CHESTNUT HILL — This one was different, yet, at the same time, not so much.
Boston College's second loss of the season Saturday, a 27-24 setback to Wake Forest at Alumni Stadium, did not resemble the stomping at the hands of Kansas several weeks ago.
No, the Eagles were not dominated. In many statistical categories, BC was actually the superior team.
But it was the little things — an easily-avoidable penalty here, a total inability to get off the field on third down there — that did BC in to drop to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Those types of errors have cost the Eagles time and time again in close games over the years, and Eagles fans are now used to situational blunders being the difference in winning and losing.
"This was two good teams playing each other, and it came down to a thin margin," BC coach Steve Addazio said. "The thin margin in the end pulled away from us (by) three points."
So even though the Eagles had 536 yards of total offense — including 252 on the ground on 44 attempts — to Wake's 440, it was not enough to hand the Demon Deacons (5-0) their first loss of the season in the ACC opener for the visitors. Wake, which entered as the No. 24 team in the Coaches Poll, just simply made the better of its opportunities.
"The only stat that matters is a win," said BC running back AJ Dillon, who rushed for 159 yards on 23 carries. "We didn't get that. We need to get better."
There was one statistic that mattered plenty. Wake converted 17-of-24 third-down attempts on offense. Three came on the last Wake drive of the game, as quarterback Jamie Newman (21-of-33 passing for 243 yards, 2 TD, INT) helped bleed the clock. The Eagles finally got the ball back at their 5-yard line with 28 seconds and no timeouts left.
"We've just got to get off the field on third down," said BC linebacker John Lamot, who made a career-high 17 tackles. "I feel like it didn't get to us physically, but mentally we just have to get off the field on third down. It was our key to win the game, and I felt like towards the end of the game we didn't do that."
But there were other issues. Down 20-17 in the fourth quarter, BC lined up for a 43-yard field goal, and Aaron Boumerhi's kick was good. However, the Eagles were hit with a delay of game penalty. On the second attempt, a bobbled snap led to a Dennis Grosel pass falling incomplete for a huge missed opportunity.
Wake answered on its next drive with a Newman touchdown pass to Scotty Washington (five catches for 94 yards) from 27 yards out.
Even though BC responded with a 16-yard halfback pass from David Bailey to Chris Garrison to pull within 27-24 with 6:39 left, Wake's offense sealed the victory with its remarkable conversion rate on the money down.
"I saw the clock ticking down," Addazio said of the delay-of-game penalty. "I was going to call a timeout. I thought we were still going to get it off in time. I didn't want to lose my timeout. I knew we were going to need that timeout at the end of the game. So I was trying not to burn it, and it was hair-close, and obviously lost that decision by a half a second. That's what it came down to."
BC quarterback Anthony Brown played well enough at times by completing 21-of-29 passes for 268 yards and second-quarter touchdowns to Zay Flowers (a 26-yarder) and David Bailey (from 4 yards out). He was 9-of-10 for 115 yards in that quarter as the Eagles went into the break tied at 17.
But Brown also threw two picks, the second on fourth-and-3 from the Wake 21 early in the third quarter.
Those missed opportunities, those give-or-take moments that did not go BC's way, are why the Eagles are 3-2 and not 4-1 right now. You can make the argument that Wake was simply the better team and earned the road win in front of 39,352 fans. That's reasonable. But it is little consolation to the Eagles and their fans, who have seen this movie before.
The mood of the BC players afterward was understandably somber, but Lamot did not seem content to dwell on the negative.
"It's disappointing not to win, but there are a lot of things we can learn from," Lamot said. "We need improvement. We know that we can do it. We've just got to keep our confidence up and come ready to work for this next week. The season's not over yet, so there's no reason to hang our heads. We've got a game next week (at Louisville), so we've got to prepare for that."