Heights Highlights II: The Top Ten Wins
By Anthony Iati
During my first week as an alumnus of Boston College, I can’t help but realize how impactful BC Athletics was to my college experience. The Division I programs influenced not only my social life, but also gave me a part-time job for three years and an extracurricular I cherished for four years. Throughout this week, I will be writing a series of superlative-type articles reflecting on the best (and worst) of my experiences as a BC Eagles fan and a student broadcaster from August 2013 to May 2017. As an outgoing director of WZBC Sports, I am lucky enough to be able to publish each of these articles on www.wzbcsports.com.
On Friday, I published an unordered list of the top ten BC student-athletes I had the privilege of watching and/or covering in my time as a BC student. Today’s post features a countdown of the top ten Eagles wins from my four years. The criteria are as follows: (1) I only included games from football, men’s basketball, men’s hockey, and baseball, (2) the game must have taken place between August 2013 and May 2017 to be eligible, (3) only games I watched live or on TV are eligible and (4) a game’s excitement level, quality, and significance to me/Eagles fans in general are the key components that make it “top ten worthy.”
To read the first installment of this series, click here. The next post will focus on the most excruciating BC losses. The last article will be more of a thoughtful piece going in-depth about how important my involvement with WZBC Sports was to my Boston College experience.
Unlike Friday’s list, today’s list of best BC wins is ranked:
Top Ten Boston College Wins, August 2013 – May 2017
- Basketball: BC 72 – Auburn 71, December 12, 2016
Why it makes the list: Although Auburn did not develop into a great team in the 2016-17 season, an Eagles win on the hardwood over an SEC opponent felt important. That Coach Jim Christian’s team did so in the World’s Most Famous Arena under a national spotlight made it all the more special. The game certainly featured an unlikely ending, as BC committed a foul with 7.5 seconds left that gave Auburn a one-point lead before a Ky Bowman driving miss was tipped in essentially at the buzzer by fellow freshman and Bowman’s roommate, Nik Popovic.
What I’ll remember: I was on campus in Lyons Hall studying for final exams during this game. Of course, I had at least one eye on tracking the game and turned it on for good when I realized with five minutes to go BC had a legitimate chance to win. When Bowman’s layup missed, I never expected Popovic’s hand to rise above the rest and get just enough of the ball to deflect it in. In that split second, I had accepted another gut-punch BC loss, only to be pleasantly surprised.
- Baseball: BC 5 – Virginia 4, April 10, 2016
Why it makes the list: Virginia was the defending national champion. The Eagles were just starting to hit their groove in their first series featuring the Stevens-Dunn-King pitching trio. After an improbable walk-off strikeout the afternoon before, BC somehow found a way to top it in this game. Trailing 4-1 in the bottom of the 10th, Michael Strem ripped a bases-clearing extra-base hit down the third base line to tie the game. BC and UVA remained deadlocked for four more innings before in-game sub Scott Braren punched a single to right that gave BC an unexpected ACC series victory.
What I’ll remember: I was broadcasting this game at Shea Field and recall it going over five hours—not that I minded with only homework and responsibilities awaiting me. When sophomore lefty Kevin Connor allowed UVA star Pavin Smith to wallop a three-run homer on his first pitch of the day in the top of the 10th, I’ll admit I figured the game was lost. Strem’s game-tying double was invigorating and set the stage for a really fun set of extra innings. Birdball needed every possible ACC win in 2016 to advance in postseason play; this was one of its most important.
- Hockey: BC 9 – Wisconsin 2, October 18, 2013
Why it makes the list: Talk about setting a tone, both for a game and a season. No. 2 Wisconsin marched into Conte Forum on Jerry York Night and the No. 7 Eagles offensive onslaught ended the game within five minutes of play. BC put four pucks behind Landon Peterson before he knew what hit him and the Eagles rolled in front of a raucous crowd. Second-ranked teams in the country just do not get handled like that very often.
What I’ll remember: This was the first BC Hockey game I ever attended. I was a freshman and in awe of the atmosphere in the student section (this was back when SuperFans came to games in droves). I had trouble even finding a place to stand and I had no idea what the hell students were chanting over and over when BC scored (I eventually figured it out). With four goals in five minutes, my head was spinning. I knew BC was very good, but putting away the No. 2 Badgers instantly? What was I missing? I left that night thinking two things: the Eagles were a powerhouse, and I was going to love attending BC Hockey games. I was right on both accounts.
- Hockey: BC 3 – Boston University 2, March 17, 2017
Why it makes the list: The rivalry speaks for itself. Games at TD Garden always feel big, despite a weak turnout. The W kept BC’s season alive another night, setting up a win-and-in shot at the NCAA Tournament against UMass-Lowell. The Eagles finally got off the schneid against BU, beating the Terriers for the first time in four attempts that season, hanging on by the skin of their teeth in the final minutes.
What I’ll remember: I was broadcasting this game with the great Scott Geyman and Quinn Kelly. With about three minutes left and the Eagles leading 3-0, I remember our on-air conversation turned to whether Woll could finish off the shutout. That BC would win seemed to be a foregone conclusion; the Eagles had dominated most of the game and BU really had little to play for. Then came one BU goal. Shutout gone. Then another—the game’s outcome suddenly in doubt. Little did we know the real chaos hadn’t even started yet. That would come in the last ten seconds, as the teams tangled on a faceoff in front of Woll. Ryan Fitzgerald essentially knelt over the puck and absorbed blows from Terrier sticks scrambling to get the puck. I couldn’t even see the puck, nor was it clear when time expired whether the officials would rule delay of game or some other penalty. It was one of the most difficult minutes of play-by-play I experienced in four years, but also the most exciting.
