Fittingly, Boston College's 35-30 victory over Wake Forest Saturday came down to a defensive play. It was the type of play the Eagles had failed to make in two previous losses to the Demon Deacons. BC lost, 32-28 two years ago and 17-14 last year, both times on long touchdown passes by quarterback Cory Randolph late in the game.
This time, at rain-soaked Alumni Stadium, sophomore defensive end Nick Larkin came sprinting from the blind side on fourth and 13 from the BC 45 and sacked Randolph, the last play of the game.
''If I hadn't got him, somebody definitely would have, because he didn't have room to go anywhere," said Larkin, whose sack was the third BC rang up on the day.
It capped a brilliant fourth quarter in which the Eagles held Wake Forest to 50 yards on 21 plays on its last four possessions, which resulted in a punt, field goal (after an interception in BC territory), a punt, and the final turnover on downs.
BC's defensive effort paved the way for sophomore quarterback Matt Ryan, who replaced struggling starter Quinton Porter and rallied the Eagles from a 30-21 deficit with 3:36 remaining with touchdown passes of 38 yards to Tony Gonzalez and 26 yards to Kevin Challenger.
BC's biggest stop may have been the three-and-out on Wake Forest's penultimate possession.
''We knew we needed a three-and-out or the game was pretty much over," said senior linebacker Ray Henderson. ''We knew we needed to get a stop, and guys stepped up and did everything they could and we got the offense the ball back and Matty took over."
And the Eagles did it without four defensive starters: end Mathias Kiwanuka (knee), tackle Al Washington (elbow), cornerback Jazzmen Williams (left quadriceps), and cornerback DeJuan Tribble (hamstring).
The week off may enable some of them to get back for BC's next game, a Thursday night ESPN contest Oct. 27 at Virginia Tech.
That the victory over Wake Forest came down to the final defensive play was meaningful for the guys on that side of the ball.
''That's the one thing we talked about," Henderson said. ''The last two years, they played 60 minutes and we only played 58 or 59 and we came out on the short end of it. This year we were just focused on playing to the final whistle."
Race is on
BC wasn't the only Atlantic Division team that had its hopes revived for a berth in the ACC Championship game after Virginia's 26-21 upset of Florida State. Maryland, the other division squad with one conference loss, is hoping to get to Jacksonville, as well, after rebounding from September losses to West Virginia and Clemson. But it won't be easy for the Terrapins, who still have to play divisional foes Florida State in Tallahassee and BC in College Park, Md. ''It's all in front of us," said coach Ralph Friedgen
, whose team will host third-ranked Virginia Tech Thursday night. ''We control our own destiny. I guess really you can't ask for more than that. Everybody plays everybody else. It's a tough league." . . . Clemson coach Tommy Bowden
would second that. Bowden's beleaguered Tigers, who had lost three straight conference games, roared back with an impressive 31-10 romp at North Carolina State last Thursday night. It snapped a six-game losing streak in Thursday night games, but it came at a price: Sensational freshman James Davis
, who rushed for 143 yards on 12 carries (the most yards by a Clemson tailback in five years), fractured his left wrist in the third quarter. Davis underwent surgery Friday and is expected to miss a month. ''You're going to lose right now our biggest weapon back there," said Bowden. ''That's the most productive we've had a guy rush since I've been here. We're going to miss that."
On the fast trackO. Bruton Smith
, chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc.
, reportedly has offered Tennessee and Virginia Tech $20 million each to play a football game next year or in 2007 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, a 160,000-seat racetrack. ''If we lose some money, we lose some money," Smith told the Richmond (Va.) Times Dispatch. ''I'm committed to try and do this. They all like money, that's the reason I put it out there. It's a challenge to them. Let's make it happen." . . . When North Carolina State's penalty-prone team made its ''Walk of Champions" through the crowd into Carter-Finley Stadium for the game against Clemson, one fan tossed a yellow flag in the Wolfpack's
path. For the record, North Carolina State was penalized 8 times for 42 yards against Clemson, well below its average of 80 yards . . . The state of college football in North Carolina seems to be, well, sorry. North Carolina State (2-3), North Carolina (2-3), Wake Forest (2-5) and Duke (1-6) are a combined 7-17. Contrast that with the prosperity in Los Angeles, where top-ranked Southern Cal (unbeaten in 28 games) and UCLA (6-0) are a combined 12-0. If you factor in Stanford (3-2) and California (5-2), the California record is 20-4.
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