Special Teams, Inability To Finish Plague Eagles In Bowl Game Loss

SPECIAL TEAMS

The extra point has almost become a given in football.

With kickers as talented as they are nowadays, the point-after attempt is generally just a formality, and the additional point is to be expected following every touchdown—no ifs, ands, or buts. It’s why the National Football League experimented with moving the PAT further back to present more of a challenge to kickers.

For Boston College special teams, nothing was a given this season, and every play a heart attack waiting to happen.

Fittingly, the season ended with the Eagles missing their eighth extra point of the year in overtime. Mike Knoll pulled a point-after attempt wide right that would have given the Eagles a seven-point lead. Instead, after responding with a quick touchdown, the Nittany Lions were able to close the game with an extra point.

The Eagles also did not impress on kickoffs, an area in which Alex Howell generally performs well. Head Coach Steve Addazio discussed the fact that the Eagles started the season with problems on special teams and finished the season with them as well, an error that falls on his shoulders.

“We’ve had a lot of difficulties on special teams through the year, on extra points, field goals, kickoffs,” Addazio said. “We started with those issues, and we ended with those issues. Now it’s my job to get it fixed.”

Knoll just completed his first year of collegiate eligibility, so he remains the best in-house option to kick next year with Alex Howell and Joey Launceford both graduating this upcoming spring. Even if Addazio sticks with Knoll at kicker, he will still have to find a new punter to replace Howell. Knoll was listed as the backup punter on BC’s Pinstripe Bowl depth chart.

EAGLES CAN’T FINISH

The loss to Penn State on Saturday marks the fifth bowl game in a row that Boston College has lost. The last postseason victory for the Eagles came in the 2007 Champs Sports Bowl against Michigan State University.

Addazio spoke after the game about how the Eagles need to learn how to finish games, saying that they’ve let close contests slip from their grip too many times this season. Multiple games has been well within BC’s reach, but each time the Eagles had their hearts ripped out in the final plays of the game.

“We’ve gotta take the next step, which is winning those kinds of games,” said Addazio. “You’ve got that game, the Clemson game, the Florida State game, the Colorado State game. Those games were all right there for us, and we have to learn how to take them.”

Four of the Eagles’ six losses this season were by one possession, and Addazio stressed building a winning culture at BC to ensure that it wins more of those tight games.

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THE CROWD

Despite the relatively even travel time for the two schools, Penn State brought a significantly deeper fan base to the Bronx. Yankee Stadium was sold out with an announced attendance of 49,012—the largest at the stadium in more than a year—with a majority of those in attendance sporting the navy and white.

BC did a respectable job filling its section, but the Nittany Lion faithful were significantly louder throughout the game. The crowd caused a deafening roar on every BC third down, but the noise level was never matched while Penn State’s offense took the field.

The Superfans were noticeable on each of the Eagles’ touchdowns, but didn’t quite match the intensity that the Penn State fan base brought to the Bronx. From the start, this seemed a game that PSU supporters were confident they could win.

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NOTES

This marks the second consecutive season the Eagles have finished 7-6 overall, following two losing seasons in a row. The BC running game dominated the Nittany Lions defense—the nation’s best against the run—by picking up 285 yards on the ground. Freshman Jonathan Hilliman paced the Eagles with 148 yards on 25 carries, and quarterback Tyler Murphy added 105 yards of his own on the ground. Penn State’s quarterback Christian Hackenberg torched the BC defense for 371 yards. With little confidence in the kicking game, Addazio went for it on fourth down three times during the Pinstripe Bowl, converting on two of those opportunities.

Featured Image by Arthur Bailin  / Heights Editor

About Tom DeVoto 87 Articles
Tom is the Editor-In-Chief of The Heights Newsletter. He is also the A1 Editor of The Heights. You can follow him on Twitter @TLDeVoto.