December 4, 2007

Cronan: Buy a ticket!

R.R. Marshall: Peter, the ACC Championship Game was a game of two halves, with BC dominating the first half and Virginia Tech the second, and the end result was a 30-16 loss for the Eagles. Where did this one get away?

Peter Cronan: You really have to look back at those first 30 minutes. BC dominated play by ball-controlling Virginia Tech for the majority of the first half. If you just looked at the first half statistics, you would have surmised that BC had a three- touchdown lead at halftime. I talked with some of the Virginia Tech people at the half, and they were scared to death because the Hokie defense had given no indication that they were going to be able to stop the Eagles.

But as good as BC played in that first half, there some windows of opportunity that presented themselves for Virginia Tech, and a good football team like the Hokies will take advantage of them. Those two blocked kicks had a huge impact on the game. The first one kept three points off the board for the Eagles and the blocked extra point resulted in two points for Virginia Tech, so there was a five-point swing. It just made a huge difference because despite outplaying Virginia Tech for most of the first half, the Eagles went into halftime with a 16-16 tie after playing their hearts out, and it's only natural to feel a little letdown when something like that happens.

Jeff Jagodzinski summed it up perfectly when he said BC didn't score enough points in that first half, and it came down to them not taking advantage of their red zone opportunities. Virginia Tech continued to make plays in the second half, while BC did not.

Unfortunately the final score will fail to reflect what a hard-fought battle this game ultimately was. These were two heavyweights slugging it out for the championship, and it was a very entertaining game even though BC ended up on the short end of the score. It was unfortunate because in the days leading up to the game there was this whole undertone that BC was just grist for the mill leading to the coronation of Virginia Tech as the ACC champ. Once again, BC was totally discounted, and I think that was one of the reasons they came charging out of the gate, because they were so highly motivated.

RRM: If there is one thing the Eagles and their fans will be lamenting during the offseason, it was all the missed opportunities in the first half. Did it come down to faulty execution, great play by the Virginia Tech defense, or a little of both?

PC: If you talk about the changes that occurred between the teams since the last time they met, it looked like BC had made the appropriate adjustments to counter Virginia Tech's fierce pass rush and they did a much better job of protecting Matt Ryan. Then there are the in-game adjustments, and you have to give Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech their due for getting the upper hand there. Virginia Tech went into halftime with the score tied at 16-16 and it became clear as the second half unfolded that they had done a few things to take the BC offense out of their rhythm. They shut down the Eagle offense over the last 30 minutes after they had moved the ball effectively in the first half. It looked like it was all set up to be yet another Matt Ryan last-second rescue in the end, but it just wasn't to be.

RRM: BC's inability to do anything on offense in the second half seemed to take a toll on their defense, which appeared to be tired in the fourth quarter. Did you notice the missed arm tackles on Tech's game-winning drive?

PC: That's a good observation on your part. On Virginia Tech's game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter they had plays of 31, 9, 9, 14, and 24 yards which are just huge chunks of yardage to be giving up in that situation. There were a lot of poor arm tackles that Virginia Tech players were able to shrug off, perhaps none bigger than Tyrod Taylor's 31-yard scramble that began the drive. They had successfully contained him the entire game and then he was able to make that big play, which I saw as a clear indication that the BC defense was beginning to fatigue and wear down.

You have to give credit to the Virginia Tech defense, which kept the BC offense off the field in that second half with a series of three-and-outs, particularly a couple of third and short situations that the Eagles weren't able to convert. Those were real killers. The BC defense wasn't given enough time to recover and it turned out to be one of the real turning points of the game.

RRM: Virginia Tech delivered the backbreaker on a 24-yard scoring pass from Sean Glennon to Eddie Royal on a third-and-13 play. Was there a breakdown in coverage on that play when everyone knew that the Hokies would be putting the ball in the air?

PC: The Hokies put their best receiver, Eddie Royal, in the slot on that play, so where you would normally have a defensive back get a jam on him at the line of scrimmage, the linebacker had to come out and disrupt him. Instead, no one came over and Royal got a clean break from the snap of the ball, which put Jamie Silva out on an island all by himself. Royal made a move to the corner and Silva made the necessary adjustment and then Royal made the quick move to the post and Silva could not get back in time. Sean Glennon had time and delivered a well-thrown ball in an area where only Royal could make the catch, and it turned out to be the deciding play of the game. If the Eagles could have forced Virginia Tech into kicking a field goal on that drive, then BC doesn't need to score seven on their last drive, and maybe things turn out differently.

RRM: If Kevin Challenger could have shook the lone Virginia Tech defensive back on BC's second-to-last drive of the game, the Eagles could have taken this game to overtime. Are you amazed that BC got so much production out of this wide-receiver corps considering there wasn't a true game-breaker in this bunch?

