that will not be lessened in any way, shape, or form.”
In the future, these seniors won’t be remembered as the red-eyed men devastated by their loss on New Year’s Eve, just as they won’t be remembered for their losses to Syracuse, North Carolina, Clemson, FSU, and USC.
Instead, they’ll be remembered as the group that turned BC football back in the right direction. They’re the crew of seniors that—after suffering two horrible seasons—exceeded all expectations, and made it to a bowl game.
Years from now, they’ll be remembered as a group of men who, win or lose, did everything they could with everything they had.