BC Sneaks by NIU 23-20 in Opener
By Ben Neuwirth
The Boston College Eagles traveled to DeKalb, Ill. to face the Northern Illinios Huskies in the opening game of their 2017 season. NIU was 5-7 last year and lost star WR Kenny Golloway to the NFL but has had great success in the not too recent past. The Eagles had many starters return from a dominant defense and had implemented a more uptempo offensive scheme over the summer.
BC Coach Steve Addazio had been non-committal all week about who would start at QB. He only announced Redshirt Freshman Anthony Brown as the starter an hour prior to kickoff. The young QB came out firing, launching a beautiful 50 yard would-be-TD pass to Michael Walker on the first possession, alas it slipped through his hands.
After an exchange of punts, the Eagles once again had the ball but Brown was wide on a pass to TE Tommy Sweeney and it was picked off by Huskies LB Kyle Pugh. Fortunately, the following NIU drive stalled and they were only able to get a field goal.
On the back of their running game BC was able to respond with a field goal of their own, tying the game at 3.
Northern Illinois didn’t announce their starting signal caller until he stepped onto the field and while Ryan Graham struggled early on, he was able to break off a 60 yard run on an option and followed that up with a TD pass to D.J. Brown.
The game malaised on from there, as each team’s offense was ineffective and after a pair of punts, BC got the ball back with just under 5 minutes to go in the half.
Anthony Brown was able to hook up with fellow RS Frosh Kobay Brown on a nice pitch and catch, bringing the Eagles in range for Colton Lichtenberg to knock in his 2nd FG, this one from 35 yards.
Brown then started to catch fire and led the team down the field in an impressive and poised two minute drill, culminating in a 5 yard TD pass to Michael Walker. He was in total control and didn’t appear rushed or overwhelmed.
BC led 13-10 at the break.
Each team punted to each other to start off the 2nd half until Boston College got the ball back and Brown was able to engineer another scoring drive, throwing a 4 yard strike to TE Ray Marten and putting BC up 20-10.
Graham and the Huskies rode the strength of their running game deep into the Eagles’ territory and the Junior QB found WR Shane Wimann in the endzone for his 2nd score. A 21 yard field goal by NIU kicker Christian Hagan tied the game up at 20 apiece.
Both defenses held stout throughout the 4th quarter and with 6 minutes to go the BC offense got the ball with a chance to prove what they could do. Anthony Brown was gritty all night long and showed it, converting a 4th and 1 by diving across his center.
The Eagle offense stalled at the NIU 40 and once again found themselves faced with a 4th down. This time Brown was able to find Kobay White on the sideline for a huge conversion. This brought the Eagles into kicking range and Lichtenburg knocked through the 37-yarder, he was a perfect 3-for-3 on the night.
This left the Huskies down 23-20 with 2:13 remaining. QB Ryan Graham, started at his own 25 and converted a 4th and 8 with a laser to Wimann. A pass interference call on Kam Moore brought NIU into field goal range.
Christian Hagan had hit his two prior attempts in the game but wasn’t able to come through when it mattered most, coming up short on the 39 yard kick.
This gave Boston College the 23-20 win.
It seems only natural that BC should be gifted a win off an errant kick after their heartbreaking loss in Ireland last year to Georgia Tech in a similar fashion. You might call it a good omen for this year.
Anthony Brown made rookie mistakes, as should be expected, but also showed great potential as a runner and a passer, he let loose his cannon of his arm a couple times and bombed some balls. Just under 200 yards and 2 TDs to only 1 pick is a promising start. If the Eagles can fix their running game and tighten up the screws on their defense, perhaps they could emerge a more versatile and well-rounded team than past years.
A road win is tough no matter who you play and BC should be proud of the effort they put forth today, but there are tougher opponents approaching. Next Saturday they host Wake Forest in Alumni Stadium at 1. You can listen to the WZBC Sports broadcast on 90.3 FM