October 11, 2005
CHESTNUT HILL - It took until the third game, but the new kids on the ACC block experienced their first bad blood Oct. 8. Boston College beat Virginia 28-17 in a game marred by unpleasantries that resulted in the ejections of Mathias Kiwanuka and Al Washington.
"I guess we're the new team in the ACC, and I think we got a bulls-eye on our back," BC linebacker Ray Henderson said. "Everybody wants to smack us around and welcome us to the ACC - in a negative way - but I think so far we've proved that we belong in this conference and we can play with any team in the country."
Belong? The win was the second in three league games for the Eagles, who also had a very real chance of beating Florida State after falling behind 14-0 early. They were set to host Wake Forest with an overall 5-1 record. Wake owns wins over BC in each of the last two seasons.
Virginia tackle Brad Butler, who had been going at it with Kiwanuka from the opening play, took what appeared to be a cheap shot at the side and/or back of the BC star's right leg in the third quarter. Kiwanuka's linemate, Washington, immediately jumped on top of Butler and was tossed from the game. Later, Kiwanuka took a swipe at Butler and was gone.
Kiwanuka already had been injured earlier in the contest (by an inadvertent leg whip from Washington), and he could have been seriously injured by Butler.
"You want to play teams who are feisty and want to give you a good game and play that kind of football," Kiwanuka said. "The only thing you don't want is for somebody to play dirty or do something that's outside the field of play."
Said Washington: "I felt it was uncalled for. The play was dead."
BC coach Tom O'Brien wasn't happy with the loss of composure, but the entire incident ignited the Eagles and a rain-soaked home crowd. A fired-up BC ultimately rallied to a win, as O'Brien scored a victory over his former employer. Missing three field goals in the first half, the Eagles found themselves tied 7-7 at the break and down 14-7 before coming on strong for the win.
BC plans to ask the league to review the hit by Butler, which went unpunished at the time. Butler said, "I was not called for a penalty on either of the two plays in question, so we'll leave it up to the refs."
"That's the last time anyone takes a cheap shot at us," quarterback Quinton Porter said.
After missing the previous two games (wins over Clemson and hapless Ball State), Porter got word from O'Brien on Friday night that he would be playing against UVa, but with the caveat that he had to tell his coach if his healing ankle didn't feel strong enough. After the first two series, Porter told O'Brien he was struggling, and that backup Matt Ryan should get ready. Then Porter's ankle "kind of loosened up," and he went on to go 25-for-37 for 301 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
"From then on," Porter said, "I just got into a rhythm."
Ryan, who will inherit the starting position next season as a junior, got two valuable weeks of playing time in while Porter was out, as it became clear that the offense will be in good hands over the next two years. In fact, third-stringer Chris Crane also looked strong in the closing minutes of the win over Ball State.
O'Brien knew Porter would be back. He just didn't know when, or how strong he'd be when he got there. He had Ryan ready.
"I thought (Porter) was phenomenal today," said O'Brien, who also credited Porter for his honesty over how he felt. "He was a little rusty in the first half, which was to be expected after sitting out two weeks. He came out on fire in the second half."
PLACEKICKING A SERIOUS CONCERN
Virginia was a difficult game for BC, especially after the rain led 10,000 or so fans to stay home. The Cavaliers came in having just fallen out of the Top 25 after a loss at Maryland and needing a win. BC seemed to be dominating in the first half, but the terrible kicking of Ryan Ohliger and a late TD by UVa kept it tied at the break. The nastiness involving Kiwanuka, the franchise, got the crowd going. It also got players on both sides of the ball more active. The results were clear.
The UVa game marked the second time Ohliger, a sophomore, missed three field goals against an ACC foe. Last year at Wake Forest, in a non-league game, he missed three and his team lost 17-14. This time, the result was positive for the Eagles, but the lack of a reliable kicking game remained a potential problem going forward.
"We'll go back and look at it this week," O'Brien said of the possibility that senior William Troost, who booted three extra points in the second half, might kick field goals against Wake. "It may stay that way, it may not."
Meanwhile, Andre Callender took another step at trying to change the way the Eagles do things at the tailback spot. Again working as the backup, Callender rattled off BC's first 100-yard game of the season with 119 on just 11 carries, including a 57-yarder. But starter L.V. Whitworth also notched 73 yards, and linebacker Brian Toal scored his team-leading fourth and fifth TDs of the season in his Third-and-Toal short-yardage situations.
Callender and Whitworth offer different things to the offense. Callender (the fan favorite) is the most explosive runner, Whitworth the better blocker. There were no indications that the depth chart would change in the midst of a three-game winning streak.
Toal is relishing his short-yardage chances. The coaches told him during the recruiting process that he'd have his shot, but that chance didn't come last year, when the coaches felt he had enough to handle on defense. Now the anticipation builds every time BC gets close.
"If it didn't happen, I wasn't going to be upset about it," Toal said. "Playing linebacker is still fun."
BC beat Virginia with Will Blackmon catching three balls for only 13 yards. But Porter hit 10 different receivers, with Larry Lester leading the way with seven grabs for 93 yards, including a 43-yarder. A sign of Porter's early rustiness was not seeing a wide-open Lester down the right sideline. By the time the QB spotted the receiver, the throw was shorter, to the sideline, and Lester was out of bounds.
Through six games, Blackmon led BC with 24 receptions, but the Eagles had eight players - including Whitworth and Callender - in double figures.