(An outsiders musings about Boston College aka The Heights)
On a day when Boston College retired linebacker Luke Kuechly's jersey, on a rainy homecoming afternoon when almost half of the announced Alumni Stadium crowd of 34, 647 disguised itself as empty seats, in a game in which Syracuse did almost everything possible to give BC it's first Atlantic Coast Conference victory in 23 months, BC went belly up again.
Where this latest slide, disguised as a frustrating 28-20 loss, will carry the Eagles, football coach Steve Addazio and the steadily fading (from the picture) athletic director Brad Bates, is a mystery that looks like it will not have a pleasant ending.
The loss, which was not sealed until a fourth down pass from back up BC QB Darius Wade sailed out of the end zone, drops BC to 3-4 overall which looks benign enough. But you have to look at the total context of the situation at BC for the past few years.
The Eagles are 0-4 in the ACC this season, which coupled with last season's 0-8 conference record t makes its 692 days (November 29, 2014 against Syracuse) since BC last won an ACC football game or defeated a Power 5 conference school.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
If you throw in an 0-18 ACC losing streak in men's basketball last season, you have a severe drought between conference victories, although it will take some effort to overcome Duke's conference ineptness from 1999-2003 when the Devils lost 30 consecutive ACC games.
What made it worse for BC was that were so many things that went wrong for the Eagles on Saturday on a day which was set up to put a positive spin on a season which again is spiraling towards oblivion.
Start with Kuechly, arguably the best player BC football has ever produced, coming back to The Heights to have his jersey retired after a 3- year career which produced back to back consensus All American selections, a Butkus Award as the best linebacker in college football, which elevated him to a first round NFL draft pick with the Carolina Panthers.
Amazingly, Bates who is rumored to be a lame duck AD at BC, was non-existent in the halftime ceremonies for Kuechly, a mind boggling decision since the SCHOOL employing Bates was honoring a BC football player. Bates, as he has through much of his tenure at BC, chose to remain in the background.
A Jesey guy's recollection of Kuechly began on the first day of fall practice in 2010. when I noticed a freshman wearing No. 40 making play after play during the morning drills. Paying scant attention to freshmen until they actually enroll at school, I had no idea who No. 40 was, so I asked then BC defensive coordinator Bill McGovern about the newcomer. "Oh you noticed him, did you,'said McGovern with a laugh. "He's a freshman and he is different and very special.''
Indeed he was and has remained so with the Panthers, who made it to the Super Bowl last season, aided by a defense led by a linebacker who led the NFL in tackles--Luke Keuchly.
Maybe it was an omen that, during the halftime ceremonies honoring Kuechly, the BC scoreboard showed more highlights of Kuechly's career with the Panthers, than BC, although there was more than enough of them during his three seasons at BC.
Certainly, there was very little of that defensively against Syracuse, which came to BC off a punch out upset of Virginia Tech last week.
On Saturday, the Orange, who are now a respectable 4-4 under first year coach Dino Babers, looked punch drunk at times. They committed an astonishing 16 penalties for 135 yards, they lost two fumbles and an interception. This was countered by the ineptness of the BC defense, which was shredded by QB Eric Dungey who completed 32 of 38 passes for 434 yards and 3 TDs, while gaining another 54 yards on the ground.
The Orange never trailed, but they kept allowing BC to hang around, dangerously so in the fourth quarter when the Eagles' closed to within a point (21-20) and in the final minutes when a turnover gave BC the ball one final time, trailing only by 8 points. That threat ended when Wade's (filling in for starter Patrick Towles, who had a highlight film 75 yard TD run, but was sidelined with a hamstring strain) fourth down pass from the Syracuse 18 yard line sailed over the head of tight end Charlie Callinan.
Afterwards, Addazio, whose coaching seat is getting hotter with each loss, was hardly loquacious. ""We were obviously better today (than a 56-10 loss to Clemson in their last game two weeks ago)'' said Addazio, "obviously, but the consistency in the throwing game was just not there. I thought we competed hard.''
As to the losing streak in the ACC? ""I don't care ACC, not ACC,'' said Addazio. ""you pour your heart and soul into winning a football game: that's all you do. Players, coach, everybody. You pour your heart and soul into it. It is what it is.''
What it is is not good for Addazio and BC. The Eagles were 3-9 a year ago and 0-8 in the ACC. They are 3-4 now, with a road game at North Carolina State, games against Top 20 ACC teams, Louisville (home) and Florida State (away). They finish with UConn (home ) and Wake Forest (away).
Finding the necessary 3 wins to get to 6-6 to bowl eligibility will require some luck as well as skill 0ffensivley and defensively against a schedule in which the Eagles are likely to be underdogs in every game.
The waters are becoming more than choppy. Although Addazio has a contract through the 2018 season, going 0-16 or 1-15 in back-to-back ACC seasons (a possibility) is not conducive for job security although Bates did extend the contract of men's basketball coach Jim Christian last season after the Eagles went 0-18 in the ACC.
But with Bates' future uncertain, with more and more chatter that BC President Father William Leahy will announce his retirement in the next few months, there are no guarantees for anyone.
Officially, Saturday was Homecoming at BC. But with another loss, House Cleaning might be the next message coming from The Heights.[/membership]