Opening act shows some flaws
Eagles’ win is far from perfect
The day was filled with emotion.
For linebacker Mark Herzlich, making his well-documented comeback from a battle with cancer, it marked the first time in 87 weeks he had played a football game for Boston College.
For 26-year-old sophomore Dave Shinskie, it was the start of what he hopes will be a growth year as a college quarterback.
For second-year coach Frank Spaziani, it was another milepost for a program that still has several hurdles to clear before it reaches the level Spaziani desires.
All of this on a sunny afternoon at Alumni Stadium, before 34,168 who came to watch the Eagles open their season against Weber State, a Championship Subdivision school taking a rare dive into Bowl Subdivision waters.
The outcome — a 38-20 BC victory — was predictable. BC is bigger, better, and faster than Weber State, which is ranked 18th in the FCS but clearly was outclassed by the Eagles, who expect to be contenders in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
In some ways, it was perfect for the Eagles, who got the victory but showed enough flaws to give Spaziani and his staff plenty of topics as the Eagles prepare for Kent State next Saturday.
Take Shinskie, who emerged as the starter ahead of fellow sophomore Mike Marscovetra more because of his experience last season than anything he showed in camp.
Ostensibly, Shinskie’s nerves should have been fine — lower-division opponent, home game, friendly crowd. You could hardly tell from the opening series, which started with a delay of game penalty, Shinskie mistakenly lining up behind right guard Thomas Claiborne, and then having his first pass intercepted, which put BC in a 3-0 hole just 1:45 in.
“There were a lot of emotions going through my head,’’ said Shinskie.
Thankfully for Shinskie, he responded with two touchdown passes and a respectable 10-of-20 afternoon for 185 yards. The Eagles built a 31-10 halftime lead, which allowed them to survive some defensive lapses in the second half.
Spaziani could only shake his head while watching the opening offensive series.
“Settled down is a nice way to put it,’’ he said.
BC ran only six plays in the third quarter (gaining 18 yards) and yet increased its lead, courtesy of a 66-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback DeLeon Gause.
Shinskie was intercepted in the end zone on BC’s first possession of the fourth quarter, but by then enough positives had emerged. There was a solid start by junior running back Montel Harris (19 carries, 115 yards, 1 TD) and some strong play by the receivers. Redshirt freshman Johnathan Coleman had three catches for 98 yards, including a spectacular 38-yard grab that set up BC’s second TD, and Ifeanyi Momah had a 17-yard TD reception.
“We accomplished what we set out to do and got the first win,’’ said Spaziani. “Obviously, though, there were a lot of mistakes. We were very concerned about our defensive line and our pass rush going in. I didn’t see anything to dispel that concern coming out.’’
But there was reason for hope. For Herzlich, who can now presumably focus on football as much as his health, it was a monumental step forward.
“We’re going to have to take bigger steps in the right direction as we go on,’’ said Herzlich, who showed some rust but also some flashes with five tackles.
Spaziani hopes he will see improvement next week against Kent State, and certainly in two weeks against Virginia Tech. For now, he will take what he can get and enjoy it.
“We need a lot of work,’’ he said, “but it was a good way to start and something to build on that we can go forward.’’
Mark Blaudschun can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.