A sense of irony was pervasive Saturday at Alumni Stadium, the day “The Path” got eradicated and yet became very clear for Boston College.
“The Path,” otherwise known as the social media sensation created by @Hafley’sTroops on X, became a psalm for the program in recent weeks. “The Path,” detailing exactly what needed to happen for BC to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game, was a welcome change to the doom and gloom the 1-3 start generated. Suddenly, it was about hope and wonder. The players and coaches had fun with it. So did the fans, who interacted with a few of the players about it on social media. A wonderful connection.
“The Path” ended with the thud of a dropped bowling ball Saturday in the form of a 48-22 loss to Virginia Tech. And while the outcome ended the dream, it also outlined the true path for the program.
The path for Jeff Hafley and BC football is to continue to upgrade talent - through recruiting and the portal - and develop Thomas Castellanos into a better, more accurate passer. Both are obvious and necessary for future success.
The realization that there are miles, mountains and mortars still ahead suggests some BC fans - apoplectic on social media Saturday - ought to be much happier about the team’s winning record to date. I get that none of us were whistling showtunes watching Virginia Tech bulldoze the Eagles for 600 total yards. But the outcome left BC 6-4, not 2-8.
I’m not a huge numbers guy. But I do pay attention to point differential, a normally accurate measure of a team’s worth. BC’s point differential is minus 21, indicating its record should be closer to 4-6 than 6-4. Also consider that BC has a winning record despite trailing by two touchdowns or more in half of its games this year.
This indicates several things: Hafley and the players have done good work navigating close games, the “soft” schedule is entirely appropriate and that BC’s talent is the dreaded “work in progress.” Truly talented teams do not fall behind by at least two touchdowns in half their games.
And yet all the blathering and bloviating Saturday kept circling like a buzzard around one theme:
BC’s winning record is a mirage because it’s the byproduct of a soft schedule.
I say this: BC’s record is a byproduct of the correct schedule for where this program sits in its development.
Schedules are made years in advance, giving the current administration little influence on the current season. But for a program that hasn’t won eight games since 2008 and went 3-9 a season ago, the nonconference slate of Northern Illinois, Holy Cross, Army and UConn is exactly what BC needed.
No, it is not sexy. Put it this way: BC’s schedule is like taking a day dedicated to cooking, cleaning and laundry. Boring, but necessary. Alas, this is Boston College. Not a factory equipped to play LSU and Alabama every year. It’ll be much harder in 2024 with a road game at Missouri and a home game against Michigan State. Which is why BC really needs to develop and dive into the portal.
A few excerpts from Hafley after the game:
“I know I don't want to make excuses. We got beat today. (Virginia Tech) played well. We had a lot of self-inflicted mistakes,” he said. “I'm not searching for excuses in this one. We got beat. Their players executed at a very high level. We made costly mistakes and did not play well. I'm not searching for an excuse. We’re part of that as coaches too.”
Later, he said: “We’re 6-4. We’re bowl eligible. We got a chance to win more games and they have around here in a really long time. We got three games left. … We’ve got a chance to build off that. If you really look at our team right now, we’re still really young. And there's like four players that will graduate that played today. We need to get them better.”
Indeed. And while it’s fair to ask if Hafley should be further along in year four, there’s no denying that 2023 has produced a very promising young man at quarterback, other young players who offer hope and a winning record. Beats the alternative.
Suggestion: If you really want to help this along, stop griping on social media and make sure you have joined “Friends of the Heights,” BC’s Name-Image-Likeness initiative. BC looks a whole lot more attractive in the portal with more money available. And that’s truly how programs upgrade talent these days.
Meantime, try to enjoy 6-4. It was 2-8 at this time a year ago.
Mike DiMauro, a columnist in Connecticut, is a contributor to Eagles Daily and a member of BC’s class of 1990. He may be reached at email@example.com or @bcgenius