Earlier this year, in May to be exact, we dedicated an entire week to Boston College (week of 5/17/2011). Amazingly, we’ll be mixing it up with some BC, some big picture NU and of course scanning the Big Ten. A ton has changed since BC week back in May. The Eagles star RB, Montel Harris, the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, is now out recovering from knee surgery. His back-up, Andre Williams is nursing a sprained ankle. The BC secondary went from solid to potentially poor in a week as they’ve kicked one starter off the team, another transfered as a senior and of course some injuries linger. It’s hard to believe there is so much attrition and we haven’t even started. The ‘Cats are about to open the season on the road at yet another BCS opponent (Vandy last year, Syracuse two years ago) and of the soon to be 21 non-conference games in the Fitz era, this is the best team we’ll have faced (you could make a case for ’06-’07 Nevada, but that’s it) Well, let’s start.
This one is personal. I’ve got several family members and good friends who call “the Heights” their alma mater. Also, growing up less than an hour away from the program that Doug Flutie built, BC was my adopted college football team as Rhode Island had zero (FBS) to call its own. I’ve been banging the BC-NU similarities for years which usually irks some of the folks who want to reign supreme on the academia card, but their is no denying how many football program similarities there are.
I truly believe BC is Northwestern’s kindred football mirror in New England. Both schools are in sophisticated near-suburbs of a major metropolis. Both football programs are always trying to scream for market share as they respectively fall somewhere around sixth in their respective markets behind iconic pro teams. Both are proud, private academic-minded schools with smaller than bigtime football stadiums and despite continual program arrow upward trends, both struggle mightily to put butts in seats. BC and NU were 65th and 68th respectively in 2010 football attendance with the Eagles (38,369) besting NU by less than 2,000 fans per game (36,449) (for what its worth, Stanford, who went to the Orange Bowl, was 62nd with 40,042 in 2010. Heck ,we even both have an ignominious gambling scandal to our respective athletic programs’ name both in the mid 1990s. But let’s not go there.
The Eagles also have a cut-from-the-mold football coach who is relatively new and goes by a four letter nickname. Coach Frank Spaziani is known in Beantown as simply Coach Spaz and some may say our man Coach Fitz can be quite a spaz on the sidelines although he is mellowing exponentially each year. Each school is relatively the same size with NU around 8,000 undergrads and BC add a tad under 10,000. Student support, when you consider percentages of overall student body attending, is both pretty good, although I give the nod to the famed Superfans in yellow t-shirts.
You can imagine this game means a lot to me for personal reasons. I spent every summer visiting family and friends in the Cape Cod area, and this game will be the only time they think about NU until next year. This one win gives me street cred for ‘ol NU for an entire friend and family base for a full year. BC Eagles fans are a few years ahead of NU fans in the consistency department. While NU fans are tallying bowl appearances since 1995 as our respectability card, BC fans point to the nation’s 4th best bowl winning streak (8 games 2000-2007) as their booyah! You trumpet a quest for the 4th straight bowl apperance as a plus for Northwestern? Well, BC’s got us beat big time – they are seeking their 13th straight bowl appearance. The program reminds me quite a bit of the Joe Tiller-era Boilermakers. They have not dipped below the 7-win mark since 1998 (4-7) and are a few years of putting up the consistent wins that we are striving so hard to attain.
As a kid growing up in BC country you actually felt like it was good training ground for NU. The Eagles were pretty miserable most of my childhood until that one out of nowhere season when an undersized Natick legend, Doug Flutie, put the Eagles on the map and then went on to win the 1984 Heisman thanks to the Hail Mary of Hail Marys over Bernie Kosar and Miami. It was one of the top three “where were you when…?” childhood moments behind only the Miracle on Ice and Billy Buckner’s grounder a year later. Flutie’s impact was so phenomenal on BC that the school instantly went from solid back-up school to impossible-to-get-in-to in what was literally termed the “Flutie phenomenon”. It put BC on another academic plane – one they are still enjoying a lift from today. However, the Eagles haven’t made any BCS noise and thus, still battle for headlines in their own backyard. And, Northwestern has one huge advantage – the cultural phenomenon of football in the Midwest.
