NEWTON, Mass. -- It was a tale of two quarterbacks.
Both are sophomores, working on their second seasons as the starter in their respective offenses. Both took their lumps last season.
Both needed to take big steps forward this season if their teams were going to improve.
On Saturday in Chestnut Hill, one quarterback showed he's making progress and helped his team to a victory by producing a big play in a key situation. The other didn't.
A year after throwing four interceptions against the Eagles, Tanner Price was the model of efficiency in Wake Forest's 27-19 win against BC. He finished 19-for-29 for 252 yards, one touchdown and one interception (which came when a pass glanced off his intended receiver's fingertips). He averaged 13.26 yards per completion.
While he matched him touchdown for touchdown and interception for interception, Chase Rettig's other numbers on the day paled in comparison. The Eagles quarterback finished with twice as many incompletions as completions, 23-for-47 for 188 yards. He averaged 8.17 yards per throw.
There were incompletions of all kinds: underthrown, overthrown and simply off target.
"Sometimes the best thing to do is either throw the ball away or throw a ball that only your receiver can catch," Rettig said, explaining the mindset on some of the misfires. "Worst thing that can happen is an incomplete pass."
That's sound reasoning and demonstrates maturity on Rettig's part. Better to throw the ball away than to force it into coverage and create a turnover. There were just too many incompletions for the Eagles to overcome Saturday.
The Wake Forest offense came out humming -- scoring on the first possession of the game -- and despite some sputters in the third and fourth quarters made enough plays to win. The quick start by the Demon Deacons put the Eagles on their heels, and Rettig admitted they didn't respond well.
"It just comes down to execution at the end of the day," Rettig said. "You create your own happiness, that's something that [offensive coordinator Dave] Brock says all the time, so if we execute and we do well all the guys are gonna be riled up and jacked and ready to go."
Three times in the first half, BC drives stalled and Rettig & Co. were forced to call on Nate Freese for field goals.
"I think in a lot of cases it's execution," wide receiver Alex Amidon said of the drives petering out short of the end zone. "We had penalties, we had missed assignments. There's lots of little things that people don't really notice that kind of add up.
"Coach stresses all week that we can't have those mistakes, and we just have to make sure that we don't have them next week. We just can't keep doing that stuff."
When it came down to it Saturday, one quarterback made the play and the other didn't.
With Wake Forest leading 24-19 and facing a third-and-15 from its own 15, Price needed to move the chains or face giving the ball back to the Eagles in good field position with a chance to take the lead. The lefty read the defense, checked down and let it fly up the right sideline, and wide receiver Terence Davis made a nice play to come down with the ball for a 44-yard reception.
"Tanner just read it out, and that's the one he had to go to," Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe told reporters after the game. "[In] this league, playing all the good teams, somebody's got to step up and make a play late.
"It's so hard to win on the road. When it got down to crunch time, the guys stepped up and made plays."
And the Eagles didn't.
Facing a fourth-and-4 with less than two minutes left, Rettig needed to move the chains to give the Eagles a last chance to tie the game with a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
"Going into the snap I reminded myself it's fourth down, you know you can't throw the ball away," he said. "I just made sure that if I didn't like the look to tuck it and try to get 4 yards."
Rettig didn't like the look, tucked the ball and tried to beat two Wake defenders to the sticks.
"After doing that I thought maybe I should've gone airborne or done something, but I was just trying to go through them and I came up short," Rettig said. "Unfortunately."
Head coach Frank Spaziani said he feels Rettig and the offense have improved this season, and that the Eagles are close, but they still have issues to address. And at least part of that he attributed to personnel simply not being available regularly.
"We've gotta get consistency in practice. And I'm not talking about effort, I'm talking about being out there in practice," he said. "It's not an excuse, but it shows itself on Saturday. That's where we are right now. We're just not consistent, if you will, and ready to make that play.
"You have to do it in practice, you have to do it every day and you have to do it off the field," he said. "And we'll get it. We'll get it. The sooner, the better."
There's more story to be written for the 2011 Eagles, but with the schedule only getting more difficult and no sign that the team is developing any consistency, if Rettig doesn't show he's ready to take the next step it doesn't figure to have a happy ending.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.