Despite success, Knight overlooked

Originally Published: September 4, 2003
By Jorge Milian | Special to ESPN.com

Boston College tailback Derrick Knight rushed for 1,432 yards last season, more than any other returning player in the Big East.

But it was Kevin Jones of Virginia Tech and Miami's Frank Gore, who didn't even play last season, that were mentioned prior to the season as potential Heisman Trophy candidates.

"To come into the season and not be as highly publicized as I should have been, it just goes to show that some people still don't respect this program and what I can do," said Knight, a senior.

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  • Knight and his teammates may not have gotten the respect they deserve, but that's beginning to change thanks to games like the one he and his teammates had on Saturday at Penn State.

    Playing before the largest crowd in the Golden Eagles history, Boston College dominated the Nittany Lions, jumping out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead before pulling out of Beaver Stadium with a 27-14 victory.

    Knight looked like he was in for a short afternoon after injuring his right hip in the second quarter. But after undergoing X-rays that proved negative, Knight returned to rush for 134 of his 156 yards in the second half, helping the Eagles control the clock and the game.

    It marked the 10th time in 15 games that the 5-foot-9, 205-pound Knight has gone over 100 yards. He did it eight times last year while leading the Eagles (9-4) to their most successful season since 1993.

    "It was huge," Knight said of Saturday's victory. "A lot of the young guys grew up in that game. It sets the bar for this team. We did it. We went into, of all places, Penn State and beat the Nittany Lions on their own turf.

    "If we can do that, we can play with anyone in the country. It makes our confidence level soar."

    Boston College's confidence was anything but soaring a week ago after the Eagles blew a second-half lead in a 32-28 season-opening defeat to Wake Forest at home.

    Going to State College, Pa., seemed like a bad antidote for Boston College's blues. In 21 previous meetings with the Nittany Lions, BC had only won twice.

    But Penn State never had a chance. The Eagles were leading 21-0 just over seven minutes into the game and held on from there.

    Knight was limited to 22 yards on nine carries in the first half, before injuring his hip. Knight thought he was seriously hurt initially. "I was really worried," Knight said.

    But when the second half began, Knight was on the field.

    "I kind of forgot about it," said Knight, who ranks second in the Big East behind Syracuse's Walter Reyes with a 150-ypg rushing average. "I had my adrenaline pumping. All I was thinking about was getting first downs and keeping the clock running. I really lost track of my hip until after the game."

    With 300 yards in two games, Knight is well on his way to his second 1,000-yard season, which would mark the sixth consecutive year a BC running back has gone over 1,000 yards. Knight, who has 2,310 career rushing yards, is also closing in on Mike Cloud's school record of 3,597 rushing yards.

    Knight say those accomplishments are important to him, but adds he's chasing more team-oriented goals, specifically "to beat a couple of teams I've yet to beat -- Miami and Virginia Tech -- and to win a Big East championship."

    First, Knight has his attention on this Saturday's game against Connecticut in East Hartford. While the game may not mean a lot on a national basis, its a big deal in the New England. The Eagles and Huskies are the only schools in the region playing Division I-A football.

    Connecticut, which joins the Big East in 2003, has opened the season with lopsided wins against Indiana and Army and has won six games in a row dating back to last year. The Huskies gave BC a handful in last year's season opener before losing a 24-16 decision.

    BC will follow Saturday's game by hosting second-ranked Miami next week in a nationally-televised meeting in Chestnut Hill. If the Eagles are serious about winning their first Big East title, they'll likely have to knock off the Hurricanes for the first time since 1984.

    But Knight says he and his teammates aren't overlooking anyone.

    "In years past, it might have been easy to look ahead," Knight said. "But people were looking ahead to Penn State and Wake Forest came up and won the game. Guys are not taking this game too lightly. We'll focus on Connecticut this week then worry about the big boys coming in."

    Jorge Milian covers the Big East for the Palm Beach Post.