BLACKSBURG — When asked last Sunday if there were positives that could be taken from his team's 1-5 start, Boston College coach Frank Spaziani hemmed and hawed for a few moments and tried to come up with something resembling optimism.
He managed to come up with the opportunity to get a lot of experience for some young players this season as a positive. That's not exactly the kind of fan and booster-endearing rhetoric that gets everybody excited about the future.
Then again, given the fact his best player is out for the season, it's about all Spaziani can muster right now.
"There's a lot of positives, but the bottom line is winning games," Spaziani said. "It's very hard to articulate all the positives when you're not winning games."
Spaziani brings BC (1-5 overall, 0-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) to Blacksburg on Saturday for a meeting that will involve a rare set of circumstances in what has traditionally been a competitive matchup against Virginia Tech.
Other than a one-year hiatus in 2004, when Virginia Tech was embarking upon its maiden season in the ACC and BC was in its last Big East campaign before joining the ACC in '05, BC and Tech have played every season since 1993. They've been both Big East and ACC brethren.
In all those seasons dating back to '93, the only season other than this one in which either team had a losing record when they met was in '97. BC entered that game 2-3, and lost 17-7 in Chestnut Hill, Mass. to Tech, which was 4-1.
Barring a monumental turnaround in the second half of the season, BC could be headed for its first losing record since it went 4-7 in '98, which was current North Carolina State coach Tom O'Brien's second season as BC's coach.
Of course, not helping matters for BC this season has been the absence of running back Montel Harris. He entered the season needing 126 yards to set the school record for career rushing yards, and 1,003 to set the ACC record for career rushing yards (North Carolina State's Ted Brown had 4,602 yards from '75-78).
After missing the final three games last season with a torn meniscus in his left knee, Harris missed the first three games this season when he re-injured the same meniscus. He got the school record this season, running 31 times for 135 yards, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury Oct. 8 against Clemson. He'll seek a medical waiver from the NCAA for another season of eligibility.
BC sophomore Andre Williams, one of 13 freshmen and sophomores listed as a starter on BC's depth chart and the running back who took over for Harris, sat out the Clemson game with a knee injury. After a bye week, Williams is expected back in BC's lineup Saturday at No. 16 Tech (6-1, 2-1). He has 325 rushing yards this season.
Since '03, BC and Tech have had an interesting rivalry. Tech holds a 5-4 advantage in games played since '03 – some of which have been memorable.
The game that stands out the most was the '07 Thursday night regular season meeting in Blacksburg, which then-No. 8 Tech led 10-0 before quarterback Matt Ryan led No. 2 BC to two touchdowns in the final two minutes, 11 seconds to give the Eagles a 14-10 win.
Tech, which may have had a shot at earning a bid in the Bowl Championship Series national title game if it had won that game, got some sense of revenge that season in the ACC championship game with a 30-16 win against BC. Tech also beat BC 30-12 in the '08 ACC title game, after losing 28-23 to the Eagles in the regular season.
"It's a little different, but it's because you know (talent) is there," said Tech senior wide receiver Danny Coale regarding how strange it is to be playing a BC team with a losing record. "They have the team. They have talent. They're traditionally a powerhouse on that side in their division, and in the entire conference.
"I'm sure they'd like nothing more than to come in here and get that (first ACC win this season). We know we're going to get their best shot."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun