A lot of the lessons are tough ones to swallow. For example, here’s a crash course:
One, history tends to repeat itself (particularly in the event of an ACC championship game). Two, curb your excitement over a late lead until [insert ACC powerhouse here] is done clawing its way back from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
But sometimes, you learn a lesson that’s actually worth learning, like this one: Being picked to finish in the cellar of the Atlantic Division is almost a sure-fire way to guarantee the Eagles will find a way to make magic happen.
The fourth quarter of Saturday’s matchup against Florida State was a nice little combo of all three tenets.
Hours before kickoff on Saturday, you’d be hard-pressed to find a BC fan who could honestly, sincerely say he expected the Eagles to win. After all, everyone knows bad things happen when FSU comes to town. Heartbreaking things happen, things that make you want to hibernate until the end of Bowl season.
The last time Kirk Herbstreit and his College GameDay cohorts set up shop in Chestnut Hill was for BC’s inaugural ACC matchup in 2005. The big bad Seminoles headed north to show the Eagles what ACC football tasted like.
Of course, in typical Tom O’Brien fashion, the Eagles choked in a bad, bad way. BC needed just five minutes to dig itself into a 14-0 hole, thanks to an opening-drive pick-six and a subsequent 20-yard touchdown bomb. Then, BC held the Seminoles scoreless for the next 39:16 as they put two TDs and a field goal up on the board.
Then, all hell broke loose in the fourth quarter as FSU not only crawled back into a 21-17 lead, but put forth one of the most notoriously painful goal-line stands in BC history. With just under three minutes remaining, Matt Ryan’s Eagles – Matt Ryan’s Eagles – faced first-and-goal at the 2-yard line and had six penalty-assisted chances to score. They couldn’t do it. Game over.
The next time FSU came to town, the Eagles had a pristine 8-0 record, a nifty No. 2 national ranking to go along with it, and the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy taking the snaps. They were in contention for the national title game — yes, BC — and it was November.
One quarter and one torrential downpour later, it was a different story.
Flash forward to 2009: College GameDay was in town. BC and FSU were both looking to make a statement, and it seemed like the Eagles were going to get the last word. They held a slimmer-than-it-seemed 21-6 lead that suddenly shrunk to an uncomfortable 21-13 margin as time ticked off the clock in the third quarter. In the fourth, FSU needed just 2:58 to string together a seven-play, 78-yard touchdown drive to claw within two before knotting the score with a two-point conversion. The Eagles had already lost their lead, their momentum, their dignity — and that was before Jeff Smith fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Seminoles a perfect opportunity to take the lead with a drive that began 29 yards out of the end zone.
College GameDay. FSU. A debilitating fourth-quarter choke job. Rule No. 1: History repeats itself. Rule No. 2: A 14-point lead needs less than six minutes to evaporate.
But then, something strange happened. The Eagles defense — perhaps aided by a couple of calm, collected, obscenity-free motivational speeches from Mark Herzlich — stood strong. It forced the Seminoles into a 37-yard field goal attempt — and they missed it.
The turning point.
Somehow, the offensive line rediscovered its 2008 form. Scratch that — it rediscovered its vintage 2007 form, the Matty Ice-glory-days form. It started throwing perfect blocks for Montel Harris, blocks so perfect that he found a hole that led to a 42-yard touchdown run. When BC went up 28-21, there were four minutes left in the game, but everyone knew FSU was not coming back.
The Eagles of the past made a habit out of losing to Florida State at home, whether they had a two-touchdown lead, an 8-0 record or a future NFL Rookie of the Year quarterback. The Eagles of the past would’ve let the momentum swing so far out of control that their 21-6 lead would have become a 28-21 loss without a second thought. Nobody would have been surprised in the least.
But somehow, these Eagles won … with their rookie quarterback, tiny running backs, dilapidated front seven and all.
Yes, it’s only October. Yes, there is plenty of time for BC to collapse. But right now, BC is the only team in the division with four wins and one loss. And right now — just for right now — maybe there doesn’t need to be anything more to it.
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