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Monday, October 1, 2012
BC's defense lets it down

By Jack McCluskey

Every loss is disappointing, but this kind of loss is especially frustrating.

For Frank Spaziani, long the Boston College Eagles’ defensive coordinator before he became their head coach, losing a game because your defense didn’t make enough plays even though your offense scored 30-plus points stings a little more.

After watching the tape of the Eagles’ 45-31 loss to then-No. 17 Clemson on Saturday, Spaziani said the schemes were sound.

“The first thing I look at is see if they’re in the right positions, if we had them in the right defenses,” he said in his Sunday conference call. “The X’s and O’s were correct. We didn’t execute it. We have to see why we didn’t execute them. … Maybe we’re trying to be too fine with some things.”

There were flashes of good execution from the BC defense, including Sean Sylvia’s diving interception, a fourth-down stop and a fumble recovery. There simply weren’t enough to tame the Tigers.

Eagles fans can take some degree of consolation from the fact offenses are exploding all across the country. Defensive problems aren’t confined to Chestnut Hill, by any stretch of the imagination. But that doesn’t absolve the Eagles. They need to improve on that side of the ball.

“We’ve got to hone in on ourselves a little bit and try to help our guys more,” Spaziani said. “It’s all about fundamentals and getting them to play fast.”

Clemson finished with 576 yards of total offense and and could have had more than their 45 points if Dabo Swinney hadn’t called for a kneel-down to end the game with the Tigers on the doorstep once again after Andre Ellington broke another long run.

The Tigers finished 10-for-16 on third-down conversions and went 6-for-7 in the red zone, with five of the six scores worth six points.

And though their own offense put up 420 yards of total offense and 31 points, this is not the style of game that suits the Eagles.

“We never want to get involved in these junior high basketball scores,” Spaziani said. “It’s just not good. It’s very hard to win those unless you have exceptional offensive talent. And although we’ve made progress and we like the guys we have, we can’t count on that week in and week out.”

The loss to Clemson, which moved up two spots to No. 15 in the Top 25 after the win, drops the Eagles to 1-3 and 0-2 in conference play. And for the next three Saturdays, the Eagles will have to contend with hostile crowds as well as their opponents as they take to the road to try to get win No. 2.

To get that much-needed win, they’ll need the offense to keep clicking and the defense to uphold its part of the bargain. Having only one unit working well at a time won’t be enough to get it done.

And the Eagles know it.

“There were some sporadic series there where we made some plays,” Spaziani said, summing up his defense’s play on Saturday. “But not enough.”

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.