His gold helmet shining like a trophy and his maroon jersey burning bright red, Myles Willis looked up into the blinding sun and tracked the ball into his mitts. He cocked back and shot across the field. With a slight cut to the right, a block in front, and another cut back to the left, Willis had nothing in sight except for the end zone. On the opening kick, the Eagles were up against Syracuse 7-0.
This was going to be a different game from the previous eleven. The Eagles' 28-7 victory over the Orange solidified that finishing 7-5 in Steve Addazio’s sophomore year was different from finishing 7-5 his freshman year.
Last year, Addazio picked up the Frank Spaziani guys. He had Chase Rettig as his quarterback, Andre “44 Heisman” Williams as his running back, Alex Amidon as the star receiver, and Kevin Pierre Louis as blue chip defender. He took the Spazways and showed them how to be a dude. The result? A Heisman Trophy finalist, the Doak Walker Award, the Advocare V100 Bowl, and a winning season.
This year, Addazio had some blooming dudes. He brought Tyler Murphy from Florida as graduate student quarterback who ran to the ACC rushing record for a quarterback. His four-star recruit freshman Jonathan Hilliman ran for a team-leading twelve touchdowns, third best in the ACC. And how about Josh Bordner, the backup quarterback who transformed into the number-one receiving target when Murphy decided to pass? Even Tyler Rouse, who before yesterday was known for his dropped game-winning touchdown against Clemson in the O’Rourke-McFadden Game, ran for a touchdown against his hometown university that passed on him. Addazio didn’t pass up on Rouse or the previous players.
Many thought without the Spazways that Addazio was going to have an off year. Let the record show a different story. Addazio's success shows his adaptive coaching ability and should lend heed to writing off the team for years to come, as long as he is at the helm. He took guys who were hungry to be make a difference for a college football program and made them difference makers. Murphy became our Andre this year. We laid our hopes and aspirations on his legs and he carried them valiantly. And guess what? This is only the first glimpse of what Addazio’s dudes can do.
Back to the record though. Last year’s 7-5 featured these wins: Villanova, Wake Forest, Army, Virginia Tech, New Mexico State and Maryland. They also featured these losses: USC, Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina and Syracuse. This year’s 7-5 featured these wins: UMass, USC, Maine, NC State, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Syracuse. They also featured these losses: Pittsburgh, Colorado State, Clemson, Louisville and Florida State. The difference between the seasons is 2014 had a lot of we should’ve/could’ve won. The only sound defeat the Eagles got this year was from their rival birds at Louisville with a 38-19 thrashing. Clemson, Florida State, Colorado State, Pittsburgh were games that could’ve been. There was hope in each game. There was a hope to win unlike in 2013. There was a fear of losing, but following the Red Bandana Miracle, the hope was back. The Eagles were back.
Speaking of USC, the Eagles had an upset this season, a legitimate one too. Last year, up until the BCS National Championship game, the Eagles were the last team to hang in there with Florida State. This year, the Eagles squeezed the neck of the Trojans for a victory and it has defined the season since. Superfans flew onto the field like chickens with their heads cut off. It was clear the whole “storming the field” was a new experience. But the victory over USC, even though Addazio didn’t want to be defined by the victory, revitalized the team. Even after the last regular season game, USC is still the talk of the heights. The game should serve as a benchmark to how good the team can be. The Eagles can fly with the big boys and, as Doug Flutie said, can compete with any team in the country.
The Eagles finished 7-5 again, but this time was different. It showed just a preview of what’s to come in the years when Addazio brings in a full crop of dudes to not only compete against anyone in the country, but win against anyone in the country. 7-5 is just the start. Different records are on the way.
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