LOUISVILLE, Ky.—The mood was somber in the shadows of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, the air so thick that it could be cut with a plastic knife. Besides the whizzing and whirring of an equipment truck, it was quiet, even though there were people all around.
The general public had long since left, leaving parents and friends of Boston College football waiting patiently outside the black metal gates, still decked out in their finest maroon and gold attire. They held pom-poms and wore ribbons, waved signs and proudly sported the colors, but their facial expressions didn’t match the excitement of their accessories.
Dozens of hulking men in blue sport jackets and khaki slacks funneled out of the locker room tunnel, one by one, and away up the stairs. Eyes locked on the ground, they varied in body shape and type, but their faces all read exactly the same.
Pain. Anguish. Heartbreak.
The Eagles were defeated—more than just the scoreboard showed.
Players dried their eyes before making their way over to speak with the media. One sobbed as he embraced his parents, hanging lifeless in their supportive arms. Administration and additional party members shuffled onto the buses softly, only holding muted conversations among themselves when the team was out of hearing distance.
It was the type of flight home on which you put in earphones, put your head down, and keep it that way until you get off the plane.
These were some of the toughest men at BC—but here they were, thoroughly broken.
The Eagles (3-5, 0-5 ACC) never really had any business winning over the University of Louisville (3-4, 2-2). Prior to the season, this game and last week’s game against Clemson University were the two games BC was expected to lose. This was not a close loss in the traditional understanding of the term—Louisville dominated BC’s offense from start to finish. The only touchdown drive BC constructed started inside the Louisville red zone, while its other seven-point score came from a punt block returned for a touchdown.
But the fact of the matter is that BC could have, and perhaps should have, won this game. The defense forced five turnovers, and the front seven looked unstoppable. Senior linebacker Steven Daniels had the game of his life on Saturday, coming up with four tackles for losses and some thundering hits in the backfield to establish the tone.
For at least the third time this season, the Eagles were handed a gift in the final minutes of the fourth quarter by the opposition, who basically begged BC to take the game away. When Brandon Radcliff fumbled near midfield with just a few minutes remaining, Louisville writers in the press box groaned, sensing that the Cardinals had just blown the game against a team that got outplayed from the start.
But anyone who has seen mere minutes of BC football this year knew exactly how that game would end.
Troy Flutie, who came in for an injured Jeff Smith during the second half, significantly underthrew Elijah Robinson on BC’s best chance to move the chains on that final drive. With the pressure closing in on Flutie, he floated a wobbly pass over the middle. While it might have been catchable, Robinson had to uncomfortably reach back towards the line of scrimmage for it. He reached and missed, letting the ball bounce gently off his fingertips and onto the turf. With that easy conversion opportunity went BC’s hopes for victory.
“I didn’t step into it, and it was short,” Flutie said. “It was a huge missed pass.”
But the loss could hardly be blamed on quarterback play. While both Flutie and Smith struggled themselves, the BC offensive line performed miserably. The line, which debuted two new starters—Aaron Monteiro at left tackle and James Hendren at right tackle—at the beginning of the game, couldn’t open holes for the running game but looked like Swiss cheese when Smith or Flutie dropped back to pass. While the line has actually looked much better since the debacle against Florida State in week three, the new group just didn’t gel today and took a major step back in terms of development.
Little explanation was given for the change, and neither of the new starters appeared first on the depth chart at any point during the week.
“It’s not acceptable,” Addazio said. “Eight sacks. We have to play so much better up front than we did today.”
Myles Willis echoed his coach’s statements following the conclusion of the game. As one of the upperclassmen leaders of this young offense, Willis appealed to the linemen on a few occasions to try and light a fire under the struggling unit, but to no avail.
“We just gotta have more pride,” Willis said. “We have to do a better job of protecting the quarterback.”
It is so out-of-character for a team coached by Addazio, an offensive line specialist, to struggle so mightily on the front line. It is so out-of-character for BC, which has rightfully earned the nickname “O-Line U” over time, to look so helpless in the trenches.
And while blame hasn’t always been on the offensive line, it’s always been on someone. It was the running game against FSU, special teams against Duke, the coaches against Wake Forest, and just about everyone against Clemson. The past four weeks, at least one unit has shouldered most of the criticism in BC’s losing effort. This week just happened to be the O-Line’s turn.
“It’s on us as an offensive line,” left guard Harris Williams said. “It’s on us, and we’re gonna take it on our shoulders. It’s definitely not anybody else’s fault but us.”
Williams spoke with a tremble in his voice about the ineffectiveness of the offensive line on Saturday. He did not hide, and he took the blame on behalf of the entire unit. Speaking about the line’s struggles, he then said something that the entire team was likely thinking about the loss.
“It’s something that’s getting at us really deep in our hearts.”
BC was defeated by Louisville on Saturday, in every sense of the word. It’s too late for the Eagles to win back the game against the Cardinals, and the same might just go for their pride.
Featured Image by Daniella Fasciano / Heights Editor