Monday, December 28, 2009

2009, part II: Football year in review

There's no doubt about it: the expectations for BC football were low this year.  Very low, depending on whom you ask.  I usually never expect Boston College to be as bad as the media and average schmucks on the internet think, however, and this year was no different.  The Eagles went 8-5 (5-3) in their 2009 season with a true freshman quarterback and a new head coach, and temporarily without Mark Herzlich.  It was most certainly a year with its peaks and valleys as one might have guessed.

Week 1: BC beats Northeastern 54-0.  I'd like to think that this loss scarred the Huskies so badly that it's why they folded up the football program.  Montel Harris ran for three touchdowns and Josh Haden and Justin Tuggle were still playing for BC.

Week 2: BC beats Kent State 34-7.  I nearly forgot that the Eagles started off the season having scored 85 points in a row.  BC's first game against a 1-A/FBS team was a complete success, as expected.

Week 3: Clemson beats BC 25-7.  The Eagles came crashing down with a loud thud in this one.  The game was ugly, the weather was ugly, and everything about BC's offense was ugly.  The Clemson debacle featured the worst offensive playcalling I have ever seen, and it resulted in their worst total yardage in a game in decades.  Tuggle went a whopping 4/20 for 23 yards, and threw three interceptions.  The defense played well yet again, keeping Clemson out of the end zone.

Week 4: BC beats Wake Forest 27-24 (OT).  This win was really nothing short of God smiling upon the Eagles and showing favor.  BC led by two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter and blew the lead, scored a field goal in their half of the first overtime, and as Riley Skinner was loading up for the game-winning touchdown, he fumbled the ball, and game, away.  It felt like more of a non-loss than a win.

Week 5: BC beats Florida State 28-21.  College Gameday returned to the Dustbowl for the first time in four years, but unlike that game against the Seminoles in 2005, BC won this one.  It was another game where BC was up big and let the other team creep back in.  Bobby Bowden changed the expression on his face and moved around during the game once, maybe twice.  The Eagles moved to 2-1 in the ACC and were feeling good.

Week 6: Virginia Tech beats BC 48-14.  ...And then this happened.  BC ran head-first into a buzzsaw.  This was like the Clemson game, only worse: at least against the Tigers, the defense played well.  On this day, all units were crap.  Dave Shinskie went 1/12 for four yards and two picks, while Mike "Marco Polo" Marscovetra completed 10 of 16 passes and threw for two scores.  By this point, however, the game was already long over.  The halftime score was 34-0, and their second road game was another lopsided loss.

Week 7: BC beats NC State 52-20.  The Hen laid yet another egg at BC, this time while wearing red and white.  Tom O'Brien lost to his old team for the third time in a row since leaving Boston, and Montel Harris ran all over his defense for 264 yards (BC record) and five touchdowns (BC record).  Quite a stunning contrast from the week before.

Week 8: Notre Dame beats BC 20-16.  The Domers were due to win one eventually, I guess.  The Eagles had every chance to win this game in South Bend and make a bad final season for Charlie Weis even worse, but a number of critical mistakes (Montel fumbling near the goal line and Shinskie's picks stand out) sealed the deal.

Week 9: BC beats Central Michigan 31-10.  Josh Haden and Justin Tuggle jumped ship a few days after the Notre Dame loss, which did not at all stop the Eagles rollercoaster car from going back up at home.  A relatively good MAC team came into Alumni Stadium and got pretty well dominated by BC.  Mr. Superfan himself, Steve Aponavicius, a name the media will be happy to never have to butcher again, became the school's all-time leading scorer, Shinskie looked like he was capable of playing football, and the Eagles were bowl-eligible.

Week 10: Bye week.  I assume Gary Tranquill did what all senior citizens do: watched The Price is Right and fell asleep in his recliner.

Week 11: BC beats Virginia 14-10.  I know, I know, Virginia's defense is not at all bad, and BC won the game, but this was another contest where BC had trouble getting going.  BC scored on their opening drive, but not again until the fourth quarter when they came from behind to keep them breathing in the ACC Atlantic.  It was also their first of two road wins.

Week 12: North Carolina beats BC 31-13.  The senior week disaster and the only home loss of the season ensured that BC would not be playing in the ACC title game.  The Eagles turned it over six times in this absolutely brutal display.

Week 13: BC beats Maryland 19-17.  Playing for pride, perhaps a better bowl, and not much else, BC went into Maryland and beat the hapless Terps.  I don't remember paying much attention to this game as it was the weekend after Thanksgiving, but it was another road win, so I took it.

Bowl game: USC beats BC 24-13.  A frustrating game in San Francisco gave the Eagles back-to-back bowl losses.  BC hung in there with an elite program and did not get outclassed.  I was proud of our guys and not pleased with the outcome, but the program will live to fight another day.

In sum, the season went like this, in order: good, good, terrible, okay, good, terrible, good, bad, good, yawn, okay, terrible, okay, whatever.  Seems pretty up and down to me, but now let's turn attention to the key players:

Luke Kuechly.  The freshman defensive sensation is going to be a special player at BC, and he had an excellent first season.

Rich Gunnell.  Going to miss our all-time leading receiver.  I hope he finds himself a job in the NFL.

Montel Harris.  A good season with some great individual games, but with some mistakes peppered in (like a few key fumbles in the red zone).  I do expect him to get better his last few seasons here.

Dave Shinskie.  I'm not sure if I expect him to follow suit, however.  Despite a few games where he looked like a quarterback, his season, on balance, was nothing to write home about.  He had good and bad games (and some of the bad ones were nightmarish).  He will have to earn the 2010 starting role in competition next season.

And coaches:

Frank Spaziani.  The man just oozes excitement from every pore.

Gary Tranquill.  Had his good moments and his bad like most of the rest of the team.  The Clemson game was godawful, but in some others he wasn't bad.

Mark Herzlich.  I look forward to his transition from the sidelines back to the field.

Given all of the things that happened to BC football in 2009, starting with the firing of Jeff Jagodzinski all the way through to the Emerald Bowl loss a few days ago, an eight-win season is not a bad haul.  Can BC improve upon this for next season?  Sure, but there are too many unknowns left to figure out at this point in time.  I would think, however, that the expectations bar will be raised.  The defense is good and I would hope going to get even better, but what about the offense?  Stay tuned.

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