BC has plan to deal with wait problem

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / December 11, 2010

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The calendar and the schedule paint one picture. End of the regular season, a 7-5 record, a five-game winning streak.

That guaranteed Boston College its 12th consecutive bowl game.

What it didn’t guarantee was the Eagles getting any love from the eight bowls with commitments to Atlantic Coast Conference teams.

So when the pairings were announced last Sunday, BC found itself in an ACC “parachute’’ game called the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, which had a spot for an ACC team should the Pac-10 not be able to meet its commitment to the game.

It didn’t matter that BC had played in the game a year ago, when the ACC did have a guaranteed slot, against Southern Cal. And it didn’t matter that the game had been switched from Dec. 26 — within the normal Christmas-to-New Year’s bowl window. With ESPN involved, the game was moved to Jan. 9.

That created a bit of a problem for BC and coach Frank Spaziani, as well as the opponent, Nevada. How do you deal with a 44-day break between games? How do you maintain sharpness as well as interest?

BC thought about it, and thought about it some more. One issue was where to practice during the Christmas break, when the school is shut down and the campus is empty.

At first, the Eagles considered this plan: after Christmas break, they would gather Dec. 30 for a journey west, fly to Santa Barbara, Calif., to work out for four days at UC-Santa Barbara, then fly up to San Francisco Jan. 4 to begin their bowl week.

They opted for leaving for San Francisco a few days before the game and settling into a normal game routine.

Spaziani asked some of his brethren how to handle such a long layoff.

“I don’t think anybody has a formula,’’ he said. “As you make the calls, everybody has a different plan.

“We have always treated bowls pretty much the same way in terms of preparation. We have the initial 7-10 days, which has always been like spring drills for us. And then we try to get our work done before we get to the actual bowl site. The game plan has been to do our practice stuff until we get to the site, and then polish it once we get there.

“We have the Dec. 26-30 routine down pretty well. But when you start going beyond that to the 9th and 10th and you are dealing with a week when everybody else is pretty much done, you have a two-week void to fill. You are in uncharted waters.’’

The BC players say the routine reminds them of spring drills.

“It’s exactly like that,’’ said senior offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo, who will play in his fourth bowl game. “We have to build up to it and the coaches will get us ready.’’

Sophomore linebacker Luke Kuechly said the problem is more mental than physical.

“The coaches will come in and have us watch films and the physical aspect will pick up real quick,’’ said Kuechly. “But Jan. 9 is a long way off. We do have to keep in mind that Nevada will have to be doing the same thing.’’

“When you get to the actual bowl site, you deal with a lot of distractions,’’ said senior linebacker Mark Herzlich, who like Castonzo will also be preparing for the Senior Bowl at the end of the month.

Spaziani’s plan is to get the Eagles used to the time change and to put in the game plan without major distractions, but also to take advantage of a pleasant environment.

“I’m no Dr. Phil,’’ he said, “but it all depends on how you deliver the message you want to send, and I think this is a pretty good way.’’

The college careers of senior offensive tackle Rich Lapham and cornerback DeLeon Gause are over. Lapham injured his left leg during the season and was planning to return for the bowl game, but, according to Spaziani, he injured his knee in practice and will require surgery. With Gause, the knee injury he suffered against Virginia required more extensive surgery than anticipated.