Things we learned: BC earned its way to a bowl

November 20, 2010 - 11:46 am
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It's been a challenging season for BC in every aspect, but the Eagles have continued to overcome even the greatest obstacles. Inspired by a power running attack and the last day at Alumni Stadium for seniors Mark Herzlich, Chris Fox, Mike Morrissey and Brad Newman, Boston College didn't allow a point in the second half and came from behind to beat Virginia, 17-13, Saturday in the team's final home game of the season. Virginia's Robert Randolph made a 27-yard field goal to give the Cavaliers the first lead of the game and a 40-yard kick to give Virginia (4-7, 1-6) a 13-10 halftime lead. He missed a fourth quarter attempt that could have put Virginia only a point behind the Eagles, forcing quarterback Marc Verica to throw against a tough BC secondary. Coach Frank Spaziani and the Eagles benefitted from a mistake-free day from quarterback Chase Rettig, a powerful running attack, and a fiery Mark Herzlich, winning the game on all sides of the ball. Nate Freese completed his only field goal attempt, a 23-yard kick, and both of his extra point attempts, making him 19-for-20 on PATs for the year. The win marks the 12th straight season of bowl eligibility for BC (6-5, 4-4), a feat made even more impressive in spite of a five-game losing streak that lasted from Sept. 25 to Oct. 30. The Eagles won their last game at Alumni to extend their current win streak to four straight games. The Eagles qualified for post season play even after suffering key injuries during the season, facing ongoing quarterback struggles, and starting many young players. This should be a sign of confidence for BC fans and coaches who are looking towards next year. Coach Spaziani has done a remarkable job of keeping players motivated and it shows in the results. The Eagles gained 370 yards of total offense and have held their last four opponents to fewer than 18 points. BC gave up 19 points or more in all of their five losses, including a 44-17 loss to NC State. Here are some other things we learned. Mark Herzlich inspires team in last game at Alumni Stadium Mark Herzlich's story is well known by college football fans. In 2008, the Wayne, Pa. native recorded 110 tackles, six interceptions, eight pass break-ups, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and two defensive touchdowns. He was named the 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and his future looked bright for the NFL. Soon after his junior campaign, he was diagnosed wtih Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. His story captured the nation's attention as he beat the cancer, helping to raise more than $200,000 for cancer research. Herzlich was awarded the honorary Lott Trophy. It was just the second time a the award had been handed out, the first being awarded to Pat Tillman. After 612 days and and ongoing treatments of chemotherapy, No. 94 returned to the field and recorded five tackles in limited action. With one collegiate game remaining, Herzlich has 54 tackles, three interceptions, and 3.5 tackles for a loss. The numbers are a far cry from his 2008 form, but his effect on the team has never been more evident. Linebackers Luke Kuechly and Kevin Pierre-Louis have flourished as underclassmen under the leadership of Herzlich, who has been the heart of the defense throughout his career. Against Virginia, Kuechly registered 15 tackles, his 20th straight game with 10 tackles or more, and Pierre-Louis registered 14 tackles. Herzlich's numbers have been down, but it is clear that BC's future stars have relied on his presence on the field. For the last time, Herzlich sprinted onto the field and pumped up the student section, prepared to give one more memorable performance at Alumni Stadium. Herzlich tallied 8 tackles, including one for a loss, forced a fumble, and intercepted a fourth quarter pass. It was his most impressive game of the season and each of his plays electrified the players and crowd in Chestnut Hill. Senior Day always signals the end of collegiate football or players each year, but Herzlich's farewell leaves a major void in the heart of the BC football team. Running game is still bread and butter for BC Montel Harris recorded his sixth straight 100-yard performance in typical fashion while continuing his assault on BC's record books. Harris carried the ball 24 times for 114 yards and a 4-yard touchdown that proved to be the winning score. With his performance, Harris reached 3,600 yards in his BC career to pass Mike Cloud (3,597) and Troy Stradford (3,604) to move to second on the all-time rushing list. He is only 125 yards short of  Derrick Knight for the BC all-time record. However, perhaps the game's only melancholy moment occurred when it was announced in the fourth quarter that Harris had suffered a left knee injury and would not return. Coach Spaziani confirmed that Harris will have an MRI on the injured knee to determine the extent of the injury. True freshman running back Andre Williams thrived in an increased role and ran for 108 yards on 12 carries, including a 59-yard run that set up Harris' winning score. It was the first time since Nov. 11, 2006 against Duke that two Boston College running backs rushed for over 100 yards. Chase Rettig can manage a game...and perhaps a little bit more It took most of the season and countless weeks of uncertainty, but the Eagles finally seem to have an answer at quarterback for the future. Chase Rettig was not even expected to play this year, but instead of redshirting the freshman, Coach Spaziani decided to start the untested quarterback against Notre Dame in Week 4. He went 5-for-10 attempts that game with 72 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown pass to Bobby Swigert. Last week aganst Duke, Rettig recorded his best game, completing 12-of-24 passes for 230 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. On Saturday, Rettig handled his duties well, played mostly mistake-free football, and put the running game in posistion to control the tempo. He went 10-for-19 attempts with 152 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He also showed some flair, throwing a perfectly placed 39-yard touchdown pass to Alex Amidon, who made a difficult catch between two Virginia defenders. Rettig seems to be growing in his role at quarterback and his progression will only improve with more experience. Late in the first half, Rettig led the BC offense on a 6-play, 96-yard drive that lasted only 56 seconds. 79 of those yards were gained by the running backs, but Rettig calmly got the Eagles out of their own 20-yard line with a 17-yard pass to Chris Pantale. With a talented running game and numerous targets, the freshman could be the answer to BC's struggles. Big play defense blanks Virginia in second half Trailing at halftime, the defense allowed no points in the second half, none bigger than a 3rd-and-goal stop in the fourth quarter. Pierre-Louis and Fox knocked Dontrelle Inman out of the end zone to stop a potential touchdown. Randolph missed the 25-yard field goal on the very next play. Herzlich was all over the field, creating high energy plays that shifted the momentum in BC's favor. His interception stopped another Virginia drive as they were entering BC territory in the second half. With 1:12 left in the game, the defense refused to let Verica and the Cavaliers reach the end zone. The game's final play ended on a Hail Mary attempt that was swatted down by Kuechly to seal bowl-eligibility for the Eagles.