Boston College: Wrapping up the Clemson game and a look ahead to the bye week

There was little sleep for the BC football program following Saturday nights agonizing defeat in Death Valley.

As he does every Sunday, coach Hafley met with the media to put the final touches on Clemson Week before the Eagles head into a bye week. At 4-1, things are about as good as BC fans and alumni could have hoped for through this first portion of the season, but it didn’t make the plane ride home any easier, especially when the wheels touched down in Massachusetts at 3:56 A.M.

“Obviously, it was a long night,” Hafley said Sunday. “We got in about five this morning, probably most of us didn’t sleep very well. You go into Death Valley and you get the ball on the 11-yard line at the end of the game to go up and you can’t get it done, you just kind of replay everything. I meant what I said last night, I’m proud of the fight, we’ve got a special group and a special group of coaches.”

Hafley had a thoughtful assessment of his team after watching the game back this morning.

“The game didn’t start out well, we hung in there and kind of lapped them,” he said. “We managed the clock well, kicked the field goal, came out and scored, had a quick 10 on them which is why I defer, I like to play that game at the end of the half. Defense was lights out, 4th-and-1 stop at the 50 early on in the game, I mean, against that team…

“Three-of-14 on third down, goal line stand inside the six hold them to a field goal. Second half, they could barely move the ball. They get the ball on the 30, we hold them to a field goal. We stop them on third-and-one, then we stop them in a four-minute situation. They had a long run early they kind of busted, they made a nice play and scored, but after that guys, how hard the defense played…our corners were outstanding.”

Hafley also acknowledged penalties killing the Eagles still being an issue, but was quick to point out that Dennis Grosel did almost lead a game-winning drive for the ages despite the way it ended.

“Offensively, there were plays out there. Penalties did hurt us, which we’ll get better at. I won’t make excuses and I’ll always be the one to take the blame because I’m the head coach, but you can’t go backward,” said Hafley. “We had guys open, we had a few huge plays that we just missed, but we missed them, you could say that every single week. Dennis made some big plays and he got us down to the 11, probably the hardest part is you just would’ve liked to see what we could’ve done had we just held onto the snap, but we didn’t.”

That’s not good enough anymore if the program wants to be considered elite and Hafley knows it.

“Like I said, really proud of the guys, really proud of this team, but I didn’t come here to be close, so it doesn’t matter who we play, or where we play, or how the odds are stacked against us…they hadn’t lost at home in 30-something games and we could have beat them and we didn’t, so congrats to them.

“I didn’t come here to be close, so I have work to do and I will.”

While the officiating was equally bad on both sides Saturday night, the non-offsides call that ultimately cost BC a first down and at least three points was an embarrassment for the NCAA and insulting to football fans everywhere. Hafley had a stern response when I asked him if he got a proper explanation for the clear failure by the officiating crew to do its job in a critical situation.

“I didn’t…got to be careful here,” he said after a deep breath and long pause. “The non-offsides call, you saw, right? You can probably talk about it, I can’t because I’ll get in trouble. The non-offsides call…you’re talking about, it’s third down. We get sacked, that’s a first down and we’re in field goal range and it’s 16-13. I appreciate you asking that question, but I’m not going to to go down that road. But, anybody who wants to know my answer, just turn on the tape and watch that play.”

BC would much rather be entering its bye week at 5-0, ranked and on the national radar. Instead, they’re 4-1 and still a threat to win a wide open ACC. The loss will hurt for a bit, but NC State awaits on October 16th so there will be no time to wallow in self pity.

“You’d certainly like to go into a bye with a win, but I think we’re banged up and we need to get healthy,” Hafley added. “After five straight weeks with a long training camp, I think on the schedule it comes at a pretty good time for us to rest mentally and physically. Hopefully, get some guys back that we haven’t had available to play. We got through two really physical games back-to-back weeks, so you’d certainly love to get a win and go into it, but shoot, we’re 4-1 and I think it’s a good time for our players and our coaches.”

It was a long night and a longer morning the program on Saturday into Sunday, but the biggest thing Hafley has provided the team since coming on board is stability. Hafley has been the same guy every single day during his tenure here and that won’t change despite the heartbreaking loss.

“It depends,” he said when I asked him if he jumps right into film on the plane after a game like that or needs to decompress first. “I did not jump in. I saw the game live pretty closely, I had a pretty good idea what happened and I just kind of sat on the plane…I didn’t watch it on the plane last night, so I’m not going to make it up and pretend I did. Watched it early this morning multiple times.

“My process win or lose doesn’t change. I show our team what we did well, I show them what we coached well, what we need to coach better, what they need to do to play better and if we’re going to win what we have to clean up. Win or lose, I don’t change the process and I never will. It’s just a very honest Sunday regardless and guys shouldn’t take anything personal. Hopefully we learn from it.”