Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah’s couch, Kanye West’s Late Registration was released, and a video-sharing website called “Youtube” was founded—that all happened back in 2005, the last and only time Boston College football has played Boise State. That was in the now-defunct MPC Computers Bowl—on Wednesday, BC will once again square off against the Broncos, this time in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl.
The 2005 season represented a much different time for the BC football program. The Eagles came into the season ranked at No. 22 in the AP Poll. Future NFL MVP Matt Ryan was starting his redshirt sophomore season, but he began the year behind senior quarterback Quinton Porter. BC started out strong, rolling to convincing wins over BYU and Army.
For the first time in the school’s history, ESPN’s College GameDay came to the Heights to preview the Eagles’ upcoming matchup with No. 8 Florida State. Despite playing in front of an energized audience in Alumni Stadium, BC fell to the Seminoles, 28-17. Not only did the Eagles suffer a tough ACC loss on the national stage, they also lost their quarterback as Porter sustained an ankle injury.
Even though this setback saw BC drop out of the national rankings, the Eagles would go on to respond with a four-game winning streak. Kicking off the stretch with a three-point win in overtime over Clemson in Death Valley, BC reentered the national rankings. Ryan led the Eagles to victory, despite throwing for just 206 yards and zero touchdowns. The next outing was a bit smoother, though, as BC returned to Alumni Stadium to host a clearly outmatched Ball State team, a game in which the Eagles stomped the Cardinals for a 38-point drubbing.
BC would play host to two more ACC foes, Virginia and Wake Forest. The Eagles battled the Cavaliers for a 28-17 victory, a win in which Porter returned from his injury and posted a strong effort (301 yards and one touchdown) which earned him ACC Player of the Week honors. The Demon Deacons then traveled to Chestnut Hill, but BC triumphed in the shootout, 35-30.
The Eagles encountered another stiff test in No. 3 Virginia Tech, a matchup that was played in Blacksburg, Va. BC flopped, suffering a 20-point loss, and an ensuing defeat to North Carolina spurred a quarterback controversy. In Chapel Hill, head coach Tom O’Brien turned to Ryan in the fourth quarter to try to turn around the Eagles’ fortunes. Up to that point, BC boasted just one score, but Ryan’s touchdown pass to Larry Lester in the last minute of the game pulled the Eagles within two. While the Eagles fell, Ryan had secured the starting job and would be BC’s signal caller for the rest of the season.
O’Brien’s decision to turn to Ryan paid massive dividends. The Eagles closed out the regular season strong by winning their final two games against North Carolina State and Maryland to boost its record to 8-3. The strong finish to the season secured the No. 19 Eagles a spot in the MPC Computers Bowl against Boise State, a team that concluded the regular season with a 9-3 mark. The Broncos lost their first two games of the season, but proceeded to win nine of their next 10 games to become Western Athletic Conference co-champions.
Boise State was a program that had not yet achieved national recognition, but it was certainly on the upswing. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the bowl would be played at Boise State’s Bronco Stadium on its famous blue turf, and up to this game, the Broncos held a 31-game winning streak at their home field.
That streak would be broken by the Eagles. BC jumped out to a quick start, accumulating 24 points by the end of the first half, all while holding Boise State scoreless. The Eagles added on a field goal to extend their lead to 27. The Broncos did not fold, though. They mounted an impressive comeback attempt, starting with a 53-yard Jared Zabransky touchdown pass to Drisan James near the end of the third quarter.
A Zabransky rushing touchdown followed by a thrilling 92-yard punt return touchdown by Quinton Jones pulled the Broncos within six, but the Eagles would hold on for the 27-21 win. Matt Ryan threw for 253 yards and a then career-high three touchdowns. Will Blackmon led the Eagles in receiving, corralling five catches for 144 yards and a score. With the victory, BC extended its bowl win streak to six.
Both quarterbacks continued to lead their teams to success in the following years. Ryan’s final two seasons in Chestnut Hill culminated in two more bowl victories—wins over Navy in the Meineke Car Care Bowl and Michigan State in the Champs Sports Bowl in 2006 and 2007, respectively. In the 2007 season, Matt Ryan was particularly phenomenal as the Exton, Pa. native passed for 4,507 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions, en route to earning ACC Player of the Year honors.
While Boise State came out on the wrong side of the scoreboard in the MPC Computers Bowl, it would cement its name in the ensuing years on the national stage as it dominated the WAC and triumphed in several prominent bowls. Offensive coordinator Chris Peterson took over the head coaching job from Dan Hawkins in 2006, and in his first season at the helm, the Broncos went undefeated and capped the season with a thrilling overtime victory over the Adrian Peterson-led Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl.
Even though Zabransky never made it in the NFL, Boise State would continue to thrive in the Petersen era as Kellen Moore stepped right in at quarterback to sustain success. The Broncos took home another Fiesta Bowl in 2010 and won several other bowls. Peterson signed a contract to fill the head coaching vacancy at Washington in December of 2013, and after Bob Gregory held the interim position for a year, Bryan Harsin, a former Boise State alum, was announced as the program’s new head coach. During Harsin’s tenure, the Broncos have been a mainstay in the Mountain West Conference elite, which they joined in 2011, compiling an overall record of 42-12, a bowl record of 3-1, and two conference titles.
While Boise State has maintained success over the past decade, BC has fallen on harder times since 2009. Ever since that year, the Eagles have failed to tally eight wins in a season. While Steve Addazio, hired at the end of 2012, has proved to be adept at recruiting and turning three-star recruits into five-star players, his in-game decisions have been questionable at best. As a result, BC has made little noise in the ACC or in bowl games and has been unable to escape the mediocrity that has defined the program for nearly a decade. Despite this year’s roster being arguably the most talented yet with 13 All-ACC selections and the team garnering another College GameDay appearance, BC lost its final three games of the season. If the Eagles can’t top the Broncos in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl, they will finish with their fifth seven-win season in the last six years.
Back in 2005, Boston College was the more recognized football program. But now the script is flipped. Boise State is the team coming into this game ranked in the polls while BC is the unheralded program limping to the finish line. The days of yore when Doug Flutie and Matt Ryan were quarterbacking the Eagles are now gone, and even the Eagles being ranked No. 17 in the lead up to the Clemson game seems like a distant memory. No matter the outcome, the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl will likely have huge implications for the future of both of these schools’ programs.
Featured Image by AP / File Photo