Tailgating on the East Coast is something they don’t know how to do so well. Sure, the Ivy Leagues have the history of actually being the table setters in this area, however it is of the tea and crumpets variety – you know, the same stereotype we have at Northwestern. BC does enjoy Alumni Stadium which sits smack dab in the middle of campus and is the epicenter of student activity on a gameday weekend. They also enjoy one of the most wink-wink campus legends out there. There is a single BC Eagle bronzed in the center of campus. As any BC guy will tell you, legend has it when a virgin graduates from the Chestnut Hill campus the Eagle flies away.
A legend no college dad wants to know about!
You’ve put up with enough of the personal angle here, so let’s start talking shop. My NU-BC football memories are the tale of polar opposites. My sophomore year of college I went to the ‘Cats game at Alumni Stadium. I actually sat with the players’ families since I had some friends on the team who got me tickets. Boy was that a mistake. It was the worst drubbing I ever witnessed in person in all of my NU years. We lost 49-0 and it wasn’t until late in the game when I realized BC had yet to punt. We didn’t get the ball past midfield. I’m fairly certain first year head coach Gary Barnett had to wonder what the hell he had done by taking the job at that point. The worst part was we had BC back on the schedule in 1993.
This is where it gets good. Boston College game to then Dyche Stadium with a pretty loaded team. We were huge underdogs and BC was ranked in the Top 25. It was a battle from the start. The ‘Cats hung tough but BC scored late in the fourth in what seemed like it would be the dagger. However, on the ensuing kickoff Eric Scott bolted some 80+ yards to set-up a last second game-winning score that set off the most celebrated win in my undergrad years. Keep in mind, this was the same BC team that would venture to South Bend the week after the famous ND-FSU Charlie Ward game when ND beat the #1 team to become #1 team and the Eagles would win in the second most famous BC game in my lifetime. I actually turned down tickets to go to that game with my BC buds, and I will tell you it was the best played game by both teams that I’ve ever seen. I put it #1 on my alltime favorite college football games in terms of quality of play. I also still remember the T-shirt honoring the Eagles game-winning FG -(front) “God is Good” , (back) “…so was Gordon’s kick!”.
Now, much like when we face TTFSB in a couple of years, we resume play. I’ve had 18 years of bragging rights and they are back on the line in week one of 2011. I like this match-up though. BC was pretty darn terrible on offense last year ranking in the bottom quarter in both rushing attacks and passing attacks. However, the RB situation is up in arms right now and the starting QB, Chase Rettig, (100/195, 1238 yds, 9 INT, 4 TD) suffered through a long learning curve in year one and has yet to prove he can change the offensive attack. The Eagles promptly went out and nabbed Kevin Rogers to be their new OC in hopes of turning around the dismal offense.
The Eagles return eight starters on offense and seven on defense and, like us, went 7-6 and lost their bowl game (20-13 to Nevada in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl). BC boasted the #1 rush defense in America though, and they have a Fitz-like All-American LB, Luke Kuelchy, who is looking to make the All-American list yet again in his junior season. This guy isn’t just good, he’s game-controlling, Bronko Nagurski Award favorite good. Did I mention they were #1 IN THE NATION IN RUSH DEFENSE?
Like Fitz, Spaz is a defensive guy at heart. However, the NU hurry-up spread is something that should challenge BC mightily in week one. This is one where NU can own the tempo from the get-go, but of course, we don’t know who will be under center or for how long and our own tempo could be an issue.
We’ll be breaking down BC all week, with an emphasis on NU personnel including you-know-who. Here are is some relevant info that I pulled back up from BC week that will help get you in the mode and keep you busy until our next post which is, oh, in a few hours.
THE BC BASICS
Boston College Basics:
Location: Chestnut Hill, MA
Stadium: Alumni (44,500)
Head Coach: Frank Spaziani (3rd season, 16-10)
Main Rival: Notre Dame
The disconnect for most New Englanders is Boston College’s membership as part of the ACC. Current AD Gene DiFilippo is persona non grata among most Big East fans. The Eagles were a charter member of the predominantly Catholic east cost mafia juggernaut better known as the Big East Conference. There are legendary rivalries with the likes of Providence College, Georgetown, Villanova, St. John’s and others that date back well before the formation of the Big East. Despite what many may think, BC is a hockey school, basketball school and then football school in that order historically, although since the Doug Flutie era, football and basketball have flipped. DiFilippo pulled what many insiders consider to be a Benedict Arnold and bolted the Big East with a fair amount of surreptitious approach, and joined the ACC in 2005. Now, instead of somewhat regional rivals in football, BC must market the likes of home games against Wake Forest, Clemson and North Carolina, which don’t strike a football chord with many who harken back to the great wars against the likes of Holy Cross. One thing is still in place and that is the absolute disdain for Notre Dame.
