December 2, 2007

The toughest loss

Like so many other seniors on the BC roster on the BC roster, Jo-Lonn Dunbar suffered the 12th loss of his playing career Saturday in Jacksonville. Some of those losses were tough, some costly - but there was nothing quite like this one.

"It's hard to put this one into words," the linebacker said after the loss to Virginia Tech. "We wanted to go to the Orange Bowl as bad as wanted the ACC title. It's a setback in terms of this program, our team and our personal goals."

It's clear why Dunbar felt the way he felt. But while he was right about the setback for the team and the personal goals, I'm not sure he was right about the program part.

Sure, it's a tough loss - and it cost the program its first BCS spot. But let's make one thing clear: this wasn't losing to a lousy Syracuse team on the last day of the regular season; or losing a game at North Carolina, or one at North Carolina State, or Miami, that could have produced title shots. This WAS a title shot and BC lost. But it shouldn't erase what was accomplished by a special group of seniors.

This is NOT an indictment of anything - the Eagles just lost. HOW they lost can be lamented for eternity - but they lost a game to a very good football team, one that beat them for 55 minutes the first time the teams played.

You also might not want to bet against the 2008 team doing well, too. This well? That will be tough, with Matt Ryan, Andre Callender and others gone. There's a lot coming back (with Brian Toal and B.J. Raji set to lead the defense) and the '08 BC team will have to prove itself in the offensive backfield (Chris Crane on the spot but he has shown he has ability); but this program didn't suffer a setback Saturday.

Now, as far as the game itself, watching the first half, you just had that feeling the Eagles weren't getting enough, that it would come back to haunt. They dominated the game and the announcers were saying all these great things, but the scoreboard wasn't moving and that's always a dangerous thing against a team like Virginia Tech, one that HAS been there before. "We moved the ball. We just didn't get any points out of it," said Jeff Jagodzinski.

The kicking game, which has been a problem all season, a problem basically created by Billy Bennett's back, was a killer on this day in the Florida sunshine. With Jags pointing after the game to the absence of long snapper Jack Geiser as the problem on the two kicks, the blocked field goal and the 3-point swing on the blocked winning, as a quarterback no one really took serious had a special day. BC had so many chances to take control of this game and appeared to have that control - but didn't have the points.

Obviously, this is a disappointing turn of events for this team, but it's not over yet. There's still a chance to match the program's all-time highest win total with an 11th win at the bowl game. The coaches will have their work cut out for them to get these kids going after what happened Saturday, but there's plenty of time and plenty of character seniors that won't allow their team to come out flat for their final college game.

Clearly, it would have been more special if that final college game would have been at the Orange Bowl. But the chance to end their careers with just those 12 losses is reason enough to get up for this game.

The day turned out to be a total BC washout when, later of the day, the basketball team made an incredible comeback against Providence and then lost when the Friars, who couldn't make a shot while blowing a 24-point lead, couldn't miss one with the game on the line. It was a wild game and another example that this young team could be handful in conference play later on this season (heck, ACC play starts next Sunday night at Maryland).

But the loss by the basketball team probably wasn't even noticed by a lot of people - this day belonged to the football team; and while it was another "almost," I have to say again I don't agree with Dunbar in terms of this being a "setback" for the program.




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