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THEY ALL FALL DOWN...UNTIL THE TWO-MINUTE DRILL

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If the narrative point of tonight's game in Blacksburg was to gauge Boston College's separation from the chaffe, or lack thereof, it jubilantly defied the premises. As far as supposed learning experiences go, though, it sure was fun.

I don't think there's a lot of point in trying to reassess the Eagles' virtues after that sort of win - they may have left on uplifitng sentiment, an image of clumsy goodwill and guts (literally, in Matt Ryan's case) on the sideline after Ryan's winning touchdown pass, but the game in general defined the genre of "yes, but..." Yes, B.C. rallied for 14 points in four minutes in sloppy conditions to down a first rate defense in a first rate madhouse of a stadium, but it was only after 56 minutes of steady ass-kicking by the Hokies. Yes, B.C. survived the kind of impossible "team of destiny" game every champion has to endure at some point, but what are the odds of a similar push (there was the flubbed onside kick and everything) when the proceedings turn sour again down the line, as they almost inevitably will? Yes, Matt Ryan is a hero, a tough, vomiting hero, but his undeniable brilliance in the clutch only cancels out the rushed misfires that made up the great bulk of his first 39 attempts over more than three and a half quarters, which produced nothing. B.C. spent so long digging itself a hole on offense, the spectacular finish only got it back to 'even' in my mind.

I will say this for Ryan, who I apparently shortchanged before the game when I flippantly suggested he would be "the best player on the field, but only if he doesn't have to be." It was exactly the opposite: he was arguably the worst player, save possibly the outmanned freshman assigned to blocking Chris Ellis by himself, until there was no choice. And then he was virtually flawless.


Fifty percent of Boston College's total offense.
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Tech partisans might be upset with the roomy secondary the Hokie defense showed on those drives, but its front four - and sometimes just three - had been relentlessly hounding Ryan all night, often in less obvious passing situations, without requiring help from the blitz. The Eagle offensive line stepped up, and with the extra time and confidence to stand and set his feet, the balls that had been sailing and fluttering on Ryan looked like they were guided by lasers fixed on his receivers' numbers. The first touchdown pass in the comeback was an amazing display of technique and precision; the game-winner was all vision and instinctual athleticism on the fly. It was one of the most remarkable, total in-game turnarounds I can remember.

But it doesn't leave me any more confident in the Eagles to run the table over their remaning four games, all against likely bowl teams, and with the conference championship beyond that. You can forget the first 56 minutes long enough to celebrate or wring a glowing profile of the all-American hero of the will, Matt Ryan, but Florida State, Maryland, Clemson and Miami can play defense, too, and B.C. won't get away with such an uneven performance again.


He's bobbling it, dude.
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• Every week there are instances of vast disconnect between what I see (almost always backed up by what the booth announcers say they see) and what the officials looking at video deem "indisputable," and I'd like to note here for the record one of the truly ridiculous calls of the year, when officials rewarded and then inexplicably upheld Virginia Tech's only touchdown in the second quarter. The back judge on the field obviously had no idea where Eddie Royal's feet were in real time - it took him so long to consult with a colleague who had no position whatsoever to make a judgment that I wondered why they even bothered to make a call on the field at all; replay loomed from the second the ball left Sean Glennon's hands. And replay showed without question, from me or from the booth or from anyone with eyes, that Royal bobbled the ball and didn't control it against his body until his feet were a good six inches past the chalk, at minimum. It wasn't close, and because it basically handed the Hokies an extra four points when they should have been forced into a field goal, it dramatically changed the strategy at the end of the game.

At least they didn't follow up by calling an obviously in-bounds Rich Gunnell out on Boston College's first touchdown. Because that would have really sucked.