“Hope” is a funny thing to talk about after a heartbreaking defeat.
The world of Boston College football has been unforgiving in 2015—it offered very few reasons to be hopeful this season. A hot start against nonconference opponents in early fall was derailed by devastating injuries, one after another. Inexperienced backups had to come in and shoulder the load, but the weight proved too heavy for the underclassmen to bear.
Ever since week four of the college football season, when starting running back Jonathan Hilliman was lost with a broken foot just a week after starting quarterback Darius Wade left with an injury, BC has struggled mightily to make its new pieces of the puzzle fit.
In a lot of ways, it was more of the same on Saturday night in Fenway Park against the University of Notre Dame (10-1). BC’s stout defense stood tall once again, forcing five turnovers from the Irish offensive attack. The offense struggled, as it has for a number of weeks. The Eagles (3-8, 0-7 ACC) played tough against a stronger opponent, and in the end, their efforts proved futile.
But at the podium in the bowels of Fenway, at the tail end of an ongoing seven-game losing streak, BC head coach Steve Addazio had a different attitude than in weeks past—it was one of unadulterated hope, free from the all-too-familiar sentiments of disappointment and confusion.
Addazio sees the extraordinary amount of youth on the field—he says he has never had so many freshmen and sophomores playing key roles before. He knows it will be a process to get the young guys into competitive shape for the Atlantic Coast Conference gauntlet in years to come. But he has hope that it will all turn around.
“We’re taking steps—I like where we’re headed right now,” Addazio said. “For those who can’t understand that, then they can’t understand that. We’re building a foundation here.”
It might be lost on the casual BC fan just how many underclassmen have been thrust into positions of importance this season. Three key members of the offensive line, as well as all four quarterbacks that have seen game time and a majority of the receiving corps, only started contributing to BC this season.
The steps that Addazio’s team is taking are small. These baby steps were not enough to make a bowl game in 2015, and it remains to be seen whether they will be big enough to cause ripples in the college football landscape in the future. But baby steps are steps in the right direction nonetheless, and thus can be appreciated.
Justin Simmons witnesses these early stages of greatness developing at practice each and every day. The de-facto leader of the defense had likely the best game of his long career on Saturday night, picking off two passes from ND quarterback Deshone Kizer. But even Simmons didn’t want to think about his individual statistics on Saturday.
Despite the fact that the game ended nearly an hour before he took the press conference podium, Simmons approached the stand still wearing his customary headband, his left cheek still sporting eye black fashioned in the shape of a cross. His eyes were tired, his body looked weary, but he could still think of nothing but the bright future of BC football.
“I would take our team over any team,” Simmons said. “Everything that is going on with Coach Addazio and this program is being done the right way. I believe there is something special coming in the future.”
While there is one game remaining on the schedule—a Thanksgiving weekend date with Syracuse University—this game against Notre Dame was the one that BC wanted the most. It showed before the game, when sixth-year offensive lineman Harris Williams scuffed up the pristine paint spelling out “Notre Dame” in the end zone. It showed when quarterback John Fadule tucked the ball and ran with it, lowering his helmet like a bull to pick up just one more yard after contact.
While the results on the scoreboard were not what the Eagles wanted, Addazio feels like he saw real, tangible progress being made by his mostly-young team. At this point, that’s all you could really ask for from it.
“To watch Jeff [Smith] compete out there, to watch John Fadule compete out there, to watch Thaddeus Smith compete out there, to watch Elijah Robinson compete out there, to watch Mike Walker compete out there, to watch Tom Sweeney compete out there… Chris Lindstrom, and Aaron Monteiro, and Jon Baker, wow,” Addazio said. “I’ve been coaching a long time and I haven’t ever seen a list that long.”
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor