It was a good night to be a receiver, and Challenger was one of Matt Ryan's favorite targets. Challenger was a big part of the Eagles' first three touchdown drives, catching four passes for 49 yards. His 24-yard TD grab at the beginning of the fourth quarter capped off a time-consuming, 75-yard drive and gave BC a 14-point lead with just over 13 minutes to play. Challenger ended with a game-high six catches (he matched Central Michigan's Obed Cetoute and Ontario Sneed) for 61 yards. It was the Eagles' (and Ryan's) first game sans Larry Lester and Will Blackmon, so Challenger stepping up was a good sign for BC fans.
#4. WR Tony Gonzalez
He didn't have as many catches as Challenger (five), but led the receiving corps in yards (66) and style points. Gonzalez's 27-yard, full-extension-while-remaining-six-inches-off-the-ground catch in the second quarter – in between two defenders – got the offense down to the one-yard line and set up the first touchdown of the game. The catch was good enough to be the #3 play of the night on Sportscenter, which I believe prompted a quote about "player hating" from Stuart Scott. In the fourth quarter, Gonzalez made another highlight-reel-material catch (a toe-scraping, 19-yard TD in the right corner of the endzone) that put the Eagles up 31-10 and was ultimately the difference in the game.
#3. Head Coach Brian Kelly (CMU)
The two most significant plays of last Thursday night's game might have been the two questionable calls made by Kelly. After the Eagles had fought hard for an 80-yard TD drive (their first of the night), the Chips' offense stalled in their own territory and were left with a 4th-and-8 situation on the 27-yard line. Kelly, originally from Chelsea, Massachusetts and admittedly a former fan of the Eagles, decided to go for it. But the play he called – a pass to the right – seemed rushed and his daring proved detrimental. The pass was defended at the line and BC celebrated in the end zone four plays later. Then, with the Chips in the process of orchestrating a fourth-quarter comeback, Kelly called his now-infamous trick play (that apparently had been well-rehearsed). A little over a minute to go, first down on the Eagles' 34-yard line and all of CMU's offensive linemen lined up on the opposite hash mark and refused to move as quarterback Dan LeFevour tossed a game-clinching interception. Kelly said the bewildering formation could have been a big play or at least forced BC to call a timeout. But it only resulted in a victory for the Eagles.
#2. LB Brian Toal
Toal was the man on the receiving end of the wobbly pass thrown by LeFevour. With expectations for this season growing by the week, the junior linebacker didn't disappoint. He finished with seven tackles (second only to JoLonn Dunbar on the team), the clinching pick, and the requisite one-yard TD run (the cherry on top). Toal had a big game from every angle, despite the fact that CMU threw two blockers at him every time they ran a screen (he was able to break through a couple times). BC fans were glad to see that, when the game was in the balance, the proposed superstar acted like one and secured a challenging road victory.
#1. QB Matt Ryan
"Matty Ice" notched up another gutsy performance to add to his ever-growing legend. Ryan's usual, confident trot was impeded slightly by a noticeable limp after he sprained his ankle early in Thursday's game, but it didn't stop him from torching CMU for 323 yards and three touchdowns on his way to a 31-24 victory (giving him six straight wins as a starter). The injury was severe enough that it might keep him out of Saturday's game against Clemson (he's listed as questionable as of Monday night), which explains his cautious footwork around the Chips' pass rushers. But otherwise, Ryan looked unflustered and completed passes to 11 different receivers, proving that if you're on his offense, you're open, and you're not over 300 pounds, Ryan will get you the ball.