After strong start, Eagles still looking for answers

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

Boston College quarterback Dave Shinskie didn’t watch Thursday night’s game between Clemson and Georgia Tech, even though the Eagles will travel to Death Valley to face the Tigers in their first ACC game of the season on Saturday.

It’s hardly as if Shinskie was the only one on the team who ignored the prime-time game, and coach Frank Spaziani was hardly surprised to hear it.

“Well, I asked him not to watch it,” Spaziani said. “It doesn’t surprise me that they listened to their coach. It’s a distraction. We have had everybody, ever since the summer, talking about the third game of the year before we played our first two. We hadn’t played No. 2 yet, and there was still a lot of talk about Game No. 3. We usually like to watch the Thursday night game, it was just bad timing that it was Clemson.”

Now, after outscoring their first two opponents 88-7, Clemson is all they’re watching. Granted, Boston College’s first two wins against Northeastern and Kent State were somewhat expected, considering the first was an FCS program and the second a 4-8 team in the MAC a year ago. But the Eagles, which were predicted by the media this summer to finish last in the Atlantic Division after winning it the past two seasons, have looked more promising despite the many questions the team faced heading into September.

Remember, this is a team that entered the season without a quarterback with any collegiate experience. There was a staff overhaul that included promoting Spaziani from defensive coordinator to head coach, and hiring Gary Tranquill as offensive coordinator. Two NFL draft pick defensive tackles had to be replaced, as did the entire linebacking corps after standout Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with cancer, and leader Mike McLaughlin has been sidelined with an Achilles injury. It seemed as if they couldn’t catch a break this offseason.

And yet the Eagles enter this week 2-0.

Asked if he has any sense of what this team is capable of this year after its commanding start, Spaziani didn’t hesitate when he said, “no.”

“Nope,” he said. “This is a real, real young squad in a lot of ways, with a new staff and a new system. I’m not sure. It’s going to take four or five more weeks before we know really what kind of football team we have. We’ve got good kids, I’ll tell you that. We’ve got good kids who know how to work.”

Led by a veteran offensive line, Boston College’s offense has steamrolled its opponents, despite not knowing who its starting quarterback will be this season. The running game, led by Montel Harris, has flourished, and both quarterbacks, Justin Tuggle and Shinskie, have had their moments. There has only been one turnover so far -- an interception by Shinskie against Kent State. Spaziani said Sunday they’re still evaluating the position and that “there’s not a great deal of separation.”

“Me and Justin, we’re going at it at practice every day and in the games, and we’ve both been successful,” Shinskie said. “It’s been fun so far. We back each other up every week, we back each other up every series. When Coach Spaz makes a decision and gives the nod to one of us, I’ll be happy for him, he’ll be happy for me. Whatever works out.”

While they might not yet know where their place is in the Atlantic Division, or who their quarterback will be on Saturday, or how the young defense will fare against the veteran talent and speed of Clemson, the Eagles have definitely learned a few things about themselves in the first two weeks.

“We’ve learned that we can overcome adversity, in losing some guys on defense and having no quarterback,” Shinskie said. “By working hard we’ve overcome all the stuff people have said about us in the beginning of the year. I mean, they expected us to win these first two games, but we’re going to work hard this next week and the week after. We’re looking one game at a time and this Clemson game is the biggest game of the year so far.

“We might have to work a little harder than we did the past two weeks,” he said, “but that’s what BC football is all about -- overcoming adversity and working hard.”

And in that respect, the Eagles are also 2-0.