Monday, November 19, 2012
Conservative route didn't serve Spaziani
By Jack McCluskey
After watching the tape of his team’s 30-23 overtime loss to Virginia Tech, there’s nothing about the late-game choices Boston College coach Frank Spaziani would change.
Well, that’s not exactly true.
“Second-guessing? Maybe we would have thrown a screen instead of a draw on the first play,” he said, referring to the team’s final possession of regulation. “But the decision? I would do the same thing.”
With the game tied at 23 and just less than a minute to go, the Eagles had the ball on their own 17. The first play offensive coordinator Doug Martin dialed up was a draw with freshman back David Dudeck, which went for only 2 yards.
After that play didn’t produce, the Eagles decided to play for overtime. If he could go back, Spaziani said, maybe that play call would have been different. But the mindset wouldn’t have been different, because they were prepared for this very thing.
“That exact situation came up in one of our scrimmages,” Spaziani explained in his Sunday conference call with reporters. “That situation came up, we handled it off the cuff as you would in a scrimmage in simulating the game. We made a decision on that day and then we went back in and reviewed it and discussed how we would do this in a game. ‘Was that right?’ We second-guessed ourselves ahead of time.”
Then Spaziani proceeded to run through all the questions he and the BC staff had to consider in order to make the call they did.
“We decided to go to overtime,” he said. “Why would you decide to go to overtime? Well, how was your offense playing? How was the defense playing? How was the flow of the game going? What was the pulse of the players?
“It’s a little bit more than just, ‘Oh, there’s 59 seconds left, let’s make this decision.’ And I do understand [people think] that, but we as coaches have to do a little bit more than that. So is there second-guessing? You better believe it. But under those circumstances, we felt that was our best chance to win. And I’ll tell you what, throwing the ball we were 13-for-something, we were getting sacked, our guys weren’t open. … We were playing some good defense.
“It turned out wrong. Did it turn out wrong because of that? I don’t know. There were a lot of other things.”
There was some bad luck -- the Hokies fumbled three times in the game, but the ball bounced the visitors’ way each time and they recovered each one -- and there were more than a few missed opportunities.
On Sunday, Spaziani wasn’t begrudging anyone their opinion.
“You can disagree. We've got great fans and great students, God love them -- they can disagree, anyone can disagree,” he said. “But 59 seconds on our 17-yard line. And my job is to give our kids the best chance, make a calculated judgment on what our best chance is to win. And we felt going into overtime we could hold them to a field goal and we felt we could score. We felt we would not give up a touchdown. That’s the way we felt.
“It didn’t turn out that way, but not for lack of effort,” Spaziani said with a laugh. Then he paused. “Or thinking about it,” he said, with another short, hard laugh. “A lot of thought went into it.”
And, fairly or not, the thought of this loss likely will linger in the aftermath of a lost season.
“Every loss is tough,” Chase Rettig said Saturday. “We were in position to win the football game. We just have to go back to work.”
And hope that the next decision the BC brain trust makes is the right one, and produces the desired result.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.