- Baseball: BC 8 – Notre Dame 7, May 20, 2017
Why it makes the list: There are many things that made this game special. For one, it was the final BC game I ever attended as an undergraduate. For another, BC completed a needed sweep of rival Notre Dame by charging back from 7-3 down. In the final game in the history of Shea Field, the Birds clinched a second straight ACC Tournament appearance. What a way to end things.
What I’ll remember: Standing on the ramp on a gorgeous Saturday looking out at the Reservoir between pitches and thinking about several things. The game, of course, and how important it was for Birdball. I was also thinking of my impending graduation in two days. Also, it dawned on me that BC fans will miss Shea Field, despite its lack of amenities (okay, lack of just about everything). In comparison to other ACC facilities, it’s an incredibly outdated corner of campus, but as BC fans it was still our outdated corner. Two of the only things Shea had going for it are charm and intimacy. The new field on Brighton will have its perks and the team will suffer fewer rainouts, but it will be hard to replicate the charm of Shea.
- Football: BC 36 – Maryland 30, December 26, 2016
Why it makes the list: As Coach Steve Addazio is quick to remind anyone who will listen, his (young?) Eagles made three bowl games in four years. Daz’s (first) four years coincided with my (only) four on the Heights, so I remember well the losses to Arizona and Penn State in bowls previous. The 2016 Quick Lane Bowl victory was special because it was the Eagles’ first since 2007 and the only postseason win for a dedicated senior class. As weird, long, and imperfect as the game was, BC made it a thriller with trick plays on offense, spectacular plays on defense, and just enough poor play down the stretch to make the game a nail-biter.
What I’ll remember: Being absolutely floored when the Eagles scored 29 first-half points. I was sitting on my couch in New Jersey, all geared up to watch the Eagles and Terps slug out a low-scoring one. I even predicted a 14-13 BC win. I couldn’t believe BC was slinging deep balls to Michael Walker and having Jeff Smith fire a pass to quarterback Patrick Towles. I have no problem with a run-first, slow offense when it works, but man was it exciting to watch BC open up the playbook and play with reckless abandon in a dominant first half.
- Hockey: BC 4 – Northeastern 1, February 2014
Why it makes the list: Just a phenomenal game. BC broke the tie with under five minutes to go on a highlight-reel goal by senior Patrick Brown. The final score doesn’t do justice to how tightly contested this one was.
What I’ll remember: This was the first Beanpot championship of my tenure and it was also about as tense as I ever was watching a BC game. The third period felt like overtime, with the teams knotted at 1-1. Brown’s goal unleashed a deafening roar from the student section in the TD Garden nosebleeds. The only thing that could have made this game better would have been if it came against BU…
- Hockey: BC 1 – Boston University 0 (OT), February 8, 2016
Why it makes the list: Getting back in the Beanpot winner’s circle felt great after the Terriers snagged the 2015 championship and halted BC’s streak at five years. This game was the definition of a goaltending duel, as it took 62 minutes for either team to strike. The game-winning goal in overtime was a beauty.
What I’ll remember: The lights going out at TD Garden during the first period. Thatcher Demko remaining in the game and pitching a shutout after being looked at by the training staff. Sean Maguire matching Demko save for save until Tuch’s wrister snuck by him in the fourth period, then laying face first on the ice in agony when Tuch scored.
- Basketball: BC 62 – Syracuse 59 (OT), February 19, 2014
Why it makes the list: Mired in a lost year for BC Basketball, upending No. 1 Syracuse on the road felt like nothing short of a miracle. ESPN projections gave BC just a 1% chance of beating the team to knock off the Orange. Don’t forget the Eagles trailed by 13 at one point before ripping off a 29-12 run to take a late lead. They also needed clutch free-throw shooting from Lonnie Jackson to win it.
What I’ll remember: I was a freshman at the time, living in Cheverus Hall on Upper. I remembered following the game loosely in my room throughout the first half, but not too closely—the Eagles were down eight at the half and seemed sure to lose. When BC stormed ahead in the second half, dozens of students started congregating in the lounge and watching on the big TV. I’ll remember the astonishment and joy of everyone in the dorm when BC won, but also how disappointing it was that the upset had not happened at home.
- Football: BC 37 – USC 31, September 14, 2014
Why it makes the list: As predictable as this pick is, the USC game has to top the list. I can count on one hand the number of times Alumni Stadium was both packed and loud in the past four years. This was easily the most involved crowd. In four years attending BC games, there was never a court-storming opportunity in Conte and USC was the lone field-storming game in Alumni. BC has had so few marquee wins of late, which has romanticized the upset of No. 9 USC that much more. But that shouldn’t take away from what was an incredible game and provided hope to a fanbase that perhaps Addazio was building a really strong program. The lingering effects of beating USC kept the students more engaged in the team in 2014 than they would be in the two years that followed. BC had some brutal losses that season (Clemson, FSU, Penn State), but the memory of taking down USC will live the longest.
What I’ll remember: Seeing USC fans get off the B-line and flock into campus in droves a few hours before kickoff. Feeling uneasy when BC quickly fell behind 10-0 that the game could turn into a blowout. Sherman Alston’s jet sweep touchdown and the way it electrified the student section right before halftime. Storming onto the field after the game, of course. Perhaps most of all I remember Tyler Murphy’s TD run that sealed the game. From my vantage point, Murphy disappeared from sight at the beginning of the run behind a sea of bodies. I remember the moment he broke free and everyone realized at the same time that Murphy had 50 yards of daylight. I’ll remember him running straight through the end zone and into BC lore.
What other wins stick out to you from the past four years? Let us know on Twitter @WZBCSports and stay with us for the rest of this series in the coming days.