PC: That was really a great play on the part of both Ryan and Challenger. They caught Virginia Tech in a defensive alignment where they were man on Challenger and the corner got beat cleanly. He made a desperate attempt to play the ball and not the man, thus the missed tackle. There was only one guy left in the secondary and you have to give Kam Chancellor credit because he made a great open field tackle.

Looking back I think these BC wide receivers played better than anyone expected them to play in this new offense. Maybe they even over-achieved, with Andre Callender, Ryan Purvis, Rich Gunnell, Brandon Robinson, and Challenger all over 40 catches. Who would have guessed that would be the case back in September? It's a fair observation to say that these guys weren't considered the cream of the recruiting crop when they got here, but when the situation presented itself, they rose to the challenge. Those two plays may well serve as a microcosm of what Virginia Tech had in terms of their personnel at wide receiver, but you still have to give a gold star to the BC receivers for their body of work this season.

RRM: At least the Eagles have plenty of company as far as disappointing losses go. Did you see what happened to West Virginia on the way to the BCS Championship Game?

PC: We didn't get to see any of the game because we were flying back to Boston, but that was fantastic news when we heard it. I was really excited to see how the mighty have fallen! [Laughs] It just really made my day to hear the news! The only thing better than BC winning is West Virginia losing, in my opinion. The curse of #2 strikes again, and BC fans are all too familiar with that one.

RRM: There will be no Chick-fil-A Bowl for the Eagles and their fans, but rather a trip to Orlando to play Michigan State in the Champs Bowl on December 28. Are you disappointed you won't be spending New Year's in Atlanta?

PC: There's no denying that the Chick-fil-A Bowl would have been the more desirable destination. They aspire to be a BCS Bowl and they try to present a BCS experience for the visiting teams. They really roll out the red carpet, and would have been a notch up in terms of a bowl experience for BC.

That being said, the Champ Sports Bowl in Orlando is not a bad consolation prize. I can tell you it will make for a great experience for families who are looking for a post-Christmas vacation. The kids would get to spend Christmas with Mickey and all his friends - how can you top that? I've already heard some grumbling about the matchup, but I don't think BC is truly concerned with their opponent in this game right now. They'll have over three weeks to prepare for Michigan State and regroup and hopefully finish with a flurry and keep their bowl winning streak alive.

RRM: Most of Eagle Nation is pretty disappointed that BC won't be playing in Atlanta. It would appear that if the Eagles didn't go this year with the national attraction they have in Matt Ryan, that they will probably never be invited there. Will this situation ever change?

PC: The stumbling block involves BC's inability to sell enough tickets to make them attractive to a major bowl, and it's plain that this will continue to be an issue until the situation presents itself when the fan base is challenged to travel for a postseason game.

I had lunch with the CEO of the Orange Bowl while we were in Jacksonville, and he kept peppering me with questions on how many BC people would come to their game. Would they sell the 17,500 tickets they would be allotted? I told him I thought they would, given the stature of the Orange Bowl, but he was genuinely concerned over the reputation of the BC fan base of not traveling well.

Right now, that's the thing that prevents BC from being invited to the more prestigious bowl destinations. The fans can grumble, moan, and complain, but it's not the school's fault for any lack of marketing themselves - it's the fan base.

I fully expect this week to hear the usual, "So, which backwater bowl will BC be headed to this year?" type of comment, and my answer it this will be, if you want to see them in a better bowl, buy a freaking ticket! I can tell you it's become a frustrating issue for the school because a good record on the field will get you consideration, but when the bowl committees are sifting through the pool of teams that are available to them, it all comes down to greenbacks, pure and simple. If the BC fans remain indifferent to the accomplishments of their football team unless they are going to go a top-tier bowl game, then I have news for them, the bowl committees are going to remain indifferent to BC.

It's an easy concept to understand, and yet the BC fans don't grasp it. It's not my intention to rip the fan base, far from it. But it's time for them to start stepping up to the plate and supporting the program. Until BC turns the trick and wins the ACC Championship and plays in a BCS bowl, we won't know how the fan base will respond.

RRM: You've been around this program for over 30 years. Is there any way this problem can be addressed?

PC: To be honest, I don't see an easy fix. Maybe BC can start instituting an extra charge to the season ticketholders as a bowl tax. I don't know how many people would be offended by that, but if it allowed BC to be considered for more prestigious bowls, it may be worth it, plus the season ticketholders would be guaranteed tickets to the game. If, for example, you have 20,000 BC season ticketholders it's still the best spent dollar value-wise in all of Boston sports, so why not charge the ticketholders for a bowl game up front, and if BC doesn't make a bowl, it gets rolled over into next year's ticket package?

You can argue this back and forth forever, but from where I'm sitting, the current process just isn't working to the benefit of BC. We're getting the results we want on the football field, but the end results are not desirable, so logic would seem to dictate that we should try something different. I'm not saying I have the answer, I'm just throwing out some ideas. But if this situation is to change for the better, then the fan base has to be receptive to a different approach.

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