Annual Game Ends Spring Practice

Matt Ryan

The 2007 Eagles put their skills on display Saturday for the annual Boston College Jay McGillis Spring Game. The scoring system might have been a little out-of-whack, but fans present at Alumni Stadium got a taste of what's to come in the fall.

Quarterback Matt Ryan, who will be returning as captain, led the offense with 233 passing yards and a touchdown. Ryan didn't take long to strike deep: He connected with sophomore receiver Clarence Megwa for a 59-yard TD on the fourth play of the game.

"Any time you're a quarterback and coach says he wants to throw the ball downfield a little bit, your eyes light up," Ryan said on the field afterwards while fielding autographs for his many young fans. "We've got quality receivers and a really good offensive line and I think we're capable of doing that, so I'm excited for next year."

Senior B.J. Raji, an anchor on the interior of the defensive line for the past two seasons, collected seven tackles and looked like he was in mid-season form. Jamie Silva led the D with nine tackles from his familiar free-safety spot, while Robert Francois, a junior filling in for the sidelined Brian Toal, swept to the sidelines for seven take-downs of his own. Allan Smith, a sophomore defensive end playing on the second team, notched a couple of sacks in the second half.

"It felt good out there, a lot of guys played really well," said Jolonn Dunbar, returning senior linebacker and captain. "Smith looked good, he's definitely capable of doing that [during the season]."

With the offense (wearing maroon jerseys) pitted against the defense (white), points were earned in a non-traditional sense. In addition to touchdowns and field goals, the offense could score by converting a first down (1 point) or gaining more than 30 yards on a play (2). The defense scored a point every time it forced a punt, two for forcing a three-and-out, and three for forcing a turnover.

It became evident in the first half that the unique point system gave the offense an advantage. In order to get on the scoreboard, the defense would have to stop Ryan and junior back-up Chris Crane (108 yards), which proved difficult early on. After two touchdowns on the first two possessions, the offense led 19-0. DeJuan Tribble made the D's first mark on the following trip down the field when he made a diving, twisting pick on a long Ryan pass intended for Rich Gunnell.

"I don't know who came up with that system, we couldn't get points for sacks," Tribble said light-heartedly. "I got my pick, though, it felt good."

The first half ended with the offense leading 29-4. In an effort to let the defense back in, Ryan and Crane gave way to the running backs. L.V. Whitworth (13 rushes for 29 yards) looked impressive moving to the sidelines, while Andre Callender, the other half of BC's senior running back tandem, burst through the seams several times to gather 67 yards on 18 carries.

Jeff Smith (29 yards), a sophomore who made a name for himself in the kick-returning game as a true freshman, saw a lot of time at tailback for the second team. Redshirt-freshman Bill Flutie was the ultimate utility man on Saturday. In addition to reeling in a 42-yard reception in the first quarter, he served as the team's punter for the first half (Johnny Ayers was busy playing baseball next door) and even punched in a 35-yard field goal.

There was a lot of talk this spring about how the offense would adapt to Jeff Jagodzinski, offensive coordinator Steve Logan, and their new playbook. Ryan and his line looked good on Saturday, but he admitted that a lot of work still needs to be done.

"As a quarterback you really have to know what you're doing," Ryan said. "It was paramount that I go in there and learn the offense and the verbage right away and know exactly what I'm talking about. But there's still some work to be done."

Protecting Ryan's blind side this season will be Gos Cherilus, who was also named captain. Many expect Cherilus to emerge as a nationally respected offensive tackle, but for now big #77 just needs to get comfortable with the new offensive line philosophy that Coach Jagz and Logan bring with them.

"We had to learn a whole new playbook," Cherilus said on the field, standing next to current NFL-ers and former Eagles Mathias Kiwanuka, Jeremy Trueblood, and Antonio Garay. "But we had a chance to have some extra meetings, extra practices, and everything. So after spring practice our whole line left a lot better."

Check back for more on the spring game this week, including position-by-position breakdowns.

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