Commentary

Noles end Boston College's dream start to season

Updated: November 5, 2007, 1:33 PM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Boston College trailed Florida State by a field goal with less than two minutes to play Saturday night at Alumni Stadium.

The No. 2 Eagles had the football, and quarterback Matt Ryan had it in his hands with a chance to win the game for the second week in a row.

"We had a chance," Eagles free safety Jamie Silva said. "It's exciting to see the ball in Matt's hands, seeing what he did last week and what he's done in the past. … When he took the field, I said, 'Here we go.'"

Instead, there went Boston College's national championship hopes and Ryan's chances of winning the Heisman Trophy. On second-and-7 from the BC 33, Ryan dropped and threw to the left side for tight end Ryan Purvis. Seminoles linebacker Geno Hayes jumped the route and wrested the football from Purvis' hands for an interception. Hayes returned it 38 yards for a touchdown and a 10-point lead with 1:10 to play.

The Seminoles held on for a 27-17 victory, stunning much of the crowd of 40,065 fans, most of whom came to Alumni Stadium expecting to see the Eagles improve to 9-0 in their magical season.

Instead, with one mad dash to the maroon end zone, Hayes shattered Boston College's dreams of playing in the BCS National Championship Game. With the Eagles and No. 4 Arizona State losing Saturday, there are only three unbeaten teams left in major college football: No. 1 Ohio State, No. 8 Kansas and No. 14 Hawaii.

[+] EnlargeDrew Weatherford
Elsa/Getty ImagesNoles QB Drew Weatherford orchestrated Florida State's biggest win in seven years.

Boston College's unbeaten season wasn't supposed to end this way. Not when the Eagles had the football in Ryan's hands again.

Nine days earlier, at Virginia Tech on another rain-soaked night, Ryan elevated himself to the top of a lot of Heisman Trophy ballots by throwing two touchdowns in the final 2:11 to stun the Hokies 14-10 at Lane Stadium. Ryan displayed pinpoint precision and swift decision-making in the Eagles' final two drives in that game, a victory that kept Boston College undefeated.

"I thought we had a real good chance," Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski said. "I thought we were going to go down there and score, and it just didn't work out that way."

Perhaps there shouldn't have been much surprise at the way things ended. After all, Boston College and Florida State had reversed roles coming into the game. The Seminoles won two national championship in the 1990s but hadn't won much of anything in the new millennium. The Eagles hadn't been 8-0 since 1942 and had never been ranked as high as second in the BCS standings.

The Seminoles were reduced to an underdog and ended up spoiling more than a broken icebox.

"How long has it been since we beat a No. 2 team?" Florida State coach Bobby Bowden asked. "It's been quite a while. We're trying to get back to where we were."

The Seminoles hadn't beaten a No. 2 team since they defeated Virginia Tech and Michael Vick 46-29 in the 2000 Sugar Bowl, a game that won them their latest national championship. FSU hadn't beaten a top-five opponent in the regular season since 2000, the last time the Noles were even in the national title discussion.

"It's definitely a step in the right direction," Bowden said of beating the Eagles. "There's no way you can look at a win over a No. 2 team and say it's not a step in the right direction. Who knows what's going to happen next? We're really about to play the toughest part of our schedule."

So are the Eagles, who play their next two games at Maryland and at Clemson before finishing the regular season at home against Miami on Nov. 24. Boston College still has a one-game lead over Clemson and defending ACC champion Wake Forest in the Atlantic Division standings.

The Seminoles, who still must play road games at Virginia Tech and at defending national champion Florida, are two games behind the Eagles in the division standings.

"This win means a lot," FSU receiver Preston Parker said. "It gives us a lot of confidence. It makes everybody happy and makes everyone want to win more."

[+] EnlargeMatt Ryan
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireMatt Ryan watched his BCS national championship and Heisman hopes fade away Saturday night.

The Seminoles have a chance to win again because junior quarterback Drew Weatherford is playing well enough to win. Weatherford, who lost his starting job to junior Xavier Lee before winning it back two weeks ago, completed 29 of 45 passes for 354 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Weatherford wasn't looking over his shoulder, either, as Lee was suspended for two games this week for what Bowden called a violation of team rules.

Weatherford threw a 42-yard touchdown to senior De'Cody Fagg that put the Seminoles ahead 20-10 with 8:11 left to play.

"He's relaxed and playing well, and he and I are on the same page more," said FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher. "There are a lot of options in our offense. He's doing things on his own and trusting his instincts. He's playing with his guts and heart and isn't overthinking things."

The Seminoles' speedy defense had Ryan thinking a lot Saturday night. The senior from Philadelphia threw for 415 yards and two touchdowns, but he also was intercepted three times in 53 pass attempts.

Ryan threw an interception at Florida State's 2-yard line late in the first quarter, then threw another one at the FSU 34 with 8:13 to go in the third quarter.

But the interception Hayes returned for a touchdown was the one that really hurt.

"I dropped back, had a crossing route underneath and made a poor throw on it," Ryan said. "I thought I could have been there if I had a good throw, but there wasn't much down the field with a lot of guys backing into coverage. I just really didn't make a good throw, and consequently it was intercepted and taken back for a touchdown."

Boston College was only 2-for-4 in red zone opportunities. After the Seminoles went ahead 13-7 with about 11½ minutes to play, the Eagles had first-and-goal at the FSU 6 and seemed poised to take the lead.

But a false-start penalty backed up Boston College to the 11, then Ryan was penalized twice for illegal forward passes because he threw the football beyond the line of scrimmage. Those mistakes moved the Eagles back to the FSU 18, where they settled for Steve Aponavicius' 35-yard field goal to make it 13-10 with less than nine minutes left.

"We were able to get in the red zone and move the ball pretty good," Ryan said. "We just left it down there, and it hurt. We were never able to punch the ball in with some good opportunities. It's all forgot if you can't put it in the end zone."

And the Eagles can forget about their BCS championship hopes now, too.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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