(An outsider's view of goings on at The Heights, aka Boston College)
FOXBOROUGH, Ma.-The message on Friday night at the team hotel in Needham was delivered by Ricky Brown.
Technically, Brown's duties on Boston Coach Steve Addazio's staff include Recruiting /Quality Control.
But the person who talked to the Eagles before their game against Massachusetts at Gillette Stadium on Saturday was Ricky Brown the former BC linebacker, Ricky Brown the 2005 Scanlan Award winner, the highest internal honor a football player can earn at The Heights.
Brown talked to the players from a perspective of someone who finished his playing career at BC 11 years ago, whose career in the NFL ended only four years ago. He still had the mind set of a player.
Brown talked to the team about the importance of closing the deal, something the Eagles had learned about once again a week ago in Dublin, Ireland in a 17-14 loss to Georgia Tech which came in the final seconds.
And if the Eagles needed another reminder it came in the first quarter when UMass, taking advantage of a busted coverage play, took a 7-0 lead on the Eagles.
Could this be another bad chapter in a continuing saga of BC frustration and failure, which had seen a losing streak in Atlantic Coast Conference play stretch back to November of 2014? The last time the Eagles won a game against any opponent was on Sep 26th of 2015 when they squeezed past Northern Illinois.
But that all changed on Saturday before an announced crowd of 25,112 on a day which still had the hint of summer. It changed because BC-primarily the defense--closed the deal with a bone crushing effort by the defense and more than enough offensive firepower.
The result was a 26-7 BC win, which basically consisted of two quick touchdown passes from quarterback Patrick Towles to wide receiver Jeff Smith in a one minute and 24 second stretch in the third quarter, which gave BC a 13-7 lead. The defense then got nastier with each series.
It turned out to be more than enough because the BC defense, which led the country last season wouldn't let the Minutemen have any wiggle room on offense.
Consider holding the Minutemen to MINUS 23 yards in rushing, the second lowest total in program history, by sacking UMass QB Ross Comis 8 times. How intimidating was the BC defense? Consider these numbers. Factoring in the 58 yards of offense which came on play in the first quarter, the UMass offense was held to 35 yards in the first quarter, 5 yards in the second quarter, 29 yards in the third quarter and MINUS 6 yards in the fourth quarter.
Small wonder there were cheers and applause and good feeling in the BC locker room for the first time in almost a calendar year. There was a smile on Addazio's face when he said, "We found a way to close it out. This could have been a different scenario (if they hadn't).
Addazio maintains that the Eagles are moving in the right direction away from the 3-9 crash and burn of last season.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
And indeed they might be. The defense, led by an aggressive linebacker corp including Matt Millano and Connor Strachan might be as good as last season's version. The offense, with Towles, the graduate transfer from Kentucky, has proven it can actually put together scoring drives. Even the kicking game, which has been the nemesis of the Eagles for the past two years generated smiles and fist pumps when kicker Mike Knoll, filling in for the injured Colton Lichtenberg, took on the duties of field goal kicker, kick offs and punts and came up with a pair of field goals to close drives in the red zone. Knoll did miss an extra point, but you can't rebuild a program in one game.
But it was also about closing the deal. ""Ricky Brown talked to us a lot about finishing,'' said Strachan, who had six tackles and 2.5 sacks.""I think that really inspired a lot of guys and its been something we've had to work on.''
The win was crucial for BC. Not only did they win a game, but they now face a road game at Virginia Tech next week against a Hokie team that could be a little bit battered after its Bristol Motor Speedway game against Tennessee on Saturday night. And, that game is followed by back-to-back home non-conference games against Wagner and Buffalo, both of which the Eagles should win.
Even if you project a loss at Tech, the Eagles should have three wins going into the heat of their ACC season, which means they need to squeeze three conference wins from a schedule which includes games against North Carolina State (a loser to East Carolina on Saturday) and Syracuse (a blow out loser to Louisville on Friday) and a regular season closer at Wake Forest which could be for a bowl bid.
""We have to keep growing,'' said Addazio.""But we need to enjoy the wins, have a little fun, a little, a little emotion.''
The Eagles did that on Saturday and it left them wanting more. ""I can not wait for next Saturday,'' said Towles, who no doubt felt that way a week ago but for different reasons.[/membership]