On Saturday afternoon in Evanston, Illinois, in one of the more important toss-up games Boston College football will play this year, the Eagles fell to the Northwestern Wildcats, 22-13. The loss drops BC to 1-2 (0-1), while Northwestern gets off to a hot 3-0 start for 2012.
For most of the contest, the two sides stuck to field goals, as Northwestern got on the board first, BC answered, and then Northwestern answered again. It was not until late in the first half that the Eagles finally found the end zone first, as Chase Rettig threw a strike to Johnathan Coleman for a 34-yard touchdown, putting BC ahead, 10-9. Northwestern closed out the half with another three, however, giving the Wildcats a 12-10 halftime lead.
Boston College would only manage three points in the second half as Northwestern drove for another field goal, but while the Eagles defense was out of gas, ran it in for the back-breaking, fourth-quarter touchdown to make it a 22-13 game.
The mistakes on both sides were numerous, but Boston College’s were more costly. One cannot go any further without pointing the finger at two particular areas: the defense and BC’s run game. Both were virtually non-existent in the Eagles’ defeat to the Wildcats. If one looks at the box score and sees how many points BC allowed, they might think it was a good effort, but it was not. Northwestern amassed 548 yards of offense against the Eagles and decimated BC on third downs, going 12-for-18.
Boston College’s defense could not get off the field until the Wildcats were in the red zone; for most of the game, they dinked and dunked their way into scoring position with ease. The Eagles got some pressure on Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian, but had trouble dealing with Northwestern’s rushing attack and shutting down the option that the Wildcats use so effectively. The two quarterbacks together completed over 75% of their passes on the afternoon, so their passing game was just as good.
It is officially time to worry about the defense, particularly the run defense, if you have not already. Yes, the Eagles made some plays down near the end zone to keep threes from becoming sevens, but the defense played soft everywhere else on the field and the result was Northwestern holding the ball for almost 36 minutes.
As for the BC running game, it was about as bad as we have seen it in a long time. The Eagles had 24 yards on 21 carries, with one lost fumble (on the Northwestern 5) and a thorough lack of run blocking. As decently as they have protected Chase Rettig so far, the offensive line cannot open running lanes and our running backs cannot hold onto the ball. BC’s rushing attack is a liability right now, when it used to be one of our few relative strengths in the past.
Chase Rettig played fine once again, though not without a few mistakes here and there. For much of the game he was poised and accurate, so he is the absolute last person to blame for this BC defeat. Like the rest of the offense, however, he does bear some responsibility, including the Eagles only going 2-for-11 on third downs.
Northwestern cannot be pleased with how they played, as with their massive yardage advantage they should have blown BC away, but they did not. They made a few turnovers and found themselves equally as incapable as BC in the red zone. The Wildcats put this game on a tee for BC to hit, but they couldn’t. To NU’s credit, they stuck to their nickel-and-dime offensive gameplan and it worked in carefully shredding BC’s defense apart.
This is now the third game in a row in which Boston College has been no better than average. Do not kid yourselves, and forget the final score: BC did not play well on Saturday. Against Miami, the Eagles were sub-par. With Maine last week, BC was at best ordinary. Today, against Northwestern, sub-par again. The defense came up far too small and BC was never able to establish any offensive consistency, due in part to the disastrous performance of the running game. Doug Martin made some nice play calls, but execution was lacking.
Once more, when you have a team beset by problems such as poor tackling and bad ball control, that is on coaching. This is three games now out of three in which BC has had major problems manifest themselves, and no sign that they are being corrected. Chase Rettig has taken his leap forward, but there are players regressing as well. To be blunt, the football program reeks of staleness and disappointment, and desperately needs a new coach to revitalize it.
The Eagles will have next week off, but come back on the 29th for a very tough game against Clemson.