Looking for turnaround, BC opens with tough test

BOSTON (AP) — Boston College coach Frank Spaziani took a seat at the interview table with a baseball bat in hand, joking that he didn’t want any tough questions.

His team, on the other hand, will have a very tough test when it opens the season.

Coming off their first losing season since 1998, the Eagles — in a pivotal year for Spaziani and Co. — will open with a conference game, against ACC foe, Miami, on Sept. 1.

Boston College went 4-8 last season, 3-5 in the league.

“I have this bat here,” he said before taking questions on media day. “This is for batting practice. You know how batting practice pitchers are — no forkballs or definitely no curves. Right down the middle.”

Entering his fourth season as the coach of the Eagles, Spaziani knows the trend has been downward his first three years. Eight wins, seven and, then, a disappointing 4-8 mark last year, matching the school’s fewest win total since 1998. The Eagles also saw their string of 12 consecutive bowl berths come to an end.

“The trend with wins and losses is very obvious with everyone,” he said. “But the program is going north, not south. I understand where we’re at and we want to win — and the players understand that.”

The Hurricanes won’t make it easy at the start. The opener will be a rematch of last year’s season finale for both schools, a 24-17 victory by Boston College in Miami.

“Someone told me — I heard this last year — that the bad thing about playing bad teams early is they don’t know they’re bad,” he said. “Early in the year, nobody knows who’s any good — it takes five, six, seven games before things settle out.

“As far as opening up with a team of Miami’s caliber, hey listen it’s the same for them,” he continued. “They don’t have any game ahead of time. Let’s get on with it and find out where we’re at. It’s a long season. It’ll give us a good barometer real fast where we’re at, and we’re excited about it. We’ve got everybody’s attention.”

But they’re short-handed for now. BC lost fifth-year senior tight end Chris Pantale for what the coach called a “significant” amount of time with a broken foot suffered in practice on Thursday.

“They system is flexible enough to move on,” Spaziani said. “We’ll just do things a little different, that’s all. We’ll have different packages. He’s one of our fifth-year seniors and leadership and all that. That intangible is going to be missed on the field.”

Quarterback Chase Rettig likes that the Eagles can focus on one team for three weeks after last year’s struggles.

“It’s a good way — we don’t have classes before that game — we’ll be able to prepare for just football,” he said. “For the younger guys that are going to play this year, it’s a good way to show what real college football is like. They’re a very athletic team on offense and defense. I think it’ll be a good test for us to open up the year.”

Linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis, who is expected to fill a large void left after the graduation of the nation’s leading tackler, Luke Kuechly, figures it’s a great way to start after last year.

“I look it as what we need. We need to start off with a strong opponent like Miami,” he said. “Miami has a great reputation as being a power house in the ACC.

“I knew we would work even harder because they believed they should have won that game. They are going to come into Chestnut Hill with even a little more chip on their shoulders.”

Miami went 6-6 last season, 3-5 in the ACC.