Boston College Game Preview with Soaring to Glory’s Joe Micik


Joe Micik of Soaring to Glory, a Boston College blog on the FanSided network, spoke with us about the Eagles prior to Friday’s game. Boston College has had a down year and some bad luck, and from the sound of things fans aren’t happy with the direction of the program. Joe talks about some of the Eagles’ top players, and expresses his disappointment in Eagles head coach Frank Spaziani‘s in-game coaching.

Joe and I flipped things around earlier when I answered some of his questions about the Hurricanes. The interview was posted on the BC blog this morning.

Canes Warning: Luke Kuechly has been astonishing since arriving at BC in 2009. He finished second in the country in total tackles as a freshman, and then led the country as a sophomore. Now a junior, he’s again leading the country in tackles. What makes him so productive?

Joe Micik: There are a few things. First, he’s fast and covers lots of the field. Second, he has a nose for the ball, kind of like a heat-seeking missile. Finally, and I hate to put it like this because it sounds like I’m bagging on our players, but he can make the plays that some others on our defense can’t. BC does have a few other good tacklers – LB Kevin Pierre-Louis comes to mind – but Kuechly steps up routinely to make plays. He’s got a strong work ethic and doesn’t take plays off, and he has a high football IQ.

With all of that said, I’d say most of us are resigned to this being his final game with Boston College. Sure, there’s always the chance he could return, but given that (a) he’s got a big NFL payday coming and (b) BC football is going down the tubes at warp speed, I can’t imagine why he would want to stay. We’ll see.

CW: A lot of people weren’t sure what to make of Boston College this year, but nobody expected 3-8 in late November. Some even suggested they could compete for the Atlantic title, but instead they’re on their way to their first losing season since 1998. At risk of asking a loaded question, what went wrong?

JM: I could give you a very long, nuanced answer, but I’ll spare you. Myself, I predicted 6 or 7 wins, which I thought was prudent because Boston College had been very consistent in getting to bowls over the years, but it didn’t overestimate us because the schedule got tougher. I also thought BC’s overall quality of play would be better than in 2010, but I was wrong.

There’s an old saying, “the fish rots from the head.” The incompetence at the top of Boston College football is so stunning that it’s a miracle we win any games at all. Our players have shown week in and week out, and I think most outside observers would agree, that they still play with heart and determination. The coaching, however, has been poor, and that’s an understatement. The team underperforms, particularly on offense, with remarkable consistency, the schemes have been mostly terrible and predictable, players make the same mistakes every week., and some appear to have flat-out regressed. The media has framed it as bad luck, amongst other things, but the problem is mainly coaching.

I suppose, in a way, we should have seen it coming, but I didn’t think we’d fall this far, this fast.

CW: For the fifth straight season, the Eagles will finish with fewer wins than the year before. Is there a sense among fans that the team needs a new direction?

JM: For many fans, yes; plenty are shocked and angry at the program taking a dive. I have been out in front on the “Fire Spaz” movement since roughly the middle of last season, and this year, the chorus has grown by leaps and bounds. There’s no way for us to know just how many of us there are, or if we’re even the majority of BC fans, but I suspect as much. A bunch of BC fans are ready to cancel their athletics donations and/or season tickets if Spaziani returns next season.

The trajectory of Eagles football has been straight down ever since the coach took over. Truth be told, if BC’s second-half schedule last year hadn’t been so easy, we might have missed out on a bowl then as well, so this decline is in no way isolated to 2011. For three years now, this team’s play has gotten steadily worse. Our offense by yardage has been in the bottom 25% of all FBS teams four years running, and to give you an idea of how dreadful this trend is, last year, BC was 109th in total offense out of 120 FBS teams. This year, somehow, with nowhere to go but up, BC has found a way to fall to 113th. Players have changed and the offensive coordinator has changed, but the results are the same.

Finally, Spaziani coaches as if he is defeated. He says things like BC “has a small margin of error” and the players are “fragile,” and he would rather play not to lose at all costs than take any sort of chance. Case in point: against ND, with two timeouts and 1:19 on the clock, BC essentially took a knee rather than try to run their two-minute offense and attempt to score points, right after Chase Rettig had just put together his best drive of the season. There are other examples, like Spaz running draw plays on 2nd AND 3rd & 21 in the first quarter, running the ball over a dozen times in the 4th quarter against FSU down big, punting in plus territory late while trailing by a lot, so on and so forth. He plays it safe to a fault and his teams completely lack creativity. The players play hard but the coaches don’t take chances and don’t seem to have any sense of urgency. They also make approximately zero in-game adjustments. Simply put, Spaz is helping to choke out what used to be fun about BC football, and the result is losing.

The official excuse this year from the Spaz regime is youth and injuries, but BC had a lot of the same problems last year and the year before that, and they’ve gotten worse. Unfortunately, as long as people of influence cover for him, however, he’s not going anywhere. He isn’t held accountable, nor does he hold himself accountable. BC football’s in a pretty tough spot to be honest.

CW: Some thought of running back Montel Harris as a potential Heisman candidate, and he was named the ACC Preseason Player of the Year. How much has his injury hurt the offense, and have others managed to carry load in his absence?

JM: Montel would have been a nice addition this year, but to be honest, I don’t think he would have made a huge difference. BC was the ACC’s worst offense last year WITH him being the conference’s leading rusher, and we’re just about as bad this year without.

The offensive line has been bad for the most part this season. Running backs like Rolandan Finch have done admirably when facing worse defenses, but for the most part, the run game just isn’t working out for us. I’m not sure how much more successful Harris would have been.

Our offense seems to like the run, run, pass, punt philosophy, founded by our former offensive coordinator, Gary Tranquill. His spirit lives on in every three-and-out.

CW: BC’s comeback attempt last week at Notre Dame fell just short, and they beat NC State the week before. Should Miami fans be worried that the season finale will be marred by the visiting Eagles?

JM: Perhaps, perhaps not. I didn’t think BC would get within a field goal of beating ND, but who knows.

Offensively, it would take divine intervention for them to score above the teens. The Eagles average 14.9 points against FBS competition this year, and they have consistently avoided crossing the 20-point boundary in all but 2 games, so really the only way BC gets this done is if the defense is lights out. Miami would seem to have some offensive weapons that could give BC a lot of trouble, so if the Canes hit 21 or so, they might be in the clear.

Admittedly I don’t have a good read on this game. I suspect it’s possible that Miami could be fired up over their bowl situation and beat the crap out of us, but I will stress again, while the coaches don’t take chances, the BC players haven’t quit. No outcome would truly surprise me (aside from a BC blowout, given that our offense can’t score points), but history (and our current record) would suggest a BC win is pretty unlikely.

Happy Thanksgiving to my ACC brethren in Miami.