BC Still Looking To Prove It Belongs

Quarterback Matt Ryan, left, won all five of his starts last season after replacing the injured Quinton Porter, helping Boston College finish 9-3.
Quarterback Matt Ryan, left, won all five of his starts last season after replacing the injured Quinton Porter, helping Boston College finish 9-3. (By Chris Gardner -- Associated Press)
By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Ryan Glasper and his Boston College teammates skulked off their home field, their debut in the Atlantic Coast Conference having just been spoiled. The Alumni Stadium scoreboard hovered over them, proclaiming a 28-17 victory for Florida State. The Eagles wanted to use the game as a statement; Glasper felt they had made only a whimper.

As Glasper walked toward the locker room, Florida State running back Lorenzo Booker chased him down, then embraced him.

"Yo," Booker told him, "you guys are for real."

Boston College spent the rest of its maiden season trying to prove Booker right, finishing second in the ACC's Atlantic Division at 8-3, then winning the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, Idaho. The challenge now, in the Eagles' second season after moving from the Big East, is to turn from successful debutant to perennial conference power.

"It's easy to be good once in a while, but it's difficult to be great all the time," said Glasper, a strong safety. "Can you be a competitive school year in, year out? The big question is, Boston College -- they did it, they made their first impression -- how are they going to go about their season this year?"

Last season's experience should benefit the Eagles in their second go-round. Boston College had played Virginia Tech and Miami for years in the Big East, but that couldn't fully prepare it for the athleticism and style of football the ACC offers, Glasper said.

In that first game against FSU, Glasper remembers seeing the Seminoles line up with four wide receivers. He and his secondary teammates had faced this formation before, and they had stopped it. Surely they could do it again.

"But when you've got four stud wide receivers that are all sub-4.5, it makes you have to execute your assignments, react that much faster," Glasper said. "If you don't, and they buy their quarterback time, it's hard for your secondary to make plays on the ball. That's the difference. They had that burst of speed. If they separate by two feet, two feet can turn into a touchdown.

This season, "you have a better understanding of the speed. You know now. If you line up on a fast wide receiver, instead of being at six yards, you might back up and give yourself an extra three, because that might make the difference between your linemen coming and closing out for a sack. You have a better understanding of how to play each individual."

As Boston College adjusted to the rest of the conference, Coach Tom O'Brien noticed something else: The Eagles' opponents had to adjust to them, too. Boston College's massive offensive line, which returns three starters, would grind down defenses, battering them with size.

"Your defensive linemen have to go to a chiropractor at halftime to get their necks readjusted" from looking up, North Carolina State Coach Chuck Amato said.

Before their game last season, Amato shook hands with O'Brien at midfield and asked him, "Where do you get all those big linemen?"

"Where do you get all that speed?" O'Brien responded.

Opponents soon learned, though, that Boston College had the requisite athletes to compete in the ACC. FSU linebacker Buster Davis said Glasper ranks among the best safeties in the country and called Josh Beekman one of the best guards he has played against.

"Those two guys," Davis said, "could play for us."

Boston College's quarterback may be its best reason to expect a sixth consecutive season with at least eight victories. Matt Ryan replaced the injured Quinton Porter last season, then outperformed the one-time starter. He won all five of his starts, in part because his leadership already had earned his teammates' confidence.

Boston College staged a Thursday pep rally two seasons ago for the hockey and football teams, both of which would play Notre Dame that weekend. One of the events was a free throw shooting contest between one player from each team. Though he was still a freshman, the Eagles picked Ryan to compete. He won.

This season, Ryan is the unquestioned starter at quarterback, marking just one more reason Boston College can be comfortable. The goal now is proving that, once more, it is for real.

"We are Boston College; we have athletes like any other school in the country," Glasper said. "We respect our opponents, but in the meantime, we want to earn respect. You don't have to like me, but you will respect me."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company