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Monday, September 30, 2013
Addazio: Eagles have slim margin of error

By Jack McCluskey



NEWTON, Mass. -- As he usually does, Steve Addazio started his weekly media session on Monday with a recitation of facts from the previous game.

The BC coach rattled off the numbers from the 48-34 loss to No. 8 Florida State -- the Eagles scored the most points they ever have against FSU, Andre Williams had the most yards by one ball carrier against FSU in three years, the defense sacked Jameis Winston four times -- before going back to the play that turned the tide Saturday.

“We left at least three sacks on the table in that game,” he said. “But also the sad part was we missed three opportunities, we had three opportunities to tackle the quarterback before he threw that pass before half-time.”

That play -- when Winston eluded multiple Eagles defenders and heaved a 55-yard TD as time expired -- was “a microcosm” of the game and illustrated the slim margin of error the Eagles are working with as they attempt to rebuild their program, said Addazio.

Make that play, bring Winston down, and the game is tied 17-all at the half with BC starting with the ball after the break. Who knows what would’ve happened then?

But the Eagles couldn’t make the play and the Seminoles did.

“When you summarize that game, did we take a step forward?” the coach asked rhetorically. “We didn’t from a win-loss standpoint, but our play definitely ratcheted up. In terms of development of the program, we needed to grow from Week 3 to Week 4, and we absolutely did that.”

Addazio also defended the play calling on the Eagles’ final offensive possession in the first half, a three-and-out on three running plays that gained just 3 yards and took only 59 seconds.

“The reality of the situation was we had been very effective in running the football with a controlled play-action game. And our thought was to see if we could puncture the runs,” he said. “The last thing we wanted to do, they’re so good in the secondary, was give them an opportunity to pick us or get three-and-out really quick because you incomplete the passes. And now there’s so much time for them to bring the ball down the field.

“You say that’s conservative? Yeah. We’re trying to manage the football game. You gotta do what you do best. And we almost were successful with that. We were one second away from that and that’s when [FSU hit] the miraculous Hail Mary throw. So I really feel very strongly that was absolutely the right thing to do in that game, in those circumstances.”

Ultimately, the Eagles (2-2, 1-1 in the ACC) are on a two-game losing streak heading into their Week 5 matchup with Army (2-3) on Saturday in Chestnut Hill (1 p.m. on ESPN3).

“Not being philosophical about it, that’s where we are,” Addazio said. “Has there been great improvement? Yes. Is there a good footprint laid? Yes. Were really positive things accomplished in that game plan? Yes. But we need to win the game.

“To win the game was really simple: We needed to make less mistakes on both sides of the ball.”

Addazio said that after such a physical game, he and the staff decided to give the players some time off before getting back on the field. They watched the game tape on Sunday and then had a day off Monday, meaning Tuesday will be the first day of on-field work to prepare for an Army team that runs the option offense to perfection, currently averaging 325.4 rushing yards a game, second in the country.

“I was still completely exhausted yesterday,” the coach said. “I know how much went into that game. Not only the preparation but the intensity of the actual game. I felt that coaches and players really unloaded on that game, so I thought it was in our best interest to handle it this way.”

Abdesmad out

The Eagles will have to find a way to stop the Black Knights’ potent rushing attack without one of their best defensive linemen.

While Addazio was still waiting for a full report on defensive tackle Mehdi Abdesmad, who had to leave the game against FSU in the third quarter with a left leg injury, he said the junior will miss the Army game.

“He had an injury to his lower leg, and I think that’s still in the process of being researched by the medical people, I don’t think the final outcome is there yet,” he said. “But he certainly is not playing this weekend. At this point I can assure you that.”

The coach called Abdesmad “arguably one of our very best defensive linemen,” and said “make no mistake, that was a really heavy price to pay for us.”

The 6-foot-7, 278-pound Abdesmad had three tackles and a sack in Saturday’s game. Addazio said he didn’t know who will replace Abdesmad, mentioning Dominic Appiah, Jaryd Rudolph, Connor Wujciak and freshman Truman Gutapfel as possibilities.

“The rest of the guys will rotate through,” he said. “A whole bunch of guys. We’ll have to roll ‘em all. ... By the time this thing’s said and done, we’re gonna need ‘em all.”

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