November 8, 2005
CHESTNUT HILL -- The promise of what could have been a truly special season faded for a Boston College football team that dropped back-to-back ACC road games to fall to 6-3 and saw its bowl status sink.
The Eagles were dreadful in falling 30-10 at then-No. 3 Virginia Tech on national television to end October. Then, when you consider the lesser opposition, they weren't much better in suffering a 16-14 defeat at North Carolina as the Tar Heels avenged last year's Continental Tire Bowl loss and kept their bowl hopes alive.
By losing two in a row for the first time in two years, BC was eliminated from a chance to win the league's Atlantic Division. But that seemed to be the least of the worries for a team that lost those two games after having to come from behind to beat both Virginia and Wake Forest at home.
The 6-3 mark -- with games left against suddenly dangerous N.C. State at home and Maryland on the road -- left the Eagles with a chance to travel to lovely Idaho instead of thinking of places such as Atlanta or Florida. In short, the two games -- coupled with the two scary wins at home -- showed that this is just an average team.
The visit to Virginia Tech was a nightmare for BC in all phases. The offensive line, noted for its power and strength, was pushed around to the tune of gaining only a total of 27 yards on the ground. That's unheard of for a program that prides itself on the "O-Line U." label it carries around. The defense wasn't much better, falling under the spell of quarterback Marcus Vick, who was magical against the Eagles before looking like a rookie in a blowout loss to Miami.
BC offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood put the blame for that loss on the offensive line, but defensive players were quick to point out that they didn't make a play all night, either.
The Eagles were embarrassed on national television. It wasn't that the No. 13 team in the country was supposed to beat No. 3 in their crazy home, it was just the way it happened. The feeling was that coach Tom O'Brien had brought this program too far for something like that to happen.
The effort was there against UNC. More things were done right, but after being stung by a 90-yard opening kickoff return for a touchdown, BC never led. The Eagles rallied at the end behind backup quarterback Matt Ryan (who pulled out the Wake game with late magic and is slated to be the QB for the next two seasons), but they showed little clock management in trying to catch up.
"It was a tough day for us today," O'Brien said. "We didn't play well enough to win the football game."
O'Brien said he would "assess the situation" regarding his quarterback for the N.C. State game. That is the home finale, Quinton Porter is a senior, but O'Brien insisted, "It has nothing to do with what class they're in. It's what's best for the football team."
Obviously, Porter wasn't thrilled that he was pulled at all but, when asked what he would do if he's the backup for the 10th game, he said, "I'll be behind him." Ryan, who threw a last-minute TD pass to Larry Lester and was 10-for-14 for 93 yards in the UNC relief effort, said, "It's not my decision. I'm not one to speculate on anything. Whatever happens next week, happens next week. Today, I'm disappointed we lost."
Said Trueblood: "I don't know what to say, really, because I think they're both really good quarterbacks. I thought Quinton did fine. I don't think he had a bad game. I guess Coach O'Brien was just trying something different to see if that worked."
All-American Mathias Kiwanuka, whose right knee was damaged by a cheap shot delivered by Virginia's Brad Butler, returned for the Virginia Tech game but was limited. Saying he thought he'd be back to "90 percent" at UNC, he played better. But the Tar Heels did a good job of double- and triple-teaming him, and he was unofficially credited with four tackles, one for a loss. His mates up front just haven't been able to fill the opening left by teams paying so much attention to him.
You have to wonder about the effects of the lingering injuries to both Kiwanuka and Porter on this football team. When you have a defensive star whose game is speed and elusiveness playing at less than full speed, and when your quarterback is playing on an injured right ankle he says needs a month off to get better, well, you can see the problems.
The Eagles tried to win at UNC with their normal running game -- L.V. Whitworth and Andre Callender combined for 103 yards -- and a short passing game. How short? Will Blackmon caught eight passes but totaled only 78 yards, and BC completed 26 passes between the two QBs but ran up just 237 yards, an average of 9.1 per catch.
ROOKIE GUARDS WILL GET CHANCES
With the Sean Williams return still not a sure thing, the BC basketball team will count even more on two freshman guards who have arrived and are needed to provide enough depth for coach Al Skinner to confidently play seven or eight guys. The early reviews are good on Tyrese Rice and Marquez Haynes.
"He came here with the intention of playing, and he's going to get a chance," Skinner said of Rice, a talented point guard from Virginia. "What makes him good is that he's got the ball in his hands, and he's made some pretty good decisions. It's always a learning process."
Haynes, a Texas product, is showing valuable signs of being able to play both guard positions.
"He's more of a combo guard, and that's what we wanted, a guy that could give us some minutes at each position," Skinner said. "That's what he can do."
Both rookie guards were seeing more time because of a slight knee injury to incumbent point guard Louis Hinnant, who figures to see more time at the wing guard spot with Rice on the scene.
Sophomore big man John Oates, also being counted on for depth with Williams missing, has looked more confident in early scrimmages.
Now, as for Williams. An erroneous report in one paper said the sophomore center, suspended indefinitely from school for a marijuana arrest, couldn't return until February at the earliest. That's not true. But it was still unclear whether Williams, if he passed all the levels needed for a return (starting with a meeting with Skinner and athletic director Gene DeFilippo), would be back at the end of the first semester or the start of the second.
Williams, academically eligible according to his coach, is attending classes at Houston, in his home state of Texas. The classes were approved in advance for transfer to BC.
The Eagles, picked by the ACC media to finish second in their new league and also nationally ranked behind only Duke (from the league), have an exhibition game against St. Michael's on Nov. 13 and open the regular season against Dartmouth on Nov. 18. The ACC opener is Dec. 11, at Maryland.