BC Week Is Here!
Good ‘ol Boston College week. This one is personal. I’ve got several family members and good friends who call “the Heights” home. 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 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. Thanks to our women’s lacrosse team taking care of BC on Saturday 11-8 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, I figured now was the time to capitalize on BC week. Let’s take a look, shall we?
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 came 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!
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, but the Eagles on the map and then went on to win the 1985 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 signal 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.
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, they have a pair of stellar RBs who suffered mightily as opponents stuffed the box as BC’s passing game was so challenged as freshman QB Chase Rettig (100/195, 1238 yds, 9 INT, 4 TD) suffered through a long learning curve in year one. 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.
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. Their offense is hardly explosive in the air, but you should be concerned that our “D” will be able to stop Montel Harris and a usually solid OL – ESPECIALLY after they watch tape of late 2010 games.
We’ll be breaking down BC all week, talking to BC blogs, breaking down tidbits here and there and touting how to go about putting some purple in Alumni this Labor Day weekend. Don’t worry, we’ll have other news and tidbits as well, but now would be a great time to submit that N Flag if you live along the 128 region.