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Eagles slip up, stumble at start

The sins? Oh, there were plenty. There were so many, in fact, that the good Father Leahy, who had expressed the hope his Boston College team would "soundly" beat Wake Forest in its opener yesterday at Alumni Stadium, might want to hear confession from his wounded Eagles today at St. Ignatius.

Then again, he might not.

After all, how do you absolve the Eagles for committing 14 penalties for 107 yards, three turnovers (two of which resulted in touchdowns for the opposition), a pair of defensive breakdowns that led to a pair of fourth-quarter Wake Forest scores, and one heinous 32-28 loss to the Demon Deacons before a stunned crowd of 42,563?

It would seem a job better left to football coach Tom O'Brien, who yesterday took the good with the bad and assumed full responsibility for BC's ugly season-opening setback to its visitors from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"Not a very good start," said O'Brien, who must regroup his team before resuming the season Saturday at Penn State. "We made too many mistakes to give ourselves a chance to win the football game."

The Eagles rolled up more yards of total offense than Wake Forest (443 to 309), had more first downs (28 to 16), ran more plays (90 to 63), and possessed the ball for more time (33 minutes 50 seconds to 26:10), but ended up succumbing to self-inflicted wounds, the last of which proved to be an absolute killer.

With his team trailing by 4 points, junior quarterback Quinton Porter had BC on the threshold of a stirring comeback when he drove the Eagles to the Wake Forest 24 with 1 minute to go. Facing a second-and-2, Porter bobbled the snap as he pulled away from center, recovered the ball, and dropped back to pass, but had his throw deflected by blitzing cornerback Caron Bracy.

Porter, attempting to prevent Bracy from coming up with the ball, caught his own pass, and was spun around and stripped by Bracy, enabling the Demon Deacons to clinch the victory when Dion Williams recovered at the BC 48.

That, along with a second-quarter fumble that resulted in a 53-yard return by Warren Braxton for Wake's first TD, marred Porter's first career start, in which he completed 22 of 39 passes for 243 yards. He capped BC's first possession, a nine-play, 71-yard march, with an 8-yard toss to tight end Dave Kashetta that gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead.

"It was too up-and-down," Porter said, describing his performance. "There was no consistency."

Said O'Brien, "He had some good plays and some things that we have to build on, then he had some very bad plays, too. He made some nice throws."

Porter's rhythm, however, seemed to be disrupted when he gave way in the second quarter to talented backup Paul Peterson, a junior college transfer from Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, who promptly led BC on a three-play, 32-yard scoring march (set up by Peter Shean's 34-yard interception return), capping it with a 16-yard throw to tight end Sean Ryan that made it 14-0.

"I didn't know what to expect coming in," Porter said, referring to O'Brien's policy of giving the backup a cameo appearance in the second quarter. "But [standing on the sideline] was really hard."

Asked about Peterson's effort, Porter said, "I was just happy that we scored."

After Braxton picked up Porter's fumble (induced by Jamaal Argrow) and scored on a 53-yard return with 1:12 before intermission, it was 14-6 at the break. Then, early in the third, the mercurial Willie Idlette turned the corner on a flanker end-around and went untouched for a 75-yard TD that pulled the Demon Deacons within 14-12.

Porter showed flashes of brilliance on his next series, an 80-yard march highlighted by his 25-yard completion to Kashetta for a first down at the Wake 10. Porter capped the drive with a 2-yard plunge, good for a 21-12 lead with 10:46 left in the third quarter.

The game seemed well in hand, until Wake Forest quarterback Cory Randolph (13 of 23, 149 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions) heated up in the fourth quarter, leading the Demon Decons to 20 points in the final period. After Cornelius Birgs (19 carries, 65 yards) ran by BC safety T.J. Stancil on the left side to score a 25-yard TD that made it 21-19, Wake got the ball right back and took a 25-21 lead on Randolph's 4-yard TD pass to Jason Anderson, a jump-ball toss over redshirt freshman corner Jazzmen Williams.

The Dekes had punted on fourth and 18 from their 19, but were given a reprieve when Will Blackmon (three punt returns for 28 yards, four kickoff returns for 104 yards) fumbled the ball at the BC 32, resulting in Randolph's TD pass to Anderson.

"I just took my eye off the ball," Blackmon said, "and it bounced off my helmet."

Porter rallied the Eagles on a clutch 13-play, 89-yard drive, connecting with redshirt freshman Jason Lilly (6 catches, 68 yards) for a 15-yard pass on a hugh fourth-and-11 attempt from the Wake 37. The drive was culminated by Derrick Knight's 5-yard TD plunge for a 28-25 BC lead with 2:28 to go.

Randolph, though, showed his ability to operate under duress when he capped a 37-second drive by connecting with Chris Davis on a 43-yard TD pass on a seam route that split safeties Paul Cook and Stancil.

"I think that we've got two similar football teams in us and Boston College," said Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe. "It was like a prize fight. We just took turns hitting each other. You know, we were very fortunate at the end of the game."

That it ended the way it did, with BC shooting itself in the foot, proved to be the greatest sin of all.

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