Eagles Hold Off Chippewas

Brian Toal

Matt Ryan set career highs in both passing yards (321) and completions (32) last night as Boston College hung on for a win at Central Michigan. The Eagles were in complete control of the game until about halfway through the fourth quarter, when the Chippewas capitalized on a few mental lapses by BC.

The game bore a strong resemblance to the last game the Eagles played, a 27-21 win over Boise State in the 2005 MPC Computers Bowl. BC led the Broncos 27-0 at one point and had to come up with a turnover in the final minute to stave off a potentially epic comeback.

With just over 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter last night, Ryan connected with senior wide-out Tony Gonzalez for a 19-yard touchdown (on a leaping, foot-dragging catch in the right corner of the endzone) that put the Eagles up 31-10. With a three-score lead, a dominant defense to that point, and little time left, it looked like Ryan's night was over. The junior quarterback and captain had been limping with an ankle injury that he suffered early in the game and replaced his helmet with a baseball cap as his backup, sophomore Chris Crane, began to warmup.

But the Chips weren't done. Freshman quarterback Dan LeFevour answered right back with an 87-yard drive, aided by a 12-yard pass-interference penalty by BC's Tyronne Pruitt and capped off by LeFevour's one-yard TD-run just 1:43 after Ryan's score. LeFevour entered the game after a nasty hit by Jolonn Dunbar sent CMU's starting quarterback, Brian Brunner, to the sideline on the second play of the game.

Now with just a two-possession lead, BC head coach Tom O'Brien had no choice but to send the hobbled Ryan back onto the field. But Ryan went 0-2 and the offense went three-and-out after eating up just 1:15 of clock time.

Three plays later, LeFevour, who finished with 223 yards through the air, hit Obed Cetoute 60 yards downfield to get to the Eagles' 23-yard line. The play set up another LeFevour touchdown run, this one on fourth-and-goal from the two-yard line. LeFevour had a game-high 71 yards rushing.

Another crucial penalty – this time a 15-yard personal foul on B.J. Raji, who was ejected for punching a CMU player after the touchdown – allowed the Broncos to pin the Eagles deep in their own zone on the ensuing kickoff. Another three-and-out by BC's offense gave the ball back to LeFevour on the Eagles' 45 with 1:54 left on the clock and all the momentum in the world.

Two plays later, however, CMU head coach Brian Kelly made the most questionable call of the night. After an 11-yard run by LeFevour (who else?) to get the Broncos a first down on the 34-yard line, Kelly called for his tight-end to snap the ball to LeFevour while the entire offensive line stayed down in their stance for the entirety of the play on the other side of the field. That gave the Eagles' defense a five-man advantage, which allowed junior linebacker Brian Toal to pick off an errant pass. With just a minute to go and no timeouts left for Central Michigan, the interception sealed the victory for the Eagles.

Ryan completed passes to 11 different receivers. Gonzalez hauled in five for 65 yards, highlighted by a fully extended, 27-yard diving catch on the CMU one-yard line that set up the Eagles' first touchdown. Along with junior Kevin Challenger, BC's starting receivers combined for 11 catches and 127 yards.

In an attempt to avoid CMU's best player on defense - preseason All-American defensive end and expert run-stopper Dan Bazuin - BC offensive coordinator Dana Bible called 48 passing plays, compared to just 32 rushes. The normally run-heavy Eagles' offense had just 84 yards on the ground. They did, however, get a rushing TD from Toal, who led the Eagles last season with six.

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