The numbers weren’t pretty, and the play that produced them wasn’t, either.
Boston College, long known as a stout defensive team, ranked at or near the bottom in a number of key defensive statistics in 2012 as it often struggled to stop opponents and ended up with a 2-10 record.
Here are just a few of the ugly numbers jumping off the stat sheet in 2012 (ACC rank, national rank in parentheses):
Scoring defense -- 29.7 PPG (ninth; tied-75th)
Rushing defense -- 213.25 YPG (11th; 113th)
Total defense -- 455.6 YPG (10th; 102nd)
Opponent first downs allowed -- 23.3 per game (11th; t-101st)
Opponent third-down conversion percentage allowed -- 49.77 percent (12th; 120th)
Sacks -- 6 (12th; 124th)
The new BC brain trust -- led by head coach Steve Addazio and defensive coordinator Don Brown -- is determined to improve those numbers in 2013, and the work begins with changing the defensive mindset.
They want to attack.
“As an offensive guy, I always felt like, you know, when you can just know where [the defense is] going to be all the time, you can kind of attack them,” Addazio said. “I think we have to disrupt offenses. I’m sure this year we’ll have big plays against us and things will happen, but that’s what we’re gonna do.”
Addazio has said many times that Brown is here specifically to implement this style of defense. And when he was told Brown called two BC defenders “animals” during the team’s media day, Addazio laughed.
“I think that speaks to the mentality of Don, right?” he joked.
“Beyond a doubt, if you can’t play defense you’re not gonna win,” Addazio said. “Now how are you gonna play defense? We want to have a staff that’s an aggressive, get-after-you staff, we want an aggressive, get-after-you scheme. Don Brown is that way by nature, and that’s why he’s here.”
So far, Brown’s new charges have embraced their new coach and his philosophy.
“The first thing when I think of Don Brown is aggressive football,” senior defensive end Kasim Edebali said. “You walk into a meeting, and he makes sure that you are gonna play aggressive football. He wants you to be a dude, first of all, like he always says. And he has schemes from every angle just trying to get after the other team.
“I love it. I just love getting after people, high-intensity, high-motor defense, aggressive, physical," said Edebali. "It’s all I love.”
It’s easy to love a scheme that has proven successful in the past.
Here is how Brown’s defense at Connecticut fared in 2012 in the same categories in which BC struggled (Big East rank, national rank in parentheses):
Scoring defense -- 19.8 PPG (third; tied-19th)
Rushing defense -- 97.92 YPG (second; seventh)
Total defense -- 309.9 YPG (first; ninth)
Opponent first downs allowed -- 16.2 per game (first; sixth)
Opponent third-down conversion percentage allowed -- 33.86 percent (first; t-21st)
Sacks -- 32 (first; t-29th)
UConn had some serious talent on defense in 2012, with four defenders taken in the 2013 NFL draft. Two of those picks, Trevardo Williams (11.5) and Sio Moore (7.5), each finished 2012 with more sacks than the entire BC team. And Brown’s system didn’t produce just NFL pass-rushers, with corners Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson also coming off the board.
BC senior linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis, a Nagurski Trophy watch list member, is excited to have more freedom to take shots at the quarterback.
“[The old system] was a little frustrating -- just at times you want to try to make a play but you just know that if you try to you’re gonna leave someone else out on an island,” Pierre-Louis said. “In this new system, pretty much everyone has playmaking ability and there’s gonna be someone to make the play, so you’re less worried about leaving someone on an island.
“Because once we go, we’re firing, we’re going.”
If there’s one potential (gaping) hole in the attacking, blitzing and shifting style the Eagles are implementing, it’s that it can put more pressure on the back end of the defense.
“There’s positives and negatives to everything you do, but that’s the way we want to play,” Addazio said. “We are gonna be aggressive on defense. I’m sure that we’re gonna get hit with some big plays, that it’s gonna get thrown over our heads a few times -- hopefully not too many -- but we’ve made that decision, we’re all-in.”
The BC pass-rushers are convinced that increased focus on pressuring the pocket won’t put too much stress on their teammates.
“I don’t necessarily think so,” Edebali said, “because coach says get after the quarterback and don’t give him no time and it’ll make the secondary’s life much easier if we don’t give him 10 seconds to throw the ball.”
In the end, it all comes back to that new mindset, Edebali said, and one of Don Brown’s frequent catch phrases (other than the now-ubiquitous “Be a dude”).
“He always says, ‘Solve your problems with aggression,’ ” Edebali said.
That’s exactly what the BC defense will attempt to do in 2013.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.