NEWTON, Mass. -- If Boston College were to have any chance of upsetting No. 8 Florida State on Saturday, coach Steve Addazio knew they needed to slow the game down.
The Seminoles’ offense was too good, with too many weapons, for the Eagles to win a shootout. To have a shot at the upset, BC needed to turn it into a physical, knock-down, drag-out affair.
And through the end of the first quarter, the home team was successful beyond its fans’ wildest dreams. The Eagles were dominating on both lines of scrimmage, getting great push on offense and breaking into the backfield on defense.
“I talked to you earlier in the week and I said every play works if you execute,” BC right tackle and co-captain Ian White said. “If you look at the first half, we executed our plays and ran the ball physically like we wanted to do. We had the game where we wanted it.”
The defense forced FSU to go three-and-out on its first possession, Kevin Pierre-Louis knocking down a Jameis Winston pass at the line of scrimmage, Spenser Rositano breaking up another pass and Kaleb Ramsey sacking Winston on third-and-10.
Then it was the offense’s turn.
Andre Williams & Co. took great advantage of their first possession, methodically running the ball down the field with power formations often including three tight ends and a fullback. And when they got to the doorstep, with a third-and-2 at the FSU 6-yard line, offensive coordinator Ryan Day dialed up play-action.
Chase Rettig faked the handoff to Williams, then looked for fullback Jake Sinkovec in the right flat. Sinkovec was covered, so Rettig looked back across the field and found tight end C.J. Parsons in the left side of the end zone for a touchdown.
But the Eagles weren’t able to sustain their physical dominance beyond the first quarter, which ended with them up 14-3. Late in the second quarter, the tide turned when FSU scored two touchdowns in the last 1:49.
Asked what he would take away from the 48-34 loss, Addazio was blunt.
“That’s what’s so important in this message: I told them, ‘Don’t walk out of here with a smile on your face, thinking you got some moral victory. Because you didn’t. We lost the game,'" he said. “Bottle the feeling of what it takes to win, with the effort and the intensity and with laying it all on the line and with no guarantee that success is going to follow it. Bottle that, and you’ll win your share of games. That’s what we need to hang on to.
“Don’t let people tell you, ‘Oh boy, you played Florida State nose up.’ Who cares? We didn’t come out there to play them nose up. I heard that crap early in the media. People asking me about, ‘What are you gonna do to keep it close?’ I had all I could do not to explode. What do you think, you coach or play to keep it close? What are you talking about here? You play to win.
“We played that game physically enough to win it. We let up too many big plays and that cost us a football game. And it didn’t have to happen. I don’t care who the heck we played.”
Offense hits high
While it will probably get lost some in the end result, the BC offense had its biggest output of the season on Saturday.
“I thought we executed a great game plan offensively,” Addazio said. “We played a really outstanding team. We played one of the best defenses in the country and we had probably our, really, best offensive day in terms of the whole nine yards.”
The Eagles finished with 397 yards of total offense, 200 yards rushing and 197 passing. A couple of BC players set personal marks in the loss.
Williams had 28 carries for 149 yards, going more than 2,000 rushing yards for his career. His 2,067 yards is good for 13th all-time in BC history.
His quarterback also set a mark, Rettig establishing a career high with four touchdown passes. The senior finished 18-for-28 for 197 yards and the four TDs. He also had two interceptions, including a pass intended for Alex Amidon that instead ended up in the arms of P.J. Williams for a 20-yard pick-six.
Rettig hit C.J. Parsons for 6- and 17-yard TDs -- the first two of Parsons’ career -- both times throwing back across the formation to find the tight end. He also hit fullback Jake Sinkovec for a 3-yard score and found Myles Willis running free up the BC sideline for a 52-yard TD.
The TD catch was the first of Willis’ career. The true freshman finished with three catches for 65 yards, three carries for 6 yards and two kick returns for 89 yards, including a 71-yard return to set up a field goal.
“That might be one of the worst things, to see one of your teammates have to leave the field because he’s hurt,” defensive end Kasim Edebali said. “Mehdi just looked at us and said, ‘Let’s go, do this.’ That was another boost. That just got my heart fired up. I had to play for him, everybody had to play for him. We’re the BC defense, that’s what we’re about.”
Prior to the injury, Abdesmad had three tackles and a sack. He also very nearly prevented Winston’s miraculous, 55-yard touchdown as time expired in the first half, just missing the quarterback on a free rush up the middle.
Addazio said he didn’t have an update on Abdesmad after the game but said he was concerned and that losing the 6-foot-7, 278-pounder would be a major hit to the defense.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.