Almost lost in the shuffle of all the hoopla over Tom O’Brien’s return to Boston College Saturday was one very important fact.
O’Brien’s old team is better than O’Brien's new team.
A lot better.
“I knew they were a good football team and they have a great quarterback,” O’Brien said after his Wolpack was beaten, 37-17, by his old team, on a steamy day in the Boston area.
The quarterback O’Brien was talking about, Matt Ryan, didn’t have the best day of his career, going 15-for-34 for 142 yards, one touchdown and one interception. But Ryan’s defense did most of the work on this day, picking Harrison Beck off five times and forcing seven – count ‘em, seven – State turnovers. Beck also fumbled the ball away, as did punter Nathan Franklin.
NC State actually led this game, 10-7, in the first quarter, before the home team, playing on a day the temperature on the field was measured at 126 degrees at game time, scored the next 30 points to go to 2-0 on the season – and avenge State’s dramatic win in Raleigh from last year, when O’Brien was on the losing sideline.
Two games, two wins for the new guy at The Heights.
“Let me tell you something,” said new BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski, “this is a hell of a job here. I am so proud to be at Boston College.”
O’Brien was here for 10 years. He came with the school reeling from a gambling scandal and became its winningest coach ever, winning 75 games. He went to bowl games the past eight years and won the last seven in a row, giving BC the longest active bowl winning streak in the country.
He’s at NC State now and the BC students let him know he’s now the enemy. The enemy wanted this football game, but as much to make it his first win as to beat his old team.
“It was a football game,” O’Brien said, downplaying the rest of the stuff.
Beck, who came on in relief in Week 1 and almost led his team to a comeback win against Central Florida, produced a quick 98-yard march that made it 7-7 -- and the Wolfpack took their first lead of the season on Steven Hauschka’s 28-yard field goal late in the opening quarter.
If the game had ended right there, O’Brien’s return would have been triumphant.
But Jolonn Dunbar then picked off a Beck pass and cruised 14 yards into the end zone to put BC ahead to stay – and a late INT in the end zone before halftime really set things on the skids.
“Any time you turn the ball over seven times, you don’t give yourself a chance to win,” O’Brien said. “We have to do a better job of taking care of the football.”
After Daniel Evans came back in and led a late TD drive, throwing a touchdown pass, O’Brien said he’ll look at the tapes before announcing a starter for next week’s game against Wofford.
“He thinks he can throw a ball through a wall,” O’Brien said of Beck, the transfer from Nebraska. “He still has to learn to play in the offense, take what the defense gives you. He certainly has to take better care of the football if we’re going to be any good.”
The BC defense, which gave up two net yards rushing to Wake Forest in its opening win, yielded 56 yards in this game. But 47 of those came on a late run by Andre Brown (63 yards on 13 carries) when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Beck started the game by hitting Darrell Blackman with 128 yards worth of passes in the first quarter. Blackman finished with 128 yards.
Beck was 26-for-50 for 321 yards and the five picks. Evans relieved and was 3-for-4 for 30 yards and the touchdown.
“We moved the ball,” he said. “We did kinda what we wanted to do on offense, moved the ball up and down the field. I have to make better throws and reads. I’m not going to dwell on this game too much. It hurts now, but tomorrow we start working on the next game.”