Eagles’ flight plan a good one

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / November 2, 2009

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It seemed a natural question to ask a coach whose football team had been picked to finish last in the Atlantic Coast Conference - but whose team had just won its sixth game to become bowl-eligible for the 11th straight season.

“If, at the start of the season, someone would have told you that you would be 6-3 at this point, would you have taken it?

Boston College coach Frank Spaziani smiled.

“People ask me, ‘Are you happy at 6-3?’ ’’ said Spaziani after the Eagles had earned their sixth win Saturday, 31-10 over Central Michigan. “Well, no. We think we should be 9-0. That’s how we play, how we practice. That’s our goal, to win one game at a time every week. We’re just not satisfied and we can’t be. You never can be. You just have to keep going forward and build.

“We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.’’

True, but the journey is not nearly as long as it was even a week ago, following a tough 20-16 loss at Notre Dame.

The bottom line is this: Of the 12 ACC teams, only three have reached the six-win minimum for bowl eligibility - BC, Georgia Tech, and Miami.

The Eagles have a week off to get healthier and then finish at Virginia, host North Carolina, and travel to Maryland. Win all three - something that is very possible - and the Eagles would be 9-3 and in at least a tie for the Atlantic Division crown. If Clemson loses a game, BC would be playing in the ACC title game for the third consecutive season.

That Spaziani has been able to do this with his team facing an assortment of injuries, no experience at quarterback, and lack of depth at running back should be one of the feel-good stories of the season in the ACC. And if BC does finish 9-3, Spaziani should be ACC Coach of the Year and a strong contender for national honors.

A look at the team, position by position:

Quarterback - “A work in progress,’’ said Spaziani. They’re definitely ahead of where they were at the start of the season, when true freshmen Dave Shinskie and Mike Marscovetra and redshirt freshman Justin Tuggle vied for playing time.

Shinskie, the 25-year-old former minor league baseball player who is the QB of the present, takes more steps forward than he does backward each week, making plays when he needs to. He still looks like a freshman at times, but he also can win games for a team. Against Central Michigan, Shinskie missed some open receivers in the first half but made the plays he needed to in the second, completing 18 of 28 passes overall for 262 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions or fumbles.

Running back - The season started with Josh Haden and Montel Harris but Harris has emerged as a star - his two fumbles against Notre Dame were an aberration. Haden now is transferring. But someone needs to step up and give Harris a breather. Rolandan Finch has mononucleosis and is out for a month and Jeff Smith’s potential is still a mystery as he winds down his career.

Offensive line - This unit started out slowly as it got used to another position coach, but it has emerged led by center Matt Tennant and left tackle Anthony Castonzo.

Defensive line - Injuries have been a problem all season, but end Jim Ramella and tackles Austin Giles, Kaleb Ramsey, and Damik Scafe have been solid.

Linebacker - Amazing. Freshman Luke Kuechly has been a sensation. Mike McLaughlin has come back from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon and provided leadership, and Mike Morrissey, Dominick LeGrande, and Will Thompson have stepped in and done the job.

Defensive backs - OK, if not spectacular. Wes Davis and Marcellus Bowman have made plays at safety and DeLeon Gause, Donnie Fletcher, and Roderick Rollins have ably manned the corners.

Special teams - Kicker Steve Aponavicius hasn’t missed anything, and Ryan Quigley has gotten better as the punter and on kickoffs.

Put it all together and you have the ingredients of a team that still can win a division title.