Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe

With broken foot, Ryan able to toe the line

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The previous three hours and one minute had been part awe-inspiring, part football purgatory.

Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan had brilliant moments during the Eagles' 25-24 victory over Navy in yesterday's Meineke Car Care Bowl: scrambling, showing moxie, making big plays despite a bothersome broken bone in his foot. But at other times, Ryan was careless and baffling, throwing two crucial interceptions, including one on the Navy 1-yard line.

Then, with 1:43 showing on the Bank of America Stadium scoreboards, BC needed to gain enough yardage to make reserve kicker Steve Aponavicius comfortable enough to boot the game-winner.

With no timeouts left, Ryan calmly trotted to the huddle, hurled two perfect passes to get BC to the Navy 21, and managed the clock perfectly so Aponavicius could split the uprights with no time remaining.

Matt Ryan: Masterful when it mattered -- again.

"If you follow his career, he has a knack for doing just that," BC offensive coordinator Dana Bible said. "The earlier interceptions didn't matter. When the crowd is roaring and the band is playing and the temperature rises, that's when Matt oftentimes plays his very best football. Believe me: Boston College has the right guy under center in those situations. Make no mistake about it."

Ryan missed on just nine of his 29 passes and finished with 242 yards. The 6-foot-6-inch, 218-pound junior also ran for a first-quarter touchdown, his fourth of the season, on a rugged dive for the end zone.

"I didn't play great," Ryan said, shrugging his shoulders. "With two interceptions, I thought I made pretty bad mistakes. Overall, though, we had enough to win. And that's what it usually boils down to."

The drive of the game began just after the BC defense induced Navy to fumble, giving the Eagles the ball at the Midshipmen 40. Ryan first hit running back Andre Callender for a 4-yard gain. He then hurried BC to the line, stood tall in the pocket, and found tight end Ryan Purvis across the middle for a 15-yard gain to the Navy 21 .

Surprisingly, the Eagles executed two running plays, likely causing BC fans to get nervous as Ryan hustled to get the Eagles lined up before spiking the ball with three seconds showing. After Aponavicius made the kick, Ryan ran and jumped atop BC graduate assistant Jay Civetti.

"He's the best," BC interim head coach Frank Spaziani said of Ryan. "Playing with a broken [foot] and achieving what he has, he's just tremendous. He's a great leader. He has the respect of everybody in the program. He's a key factor to our program.

"He knew what we needed on that drive, and he gave it to us. We wouldn't be here without him."

The 2006 Meineke Car Care Bowl likely will be remembered for Aponavicius stepping forth and making a big-time kick with first-string kicker Ryan Ohliger back in Chestnut Hill on suspension. But Ryan knows his poise during clutch moments of this game also could draw notice.

"That's exciting," Ryan said. "But, obviously, the best way to get personal accolades is to win games.

"Next year, the focus is going to be on winning the ACC and going to a BCS bowl game. It's going to be fun working for that goal next year, and I look forward to the challenge."

For now, though, Ryan will prepare for surgery Friday on his foot. As he's recovering, he said he won't celebrate the fact that the Eagles won 10 games for just the third time in school history or that they still have the nation's longest bowl winning streak.

"All that stuff is great," he said. "But considering our circumstances of the past three or four weeks, to get this win like this is really special -- for the coaches and the players. All that we've been through, to come out and win the game the way we did, this is something I'll always remember."

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives