Following his team’s 24-19 loss at Florida State last weekend, Boston College defensive end Alex Albright looked at his teammate and friend, safety Wes Davis, in the visiting locker room with a look of disbelief.
On a day when Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder throws three interceptions and loses a fumble, the other team usually expects to win.
“I kind of was taken aback,” said Albright, who recorded his fourth sack in as many games. “I was like, what are we doing wrong? I don’t understand why we’re not winning games. The defense is playing well, [quarterback] Chase [Rettig] had no turnovers. We got four turnovers. I just didn’t understand what we’re doing wrong.”
For the most part, BC’s defense has been playing well enough to win. The Eagles are No. 10 in the country in rushing defense -- tops in the ACC. They’re No. 12 in the country in tackles for loss. They’re No. 30 in total defense. They’ve allowed just eight 100-yard rushers since 2005. The Eagles are allowing 25 points per game, but they’re also on the field an average of 32 minutes, 12 seconds because BC ranks No. 104 in the country in time of possession.
While it hasn’t been a flawless season for a defense that typically ranks among the nation’s best, the most costly problems are clearly on offense, where BC ranks 103rd in rushing, 110 in total offense and 104th in scoring offense. Despite the lopsided struggles, those within the program have kept it from becoming a divisive problem.
“I don’t think it’s really causing any divide between offense or defense,” Albright said. “It’s more just the defense is looking at ourselves and realizing we have such a small margin for error. I just don’t think we’re looking at the other side of the ball and pointing the finger. We’re just looking at ourselves in the mirror and realizing we’re our own problem.”
It’s a big enough problem to have the Eagles in a 0-3 hole in conference play heading into Saturday’s home game against Maryland. It’s not for a lack of effort. BC held FSU’s trio of tailbacks to 105 yards on 25 carries. The Seminoles came into the game averaging 223.5 yards rushing a game. In a 19-0 home loss to Virginia Tech, BC held the Hokies to four field goals and one touchdown, but could only muster 39 yards of total offense in the second half.
“No one side of the ball, kicking, no one position, no one player, no one coach wins a game or loses a game,” said coach Frank Spaziani. “It’s all for one and one for all. Anybody that doesn’t have that attitude doesn’t quite understand what we’re trying to get done here.”
But some just don’t understand why it’s not getting done.
“I’m searching for answers,” Albright said. “I think we’re all searching for answers.
“'Spaz' has been saying we’re making progress, but I’m asking myself, 'at what point does progress turn into a W and not a loss?'”
The Eagles’ schedule, which includes three teams currently with losing records -- Wake Forest, Duke and Virginia -- is conducive to a turnaround. But even the defense has fallen a little below its standard. For the past six years, BC has ranked in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense, joining only Virginia Tech, Ohio State and Penn State. This year, it's 65th in the country in scoring defense after allowing 44 points to NC State and 31 to Notre Dame.
Albright leads the defensive line with 25 tackles and has a team-high nine tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks and two pass breakups. He intercepted a pass that he returned 22 yards against Kent State, and he ranks 25th in the country with 1.50 tackles for a loss per game.
As a team captain, though, he holds the defense equally as responsible.
“It’s extremely frustrating to play so well and not come away with a win,” Albright said. “We did against Virginia Tech. We did this past week. But we’re still giving up 24 points. We can’t give up 24 points and win a game. That’s just not the way Boston College has played football over the past 10 years and that’s not the way we can play now.”
“It wasn’t good enough,” he said. “That’s the bottom line to any individual’s performance, any unit’s performance, any coaches’ performance. It wasn’t good enough. The object is to win.”