Sports, Football, Featured Column, Column

The Reality Of Bowl Eligibility

I am convinced—utterly certain—that at one of the seemingly 14,000 microcosmic turning points of the eons-long dogfight that was the fourth quarter of Boston College vs. Virginia Tech, some sort of alternate universe opened up.

Deon Clarke catches Tyler Murphy on that cold third and 10, and the battered ironman Michael Brewer marches down the field and jabs a knife into BC’s chest, ripping its heart out kali ma style. Or Alex Howell, the loneliest man in the world, lines up with the wind at his back, his 6-foot-5 frame looming before a sea of foliage colored fans screaming for his head, and shanks that 44-yard field goal 30 yards to the right. The fourth quarter spirals into a quintessential nightmare, and BC does not win 33-31. Steve Addazio marches into the press conference and slumps into his chair. We played a damn hard game, our guys showed unbelievable heart, and we gave every ounce of effort we had, he says, but it just didn’t go our way.

BC drops to 5-4. Then, a week later, Louisville comes into town and blows the doors off of Alumni—the Eagles are roasted in their roost. Another member of the secondary succumbs to injury. Little children are crying. Brad Bates’ hair begins falling out, and Addazio begins to grow his own hair out. Chaos.

The Eagles travel to Tallahassee two weeks later. Jameis Winston breaks the Florida State record for passing touchdowns in a game, then retires to his room for a quiet evening of checkers and fine literature—A Tale Of Two Cities, he’s been working on it all week; the quarterback finds it both insightful and a comparable metaphor for modern America. Addazio rips out his newfound hair. Despair.

Last game of the season. BC is 5-6. The Eagles are not bowl eligible without a win. Beat Syracuse, and they can book a return trip back to Shreveport, the industrial, grey Pearl of The South. Yet it is not to be. The Orange, the God-forsaken Syracuse Orange, defeats BC at Alumni. Jilted seniors, lit up on Rubinoff and misery, burn the Meatball Obsession shack to the ground. An eternal winter falls over Chestnut Hill as the darkest timeline reaches fruition.

But that is not the universe we’re living in. In this reality, a vindicated Howell stands in a tunnel in the bowels of Lane Stadium wearing a grey BC sweatsuit. He shifts back and forth with palpable giddiness, a looping grin stretching across his face—a smile so wide it nearly reaches his ears. “Yes sir,” he says, recounting his 44-yard, game-saving, fourth quarter field goal with a pronounced drawl. “Coach actually put me out there, so I was like ‘This is nice!’”

In this timeline, BC’s offense finally came through in the fourth quarter and paid back more than three quarters of back-breaking shut down defense—the best performance by an Eagles’ defensive unit that I’ve ever seen—with a refusal to lose and another stunning breakaway touchdown run from Murphy, this one for 57 yards and the win. Walking with a slight limp but looking like he’s still in one functional piece—he absorbed a few brutal hits and constant dogging from Clarke throughout the game—Murphy glows, and reflects on his BC quarterback career rushing yards-breaking effort and game-winning gallop to the end zone. “It kind of parted like the Red Sea and my job was easy—just don’t get caught,” Murphy says. “You gotta give the guys up front all the credit and Josh, and the guys blocking down field.”

The for-better-or-worse, heart-on-his-sleeve-wearing, and unfailingly animated BC head coach is fired up in this bowl-eligible world, accentuating some phrases—nearly yelling at times—and making pumped-up eye contact with every reporter in the room. He’s crediting the immense effort of his road warriors while still lamenting his inability to spot and stop VTech’s fake punt. He’ll take a conference win like that any Saturday—a victory that, in the end, came down to gutsy calls and ice-vein execution. “Made some, worked out, didn’t make a couple, didn’t work out,” he says. “When you sit here and you win, you can swallow it all a lot better. Everything tastes a little better. You can go in there and have a nice sip of water and feel pretty good about that.”

There are three games left on the schedule, and BC is bowl eligible for the second year in a row. Drink it up, because that’s reality.

Correction: This article originally misstated that BC would have a 5-5 record heading into the Syracuse game if it lost to Virginia Tech, Louisville, and Florida State.

Featured Image by Emily Sadeghian / Heights Editor

November 1, 2014

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