In their final game as collegians, Matt Ryan tossed three touchdown passes and Jamie Silva had a pair of interceptions to lead BC to a 24-21 win over Michigan State at the Florida Citrus Bowl stadium in Orlando.
Led by the senior stars, the Eagles (11-3) extended the nation’s longest bowl-winning streak to eight games, but it wasn’t easy.
“I think we started out a little rusty, but our guys fought and played well together,” said BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski following the game.
Michigan State (7-6) took an early lead over BC and then twice had the ball and a chance to take the lead or tie the game late in the fourth quarter. But the Eagles defense stepped up on the Spartans’ final two drives.
The Eagles forced the Spartans to punt the ball away on MSU’s first attempt to mount a go-ahead drive, and then safety Paul Anderson effectively wrapped up BC’s win on the final Spartan drive when he stepped in front of a Brian Hoyer pass for an interception in Michigan State territory.
BC took a 24-13 lead early in the fourth quarter on the strength of a spectacular 68-yard touchdown strike from Ryan to Rich Gunnell. Ryan accounted for all three of BC’s touchdowns, hitting Jon Loyte from one yard out in the first quarter and finding Gunnell in the second quarter behind the MSU secondary for a 29-yard touchdown.
“We knew coming into the game we wanted to take some chances deep,” said Ryan after the game. “We knew we had a chance to get one-on-one coverage. (The fourth quarter touchdown) was all Rich; he really made a good play on that particular pass.”
BC appeared to be in control following the final Gunnell touchdown, but Ryan fumbled on a hit by Greg Jones and the Spartans recovered. MSU’s Hoyer then made his two best throws of the night on a 14-yard touchdown to Deon Curry in the back of the end zone and a two-point conversion to Kellen Davis to bring the Spartans with three. But that was as close as they would come.
BC’s outgoing senior class finished with 39 wins during the last four seasons, the best four-year stretch in Eagle football history. The class put its stamp on this game as well. Beyond Ryan’s three TDs, Silva had two interceptions, including one in the BC end zone to thwart MSU’s early bid to go up by two scores. Silva and fellow senior JoLonn Dunbar combined for 17 tackles on the night. Punter Johnny Ayers also got into the act when he shook off an early shank that led to an MSU score to boom two punts that pinned the Spartans inside their own 10-yard line on their last two drives and set up the final BC defensive heroics.
“(The seniors) are going to be sorely missed as football players, and more so as BC guys,” said Jagodzinski.