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Toal steps in just in the nick of time

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. -- After he sat out spring drills nursing a pinched nerve in his neck and left shoulder, Brian Toal was eager to get going again. And, in last night's 34-21 season-opening victory at Central Michigan, Toal did precisely that as his return loomed large for the Eagles.

``I felt the edge was back," Toal said. ``I was ready to go and I haven't been this excited for a game in a long time, but I didn't feel like I played great. It just felt good to seal the game with the interception."

The junior linebacker, who also doubles as BC's short-yardage back, tallied BC's first touchdown of the season in the second quarter to break a 3-3 tie. And, when the Chippewas threatened to tie the game after rallying for 14 fourth-quarter points, Toal intercepted a Dan LeFevour pass at the BC 16 with 1:23 left to secure the victory.

``I think they had three eligible receivers to me, Jamie Silva's side and the boundary corner," Toal said of CMU's gadget play. ``We stayed calm under the pressure, because it's something we had never seen before, it's something we don't practice, so we just stayed calm and we got some pressure from Austin Giles, I think, and forced the quarterback out of the pocket and forced him into a bad throw.

``I just happened to be standing there and it felt good to seal the game. It was a big sigh of relief because no one played the way they should have, especially me. I felt I could've played a lot better, but we'll take the win, but it wasn't pretty."

Booth review from QB
Former BC quarterback Doug Flutie was accustomed to treating Eagles fans to many thrills, but last night in his ESPN debut as a college football analyst, the Eagles turned the tables on Flutie. The Heisman Trophy winner was on the edge of his seat in the booth, which he shared with John Saunders and Craig James.

``It was fun for me to be here to see Billy's first game and to see him on the sideline," Flutie said, referring to his nephew, Billy Flutie, a BC freshman quarterback/punter. ``That was the thrill for me.

``I'll tell you what, they made it interesting. We wanted a good game and they gave it to us. It's a win and you move on. From our standpoint, it kept the game exciting and it kept it close."

Was it tough keeping his allegiance to his alma mater in check? ``No, not at all," Flutie said. ``I really felt like I was just doing two teams, doing a game. Other than the fact I know these guys really well, for me to do my first game, it made it easier for me because I know this team and I know the kids. As far as being impartial, I was just trying to talk situational, and plays and coverage."

Flutie said he won't see BC again until the season finale at Miami Thanksgiving Day.

They needed a win
So why did Boston College schedule this game? Why were the Eagles put at risk in last night's season opener at Central Michigan? On the face of it, BC faced what appeared to be a no-win situation: Lose and, well, the Eagles might as well walk back to Chestnut Hill; win, and it better be by a large margin.

Again, the question: Why did BC have to go to such great lengths -- chartering a flight to East Lansing, Mich., Wednesday night, then practicing at Michigan State's facilities yesterday morning before taking an hour bus ride north on US 127 four hours before last night's game -- to play its first game of the season at Kelly/Shorts Stadium?

Why go through the hassle of scheduling a road game against a Mid-American Conference opponent?

Ostensibly, it was to give BC a much-needed 12th game, but, in reality, it was a way to schedule an easy W.

According to coach Tom O'Brien, the Eagles had initially intended to schedule Kent State as a way to take the 10 Ohioans on the roster back home for a game. Kent State, however, backed out. The Eagles then looked to Ohio University in Athens, but Bobcats coach Frank Solich wanted no part of a game against BC.

And so, in desperate need of scheduling a 12th game, BC found Central Michigan was a willing dance partner. Only, the Chippewas were going to host the game and use it as a launching point to their season.

``We can't go out and buy four home games like some other teams do," O'Brien said, referring to the practice of some higher-profile teams. ``We can't do that."

BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo said before the game Central Michigan would return the game at a future date and that the MAC would also send another team (of BC's choosing) to Chestnut Hill, giving BC in effect a 2-for-1 deal.

Rolling a 300
Matt Ryan's 300-plus-yard passing effort was the first of his BC career. His three touchdowns (one was actually a fumbled reception by L.V. Whitworth that was advanced by tight end Ryan Purvis) also matched his single-game high. ``He played under control, played sound, solid decision-making football and threw the ball extremely well," Flutie said. ``I thought he played great." . . . Junior kicker Ryan Ohliger converted 1 of 2 field goals, making his first from 44 yards (the second longest of his career) and missing from 42 yards when it struck the left upright . . . BC improved to 7-3 in its 10 openers under O'Brien (4-2 on the road) . . . BC's offensive line seemed to keep in check defensive end Dan Bazuin, Central Michigan's preseason All- American who was held to five tackles, including one for a loss of 2 yards . . . Jolonn Dunbar led the Eagles with eight tackles, the first of which knocked CMU starting quarterback Brian Brunner out of the game. Jamie Silva was credited with a sack while defensive ends Austin Giles and Nick Larkin each shared in another.

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