|Kevin Patterson takes off with a BC fumble, one of two turnovers Wake Forest turned into touchdowns. (Lauren Carroll/Associated Press)|
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - So many things had happened in such a short time that Boston College quarterback Dominique Davis was still trying to process not only what to do, but how to do it.
Until midway through the second quarter of yesterday's Atlantic Coast Conference showdown with Wake Forest, Davis was secure in his role as backup to Chris Crane.
A planned rotation of some meaningful playing time for the 6-foot-4-inch redshirt freshman had stopped in September as BC went after its quest for a second consecutive ACC Atlantic Division title with Crane, the fifth-year senior who was also still learning how to do his job.
But, now BC had to deal with a crack in the master plan when Crane was tackled on a scramble and Wake Forest defensive end Antonio Wilson and linebacker Aaron Curry came crashing down on Crane's right shoulder, fracturing his collarbone.
"I was shocked and overwhelmed," said Davis, who looked that way for a good por tion of a game in which two of his fumbles were returned for touchdowns.
Still, Davis never flinched, never wavered, and what was looking like a nightmare ending to BC's day - and season, in terms of title aspirations - turned into one of the most dramatic moments in recent BC history. Davis (13 for 23, 103 yards) led a game-winning drive that turned a 21-16 Wake Forest lead into a 24-21 BC victory, scoring on a 1-yard sneak with 1:12 left.
That elevated next week's regular-season finale against Maryland at Alumni Stadium to a divisional championship showdown. A BC victory will send the Eagles into the ACC title game in Tampa, Fla., Dec. 6.
"You haven't done it until you've done it," said BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski, who could only watch in frustration as the Eagles appeared on the verge of squandering one of their best defensive efforts. "It's a heck of a way to start a career."
Since Crane will be out for at least six weeks, Davis's career has indeed begun.
Until Crane was injured, the Eagles seemed focused on the task at hand: take care of business this week so they could move on to what BC linebacker Mark Herzlich called the "championship round" next week.
As usual, the defense was leading the charge as the Eagles dominated, parlaying a pair of Steve Aponavicius field goals and a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown by Herzlich into a 13-0 lead. It was the first of two interceptions by Herzlich, who had another monster game.
The Eagles' enthusiasm was tempered by Crane's injury. But BC closed ranks, with the defense leading the way and Davis thrust into managing an offense that became more conservative as the game progressed.
The Eagles were tested in the final four minutes of the second quarter when Davis, running a keeper, was hit by Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith. The ball was recovered by strong safety Kevin Patterson, who rumbled into the end zone for a touchdown, cutting the BC lead to 13-7.
Suddenly, a game the Eagles had clearly controlled was turning against them.
But the defense came up big again. In the final minute of the first half, Herzlich intercepted his second pass of the game, putting the Eagles inside the Wake Forest 20. Aponavicius kicked his third field goal to give BC a 16-7 lead as the half ended.
With the 9-point cushion, the defense's role was clear: preserve and protect the lead.
It was a tough task. Less than a minute into the third quarter, Davis fumbled again as he was hit on a full blitz by cornerback Brandon Ghee. The ball was picked up at the BC 3 by defensive end Kyle
In the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, Wake Forest linebacker Gelo Orange blocked a Ryan Quigley punt, which gave the Deacons first and goal at the BC 1 on what Herzlich said was his blown assignment. On the next play, Riley Skinner threw a 1-yard TD pass to Rich Belton and Wake Forest had the lead for the first time at 21-16.
Now it was desperation time. Amazingly, Wake Forest had under 200 yards in total offense, with only one gift offensive touchdown, and seemed about to win the game.
"I was taking it personally because I had blown an assignment [on the blocked punt]," said Herzlich.
With 4:57 left and following a rare missed field goal kicker Sam Swank, who was coming off a six-game layoff because of a strained quadriceps, the Eagles and Davis had one final chance to save their title hopes.
Taking over at their 30, Davis and the offense had to find a way to put together a game-winning and season-saving drive.
"It was a sense-of-urgency possession," said Davis, who completed a 36-yard, third-down pass to Rich Gunnell that gave the Eagles a first down at the Wake 22, then hitting Brandon Robinson, who was dragged down at the 1.
On the next play, Davis sneaked in for the TD. When Montel Harris ran in the 2-point conversion, BC had the lead and an amazing win.
"The guys found a way at the end," said Jagodzinski, shaking his head in amazement. "They made the play at the end and they found a way to win."