In the week leading up to Boston College’s visit to Southern California to take on USC, Eagles coach Steve Addazio said his team would need to scrap and claw and keep the game close into the fourth quarter to have any chance at improving to 3-0.
The Eagles had to avoid giving up big plays to the Trojans offense, and they needed to get creative on offense to beat the tough Trojans defense.
While BC battled USC on Saturday, it didn’t get either of those things done and fell to 2-1 with a 35-7 loss.
“I'm obviously disappointed in the outcome,” Addazio told reporters after the game, according to a transcript on BC’s website. “I don't think we executed well at all. ... We didn't do much on either side of the ball.
“Collectively as a team we didn't play like we have to. We have to get off the field on defense and get good field position on offense, try to control the ball and get the thing in the fourth quarter and that didn’t happen.”
A few plays sum up the Eagles’ day.
On USC’s second offensive possession, the Trojans drove upfield and into the red zone to set up a goal-to-go situation. The BC defense had been excellent in the red zone so far this season, and if they could stall the Trojans’ attack the Eagles might be able to shift the momentum at least a little.
On second-and-goal from the BC 5, the Eagles blitzed quarterback Cody Kessler. As Sean Sylvia and Mehdi Abdesmad collapsed the pocket, Kessler alertly tossed over the on-rushing Sylvia to a wide open Tre Madden for an easy touchdown.
It was a play decided by seconds, one in which BC’s attack just wasn’t fast enough.
After going to the locker room at halftime down 14-0 -- it would have been 21-0, but USC had a blocked punt that Marqise Lee returned for a TD nullified by a penalty -- BC had a chance to fight back within a score on its second drive of the third quarter. The Eagles pushed the ball into USC territory but faced a fourth-and-inches at the 46 with just less than seven minutes to go in the quarter.
Addazio decided to go for it, something he’s done before this season and will probably do again if the situation arises. The coach wants to establish a hard-nosed, physical approach, and believes the Eagles have to be able to get a yard when they need it if they’re going to be successful.
It’s an aggressive play call, which meshes perfectly with Addazio’s philosophy.
Workhorse back Andre Williams got the call on the play, but the 6-foot, 227-pounder was stuffed for a 1-yard loss and the ball was turned over on downs.
Again, the Eagles just weren’t quite good enough. And they ultimately paid the price.
“They did everything we thought they would do,” quarterback Chase Rettig told reporters. “They just played better than us today. That’s about it.”
To be fair, there’s no shame in losing to a Top 25-caliber team, which USC is despite its struggles through the first two weeks. With their backs to the wall after a 10-7 loss to Washington State in Week 2, the defense remained stout -- giving up only 184 yards of total offense and seven points -- and Lane Kiffin’s offense rebounded in a big way.
Kessler showed Saturday he can handle the starting QB duties, finishing 15-for-17 passing for 237 yards and two touchdowns, and Madden again had a big day on the ground with 16 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown.
All told, USC piled up 521 yards of total offense, just 80 fewer yards than BC allowed to its first two opponents combined. The Trojans’ 35 points are 11 more than the Eagles’ first two opponents mustered between them.
“They’re good,” Kasim Edebali told reporters. “They executed better than we did and hit a couple big plays, which was frustrating.”
The bottom line is this: While the two wins to open the season were great for the morale of a rebuilding program, the Eagles still have a lot of work to do on and off the field to truly compete with teams such as the Trojans.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.