The Eagles loathe Notre Dame for many of the same reasons we do. However, it is much worse in Beantown as Notre Dame is revered in their own backyard as so many Irish Catholics populate the region and it is viewed, still, as academic, religious and sports mecca (with overlap). You can imagine the BC faithful not taking too kindly to the fact they feel they are on par academically with TTFSB AND the fact they regularly beat the Irish on the field.
BC has become “QB U” in many regards. The Eagles have had quite a ride at the glory spot since Doug Flutie brought home the 1985 Heisman Trophy. Glenn Foley, the Hasselbacks, and Matt Ryan are the NFL headliners that emerged from BC, but others like Brian St. Pierre have cracked the league as well. However, the Eagles are a great answer to a trivia question, as in, “which college boasts the most interior lineman on NFL rosters?”. It would be more accurate to call BC “Interior Offensive Linemen U” as this Rivals.com article points out. Guys like Pete Kendall, Dan Koppen, Tom Nalen, Chris Snee, Ron Stone and Damien Woody all claim “the Heights” as their home. I had a buddy who was Kendall’s roommate and I was relentless on NU’s upset of BC in ’93 – that’s right, risking my limb and bone for the pride of NU. BC boasts quite an impressive roster of current Eagles in the pros outside of just the trenches. Take a look:
Like most schools of relative prestige that have been around for more than a century, BC boasts quite an array of notable alumni. If Northwestern’s forte in this area is entertainment/Hollywood types, BC’s would be the DC beltway influencers. John Kerry and Tip O’Neil are just two of dozens of notable politicians that graduated from the Newton, MA school. They do have their fair share of media mafia members included legendary sports writers Bob Ryan and Mike Lupica along with on-air luminaries like John McLaughlin, Lesley Visser and polarizing pop culture figure Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Northwestern fans are partial to movie star Chris O’Donnell who grew up within a “scent” of then Dyche Stadium.
While Northwestern football history has been rewritten to begin with 1995, the Eagles boast their own anno domino, which with a name like BC makes for some great puns. Football began in earnest in the modern era in 1985 with the pride and joy of Natick, MA, Doug Flutie. There are several who have made the comparison between Dan Persa and Flutie as both are type “A” uber overachievers who, while athletic, were underdogs every step of the way. There is an interesting NU-BC tie to the play that forever became synonymous with “Hail Mary” and that is the fact that Northwestern attendee Brent Musberger had the call that forever changed BC:
That never gets old, does it?
While 1985 certainly catapulted BC, the Eagles spent much of the 1990s and the 2000s building the epitome of a respectable program. As mentioned above, BC holds the fourth longest bowl winning streak (8 games) in NCAA history as they went unblemished from 2000-2007 in the games that matter most. BC has been very NU-like in ACC play, usually posting a solid overall record while being in the middle of the ACC pack. Here is their record since 1995:
BC actually went 7-6 last year and they’ve now started their own bowl losing streak having dropped their third straight. However, they have the program consistency we are striving for and have been to a bowl game every single season since 1999, a pretty remarkable feat. The last three seasons mirror NU’s and it should be no surprise that outside of Stanford and fellow Big Ten schools, BC is one of our most consistent crossover rivals for recruits.
Be a Local…
If you want to sound like you’re “in the know” all you have to do is tell folks you’ll meet them at the infamous local watering hole Maryann’s. You’d better be an undergrad though as it was and likely still is THE place to go as a minor. The place stinks like embedded vomit however. If you’re past that point in your life and in your 20’s The Kells WAS a popular venue then check out the Publick House (thanks Eagles04). If you’re at the LTP kids and family stage, then Cityside in Cleveland Circle is likely more your speed.
Blogs of Note:
Both of the esteemed Eagle blogs have made cameo appearances on LTP this off-season and I highly suggesting bookmarking for the week…