Doug Flutie broke Jim McMahon's college football record for career total yardage today, but the happiest quarterback at Beaver Stadium was Penn State senior Doug Strang, who completed only five passes -- including one for a two-point conversion -- in the Nittany Lions' 37-30 victory over Boston College.
Flutie was called "unbelievable" by Penn State Coach Joe Paterno after his 29-for-53, 447-yard passing had time after time brought the Eagles back into a game that appeared put away by the Nittany Lions. He lost 26 yards on 10 rushes, but his 421 total yards brought his career mark to 10,003. McMahon, now of the Chicago Bears, totaled 9,723 in his years at Brigham Young University.
Flutie now needs 231 passing yards to best the record Ben Bennett set at Duke, 9,614.
"I think the national championship is pretty much lost," Flutie admitted after his team lost its second of seven games. "I think we can still go to a major bowl."
Indeed, scouts from eight bowls were on hand and Penn State, which improved its record to 6-3, didn't hurt its chances.
Strang, who had lost his starting job to John Shaffer, was forced into action in the first half when the sophomore suffered a slight concussion -- "lost the peripheral vision in his left eye," according to Paterno. Strang matched Flutie's touchdown output with a 42-yard pass to Herb Bellamy and found Rocky Washington for a key two-point conversion in the fourth quarter.
"Hopefully, I proved myself that I'm a winner," Strang said. "I had a chance to show that I can bring Penn State's offense and we can score some points, somehow, some way."
Every time Flutie got the Eagles close in this game, which could have been decided by a 59-yard return of the second-half kickoff by the Lions' John Coates, Penn State's ground game took over. Tailback D.J. Dozier gained 143 yards on 21 carries and fullback Steve Smith 126 yards in 23 tries. Each had a touchdown in a wild second half.
Penn State led, 17-10, at intermission, thanks to a six-yard touchdown run by Smith, set up by Dozier's 41-yard run, and Strang's scoring pass to Bellamy.
After Coates brought the second-half kickoff to the Boston College 35, Smith took it over in three carries, and a rout seemingly was on.
But Flutie wasn't to be counted out. He broke McMahon's record on a 20-yard completion to Gerard Phelan for a first down at the Penn State 30. A 15-yard keeper by Flutie and a nine-yard run by Ken Bell got the ball to the one before Bell fumbled on third and goal, Penn State's Mike Russo recovering.
This and a fumble by Flutie on one of his four sacks put the comeback on stall only temporarily. A 51-yard completion to brother Darren Flutie, a freshman flanker, set up a 14-yard run by Steve Strachan to make the score 23-17.
Nick Gancitano, whose would-be conversion after Smith's third-quarter touchdown had been foiled by a fumbled snap, hit successive field goals of 33 and 41 yards to put the home team up, 29-17.
Then Dozier's 39-yard touchdown run, between two last-period scoring drives by the Eagles, enabled Penn State to reverse last season's 27-17 loss to Boston College and take a 12-1 series edge. Smith sprung Dozier with a block at the line and Washington took out the last Eagle with a chance at Dozier.
Flutie threw his only touchdown pass of the day, a six-yarder to Kelvin Martin, with just over four minutes remaining, but Penn State ran out the clock before Heisman Trophy contender Flutie could get cranked up again.
"We just ran out of time," said Boston College Coach Jack Bicknell. "It was a frustrating darn game."
Darren Flutie had put the visitors into a deep hole on the first play of the game. He bobbled the kickoff at the goal line and was swarmed under at his four. Punt exchanges gave Boston College slightly better field position and Doug Flutie passed and ran to the Penn State 18 before the Nittany Lions' Bob White pressured him into a fumble, recovered by State linebacker Don Graham on the Lions' 32.
After the home team disappointed the fourth-largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history, 85,690, with another three downs and punt, Flutie again had Boston College on the move. This time the surge ended when defensive end Tim Johnson got a hand on a Flutie pass, picked it off and ran seven yards to the Eagles' 31.
It was then that Strang entered the game and his 10-yard run set up Gancitano's first field goal, a 24-yarder. Boston College's lone first-half touchdown, surprisingly, was not effected by Flutie. It was Bell, on a 71-yard run on which he broke one tackle, faked two other defenders silly, and dove into the left corner of the end zone.
It was plays like that that brought Flutie to reminisce, "Every Penn State game has been a great memory. Including this one."