Nobody in Scott Stadium could figure it out. No one – reporters, fans, coaches, and administrators – knew exactly who was responsible for making the play. But everyone on Boston College’s side sure was glad that somebody did.
With BC clinging to a four-point lead on the road at Virginia, the Eagles defense needed one more stop. But the Cavaliers had driven to the BC 12-yard line, and with just 31 seconds remaining, a Virginia touchdown surely would have resulted in a BC loss. It was fourth-and-inches, and Cavaliers quarterback Jameel Sewell kept the ball on a quarterback keeper.
Sewell didn’t get far before being stood up, but he got close to the first down marker. Really close.
Frank Spaziani later admitted that he thought Sewell made it. A Virginia offensive lineman initially placed the ball at the 11-yard line, and the Cavaliers’ faithful roared, assuming that they were going to have a first down and four more chances to score a game-winning touchdown.
But a referee came into the picture and placed the ball at least a half yard shy of the initial spot. And when the chain gang came out and measured the spot, Virginia was two inches short of the marker. As the Virginia players stood in silent disbelief, the BC bench erupted. Austin Giles pointed to the heavens; the defensive coaches rushed the field; even Mike McLaughin ran over to sideline, chest bumped Thomas Claiborne, and somehow stayed on his feet.
There were three reporters asking questions outside the locker room after the game. And each time one of us asked, “Who made the play?” we got a different answer.
The PA announcer had credited Luke Kuechly with the tackle, but Kuechly said he didn’t touch Sewell. When we asked Mike Morrissey the same question, he chuckled and credited himself with the tackle. Perhaps the best answer came from Spaziani, who didn’t have a clue. He said he thought it was Nick Rossi, but no one could confirm if Rossi was even on the field for the final play.
In all likelihood, it was a total team effort. Everyone was in position, and Morrissey hit Sewell first, before everyone else wrapped him up. As Spaziani said afterward: “Who knows? Let’s just say it was a host of Eagles. Write that down.”
“I was the one who hit him low,” Morrissey said, laughing. “I teased Kuechly about it because they gave him the tackle. I told him, ‘You get icon status, man.’ Shoot, someone on Virginia could tackle Montel and they’d give it to Kuechly.”
As Virginia kept churning out first down after first down on that final drive, everyone in the stadium could see BC’s ACC title dreams slipping. Because Clemson had already defeated NC State, BC had to beat Virginia to mathematically stay alive in the Atlantic division hunt.
It was an ugly game filled with penalties, booth reviews, and chain breakages. The referees had a profound impact on the outcome, and as I walked from the press box to the locker room after the play, I heard at least four different Virginia fans express their disgust at the officiating.
But their complaints don’t take anything away from BC’s win. It may not have played well, but thanks to The Play, BC lives to see another day. Another day and another opportunity to earn a shot at playing in a third consecutive ACC title game. In other words, another chance to save the season.