CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Though he didn’t come out and say it, Boston College coach Steve Addazio hinted strongly Monday that his starting quarterback is feeling the heat.
Chase Rettig had one of the worst games of his career, statistically at least, on Saturday at North Carolina’s Kenan Memorial Stadium.
The senior signal-caller finished 10-for-20 for just 57 yards and got sacked four times in the Eagles’ 34-10 loss. The yardage total was the second lowest of Rettig’s career, behind only a 32-yard showing against Maryland in 2011 (a game in which he threw just 12 passes, as the running game dominated).
But Addazio isn’t wavering, despite calls from fans -- on social media, mainly -- for a change under center.
“I told him I’m proud of the way he’s competing and he’s working,” he said of Rettig. “We’re all trying to continue to improve each week and take the things that we need to work on and improve on them. That’s what we’re doing.
“We need him to play with great confidence, we need his experience, we need him to have leadership and know that we’ve got his back and let’s roll.”
Some of Rettig’s stats may be down, especially his attempts per game (21.4 in 2013, down from 38.9 in 2012) and yards per game average (162.9 in 2013, down from 254.6 in 2012), but his yards per attempt average (7.6 in 2013, up from 6.5 in 2012), completion percentage (62.0 in 2013, up from 54.2 in 2012) and rating (142.51 in 2013, up from 115.57 in 2012) are actually up, according to cfbstats.com. That’s because he’s being asked to do drastically different things this season, under yet another offensive coordinator (his fifth in four years).
And against the Tar Heels, Addazio said, there were many things that went wrong in the passing game. There were drops. There were breakdowns in protection. And, yes, there were a few bad decisions on Rettig’s part.
The coach met with the quarterback and a few other players individually on Monday morning, something he likes to do just to take the temperature of his players. Part of his session with Rettig involved tuning out detractors.
“I love Chase, and I just care about how he feels,” Addazio said. “And as the head coach, I know what it’s like: You get too much credit and too much blame. I've got that figured out. To think that a quarterback isn’t feeling, sometimes, the effects of what happens positively or what happens negatively, you’re sticking your head in the sand. Because they care.
“A lot goes on. We might have a play in a game when a lineman was supposed to pull and didn’t and no one really knows that. But when the quarterback has an error, the whole world sees it. So I just think it’s really important that the kids know where they are, where they stand. So it’s not, ‘What are they thinking about me?’ What are we thinking about you? We love the hell out of you. That’s what we think about you. It’s just important that they hear that.”
Late in Saturday’s game, the passing game sputtering, Rettig used his legs to move the chains. On a second-and-10 from the BC 20, Rettig felt the pocket collapsing on a play-action dropback, stepped up and then tucked the ball and ran. He slipped one defender (with a minor assist from a pick by the official), then put his head down and tried to run through another tackler instead of sliding and avoiding contact.
Though that drive fizzled out after two incompletions, Rettig proved he was willing to do what it takes to try to make something happen.
“He’s a competitor. It means the world to Chase,” Addazio said. “He should have come out of the game a little bit earlier and that’s my fault. The game is gone and he’s lowering his head, trying to get a yard. He’s a real competitor. I love his attitude right now.
“He’s devastated, just like I am, just like any competitor is when you put everything on the line and you lose a game in the fashion that we lost that game -- not a lack of effort, absolutely not a lack of effort, and I’d tell you straight out if it was, not a lack of toughness, just incredibly inconsistent.”
The Eagles made too many mistakes to win at UNC. Part of that is on Rettig, but Addazio clearly thinks the QB is taking too much flak.
“Poor decisions were made under duress,” he said. “And that’s something that we’re trying to improve and get better at. And that’s a by-product, sometimes, of a lack of success in the past. And that’s not putting it anywhere other than the fact that it’s my job to come in here and build that.
“We’ve got to play at a high, high level because of where we are as a program right now. And when we do, because we’re so darn scrappy, we’re right in the middle of things. But the minute that -- for whatever dynamic -- dips, we become average quick. ... In that game Saturday, the effort never dropped, the intensity never dropped, that’s the good news.”
The coach wants his quarterback to know that he’s got his back, that he knows he’s not the problem that fans may think he is.
“You’ve got to have great confidence and you’ve got to understand going in that it’s not always going to go right and mistakes are going to happen and those things are going to get magnified,” Addazio said. “But at the end of the day, the guys on the team know who prepares hard every day, they know who competes hard every day. So that’s all you can do. And try not to get too caught up in all that stuff.”
The Eagles were off on Monday, so the players weren’t available. But when Rettig talks to the media, chances are he’ll shrug off any talk of negativity from fans affecting him.
BC’s QB rarely lets the media in on his thinking, preferring to stick to platitudes and move on. He’s got plenty to worry about on the field this week, as Virginia Tech will enter Saturday’s game (12 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN2) first in the country in interceptions (17.0), second in sacks (28.0) and passing defense (157.8 yards per game allowed), third in total defense (248.8 yards per game allowed) and fifth in scoring defense (14.8 points per game).
But as the volume of commentary ratchets up, it’s got to feel good for Rettig to hear he has the support of his head coach.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that Chase gives us our best opportunity to win right now,” Addazio said. “He’s an experienced veteran player and a game manager. Chase is where it’s at right now and we’re going to move forward with Chase.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.