NEWTON, Mass. -- Call it “The Mystery of the Disappearing Tailback.”
Rolandan “Deuce” Finch started the season atop the depth chart at tailback, then stumbled when he kept dropping the ball at inopportune times, fell all the way off the two-deep and landed on the scout team.
Six weeks passed without so much as a glimpse of the 5-foot-10, 211-pound back.
Now that injuries have struck down the next and next-to-next men up (Andre Williams and Tahj Kimble), Finch is back on the two-deep. But he hasn’t regained that top spot yet, landing a line below true freshman (and converted defensive back/wide receiver) David Dudeck.
His teammates are happy to see him back on the field.
“It was really nice to have him back in the huddle,” Chase Rettig said. “He’s a good back and I look forward to the next two games with him.”
Finch, who led the Eagles with 705 yards in 2011, showed some of what he is capable of against the Irish this past Saturday. He broke off a 20-yard run in the second quarter, pumping up his teammates.
“To have him back and make an impact was huge not only for him but for us in the offense,” tight end Chris Pantale said. “It’s exciting having him back there. Just to see what he can do, he has the ability to break runs off and break tackles.”
Pantale said there were times during Deuce’s fall from grace that he took the junior aside and offered some words of wisdom.
“Things like this happen in life,” Pantale, an offensive co-captain, said he told Finch. “It’s how we respond to these challenges in life. You’ve just gotta work through it and hopefully things work out for the best. But you can’t put your head down, because nothing good’s gonna come out of that. You work and when you get your opportunity you make the best of it.”
For Finch, the opportunities came midweek. He had to prove himself to the coaching staff first, and worry about getting back in a game later.
“Nobody’s happy with something like that,” left tackle Emmett Cleary said of the demotion from first-string to scout team, “so I’m not gonna say he was that gung-ho about it, but he handled it like a man. And it kinda goes to show how your opportunity will come back around if you just keep working.”
Finch finished with seven carries for 40 yards against the Irish, leading the team in both categories.
This week, the Eagles (2-8, 1-5 ACC) host the Virginia Tech Hokies (4-6, 2-4) at Alumni Stadium (12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3). Though it’s been a down season for Frank Beamer’s squad, Bud Foster’s defense remains stout.
In the Hokies’ 28-22 loss to No. 10 Florida State last week, Foster’s defense held the Seminoles to minus-15 yards on the ground. For the season, Virginia Tech is sixth in the ACC in rushing defense, allowing 147.9 yards per game.
Part of the unit’s success is due to the unusual 4-2-5 alignment that Foster favors.
“It’s frustrating because you’ll block up the front perfectly and then there’s a support guy coming down and making the tackle after 3 yards,” Cleary said of the front. “It’s a different look than we’re used to and it’s really hard to break long runs because they always seem to have the support guy coming down.”
The Hokies are giving up 3.88 yards per carry this season.
Meanwhile, BC is last in the ACC in rushing offense at a paltry 72.5 yards per game. The Eagles’ 2.68 yards-per-carry average is 11th in the conference, with only Miami producing fewer yards per rush.
Finch, who has averaged 4.66 yards a carry in his limited playing time in 2012, could help them change those numbers.
If, that is, he’s truly back to where he was to start the season.
“He’s had a tough season,” Cleary said. “I hope he can contribute these next two weeks.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.