The man at the forefront of the win was a familiar hero for BC fans. Matt Ryan, who was reported earlier this week to be out with a left foot injury he suffered against Virginia Tech last Thursday, hobbled around with boot-like cleats the whole afternoon and threw for 261 yards. The fierce and immensely talented FSU defenders were physical with Ryan all afternoon, but he stuck his chin out and found the narrow seams in their defense to put the Eagles in position to win their most difficult road game of the year.
Ryan’s grit and leadership was the story of the afternoon, but BC could not have been victorious without a handful of big plays by the defense. The first came with 8:27 left in the second quarter, when both sides were struggling to find some kind of offensive rhythm and a Gary Cismesia 28-yard field goal had provided the only mark on the scoreboard. On 3rd-and-10 at the Seminoles 10, Brian Toal stood up FSU receiver J.R. Bryant two yards shy of the first-down marker while cornerback Sulaiman Sanni wrestled the ball loose. True freshman Wes Davis scooped up the fumble and returned it to the 1-yard line, setting up Toal, BC’s short-yardage closer, for his team-best fifth touchdown of the year.
With just half-a-minute left in the first half and BC enjoying a 14-10 lead following a five-yard L.V. Whitworth touchdown, junior corner Dejuan Tribble read Drew Weatherford like a book and picked off a pass intended for Greg Carr on the sideline. With no one between him and the end zone, Tribble sprinted 36 yards untouched for six points and the Eagles went into the locker room with an 11-point advantage.
The lead grew to 14 when fan-turned-kicker Steve Aponavicius connected from 26 yards out after Ryan hit Brandon Robinson 44 yards downfield to get into his range. The field goal was his third in as many tries this season (all in the third quarter) since becoming the starter last week. On the Eagles’ next possession, Ryan looked like he was in put-this-baby-out-of-reach mode. The drive was set in motion when, on 3rd-and-nine, Ryan stood his ground in his own end zone as linebacker Lawrence Timmons was lining up a ferocious hit. Ryan let a pass go just before Timmons unloaded and watched from the ground as the ball fell perfectly into the hands of senior receiver Tony Gonzalez, who took the ball all the way to the FSU 49-yard line.
But the drive came to an end three plays later and the game took a Seminole-friendly turn when Ryan Purvis, Ryan’s tight-end target of choice, was stripped by Buster Davis two yards past the first-down marker. Ryan had done his job, having hit Purvis for the first on 3rd-and-six, but the sophomore tight end was too careless with the ball in the presence of a Butkus Award semifinalist.
The turnover swapped momentum to the Florida State side and Weatherford started to catch fire. Five-straight completions highlighted an efficient, nine-play, 2:17 drive that ended with a one-yard lunge by Weatherford into BC’s end zone, shrinking the lead to a touchdown. When the ‘Noles got the ball back quicker than the Eagles would have liked (BC’s offense was unable to get anything going and were forced to punt from their own 40), they let hot-handed Weatherford march down the field with an impressive air attack.
But this time, the drive took too much time off the clock and FSU was left with just one option when the drive stalled nine-yards away from the end zone. On 4th-and-four and just a minute-and-a-half left in the game, the Seminoles were forced to go for it and the Eagles’ D was ready. A short pass over the middle by Weatherford was knocked down and BC’s lead stayed in tact.
The Seminoles’ two remaining timeouts, however, meant that the game wasn’t over. A three-and-out and an intentional safety by punter Johnny Ayers (Tom O’Brien was looking to take more time off the clock and give FSU a longer trip to the end zone) gave Weatherford the slightest of chances to steal a win with 10 seconds to go and the ball at his own 45-yard line.
After advancing to the BC 42, Weatherford hurled the ball optimistically toward the end zone as the clock bottomed out. Considering the height of the Seminole receiving corps (Carr is 6’6”) and the lack of height in the Eagle secondary (Tribble, who was covering Carr, is 5’9”), Weatherford’s slim shot at a win was growing exponentially as the ball soared across the goal line. But BC had the benefit of man power, and Carr couldn’t come down with it amid half-a-dozen leaping Eagles. Anam secured the ball with two hands - despite a desperate attempt by Carr to wriggle it into his possession – and the interception secured the victory.