The 2018 BC football season remains the most bizarre way to end a season without eight wins. The Eagles were 7-2 in mid-November, hosting the No. 1 team in the nation with a chance to play for a conference championship. They were nationally ranked for the second time that season, and the game took on a life of its own when ESPN’s College GameDay trucks rolled into Chestnut Hill.
Nobody could have foreseen how it would end. The Eagles lost their last three games and had their bowl game canceled due to lightning after taking a lead on No. 25 Boise State in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl. Final record: 7-5.
It’s easy to find stinging disappointment in that because the year was hugely successful. The Eagles returned to the national rankings for the first time in 10 years, then returned after being knocked out. They entered the Top 20 during the second stint, creating believers to the point that Desmond Howard chose BC to upset Clemson in that game in November. Even after the three losses at the end of the year, the offense carved up the Broncos at the Cotton Bowl in one drive to take the lead.
It produced a record number of pro prospects at the NFL Combine, and the Atlanta Falcons drafted Chris Lindstrom in the first round. BC had the same number of draft picks as NC State, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Iowa. It had more picks than LSU, South Carolina, Texas Christian, and Florida State.
But BC still finished with seven wins. So Steve Addazio‘s message is simple for 2019: we did a lot last year. Let’s do more this year.
“Win is the schedule,” Addazio said. “We’ve been to five bowl games in the last six years. We’re proud of that because of the competitiveness of the side of the division that we play in. That’s a pretty formidable task. The next step? I’m a simple person (so it’s) to win eight, nine, then 10. Those are the next steps. The difference between a six-win season and a nine-win season really isn’t that great. But you need some good fortune.”
Good fortune and luck is something this team, in particular, knows something about. AJ Dillon ran for 185 yards in the team’s win over Wake Forest and was plowing through Temple for 161 more when he suffered an ankle injury. It limited his explosiveness for the rest of the season, and he only came close to 150 yards rushing one more time, failing to gain 100 yards in three of his last four games.
“Last season, I missed a portion of time (and) was kind of not really 100% myself from a high ankle sprain,” he said. “The first part of (the offseason) was just getting back to 100% health. Now being more mature, seeing how I needed to take care of my body, making sure that my perceived weaknesses are now a positive.”
It gives an elite running back something to continue proving, which seemed to be a running thread for the Eagles at the media event. The press conferences tend to be routine exercises where nobody really says anything of importance, but that would never fit with the BC football system, which prides itself on its identity even as it remains fluid to the personnel available.
“Our vision is a program vision,” Addazio said. “We’re remaining who we are, which is the greatest thing of having program continuity. So there’s no terminology changes for anybody. We had a great spring on both sides of the ball, including special teams. We had great development.”
That vision has always been about sustaining success, and the next logical step is figuring out how to break through to the next level. At the same time, though, it’s difficult to match a seven-win season without one win in the first game, so there’s no chance anyone is looking beyond Virginia Tech in a game that will likely impact December as much as it reverberates in September.
“Sometimes I think when you have an opener that maybe is a little less, you have a tendency to sleepwalk through camp a little bit,” Addazio said. “That’s not the case for us. I kind of like to deal with what is. What is – we’re playing Virginia Tech. Those are the positives of playing Virginia Tech on opening day. That’s all I’m really concerned about right now. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we’re really excited about that opportunity.”
BC football finished the 2018 season with seven wins and another bowl berth. It’s a testament to Addazio’s Chestnut Hill building-project that it achieved its success with the added sweetener of the national rankings and the matriculation of NFL prospects. Now it’s about finding the next step and converting that desire into wins to achieve the next step, all while sustaining the excellence expected within the ACC.