Heights Highlights III: The Five Worst Losses
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 have been 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. On Saturday, I wrote a countdown of the top ten Eagles wins from my four years.
Today’s post is essentially the opposite of Saturday’s- my five worst Eagles losses. Boston College Athletics lost, well, a lot of games in my undergraduate years (perhaps you heard). It feels fitting to write about excruciating Eagles losses on the day Women’s Lacrosse came up just short of a national championship. Although WLax is not a sport I often watched, I watched Sunday rooting for the Eagles to get a win worthy of Saturday’s top ten list.
“Worst” can means a lot of things when it comes to sports. Here, it means some combination of disappointing, humiliating, mind-numbing, and painful. I have specified which emotion applies to each game to make clear why it appears on the list.
Five Worst BC Losses, August 2013 – May 2017
5. Football: Georgia Tech 17 – BC 14, September 3, 2016
Relive the pain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGsBjrHl4aM
Why it makes the list: Disappointment
What I’ll remember: I was lucky enough to be in Dublin to broadcast the game for WZBC with co-director Casey Hague. We had a phenomenal time all trip and still are incredibly grateful for the opportunity- but I’d be lying if I said the outcome of the game doesn’t tarnish how I’ll look back on the trip. Of course, this was just game one and there’s no shame in a three-point loss to a conference foe when breaking in a new quarterback.
But this was a classic gut-punch loss. No one really knew how BC’s offense would respond in 2016 to major changes after a historically inept 2015 season. When Patrick Towles scrambled into the end zone to give BC a 14-7 fourth-quarter lead, the Eagles were set up. The game was right where Eagles fans wanted it- in the defense’s hands. BC let Tech back into the game with a field goal, the offense failed to burn any clock, and then a stunning 4th-and-19 conversion by the Jackets helped GT march down and score the winning points with 0:35 left.
It was clear the game was over. Kicker Colton Lichtenberg had missed two field goals in the game and despite scoring two TDs, it was doubtful BC was going to quickly move the ball into his range to tie the game. BC went backwards. Yeah, Towles had shown improvement during the game. Yeah, Jon Hilliman busted out with a thrilling touchdown run. Yet disappointment marred the loooong flight home because the defense– the nation’s best unit the previous year– had blown a winnable game. The ACC losing streak continued. I remember boarding the plane in Dublin and walking past the players and coaches. Hardly anyone had his head up and no one was speaking. That’s pretty much how the whole flight to Boston went.
4. Basketball: Wake Forest 74 – BC 48, February 21, 2016
Relive the pain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fA9SYqH_OXQ
Why it makes the list: 75% humiliation, 25% mind-numbing
What I’ll remember: I was in Stokes Hall on campus doing homework before a meeting was to start. I checked the score…it was something like 26-4. I thought ESPN had made some sort of mistake. BC was winless, but never got embarrassed like this. I checked Twitter to see if ESPN had the score correct. It did. It would reach 38-4 then 41-11. It was bad enough the Eagles were still looking for their first conference win. To get manhandled by a mediocre opponent was downright humiliating. Of the 18 ACC losses that season, most were palatable. BC played good teams well at times, got outclassed by superior opponents at other times. This loss, though, was shameful and it has stuck with me despite the fact that the game meant little in the grand scheme.
3. Football: Wake Forest 3 – BC 0, October 10, 2015
Relive the pain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UtrFT68y3c
Why it makes the list: 50% mind-numbing, 40% humiliation, 10% disappointment…
What I’ll remember: Go back and watch the “highlights” of this game again. Even if you think you remember it, do it. I mean…what can you say about this? How many mistakes can one team possible make to hand the game to a Wake Forest team that didn’t want to take it? There was Jordan Gowins fumbling on his own 5-yard line to set up the day’s only points. There was Colton Lichtenberg missing field goals of 31 and 26 yards. Then, with 78 seconds left, Troy Flutie fumbled inside Wake’s 5-yard line with BC perfectly set up to tie or take the lead. Game over, right? With an opportunity to run the game clock down to about 20 seconds before a punt that would bury BC, Wake Forest handed the ball right back inside its own 10 with a fumble. And then when everyone thought the game couldn’t get any stranger, a lack of urgency by the Eagles offense ran out the clock with BC again in perfect position to tie or take the lead.
I was broadcasting this game in Alumni Stadium and was equally blown away then as to how the heck two football teams could manage a game so poorly. The egregious physical mistakes, the mental errors, the scarred crowd…I might go the rest of my life without seeing a sporting event as mind-numbing and bafflingly bad as this BC loss.
2. Baseball: Miami 9 – BC 4, June 12, 2016
Relive the pain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SP-EvzsdmY&
Why it makes the list: 75% disappointment, 25% anger
What I’ll remember: I was the engineer for TJ Hartnett’s and Conor Hawley’s broadcast of this Super Regional finale in Miami. For those who don’t know what that means, I was in the WZBC studio on campus controlling their broadcast. I was watching the game on ESPN3 on my computer, too, which was a bit behind TJ and Conor’s audio. Unlike some of the other losses on this list, I wasn’t at all embarrassed by BC’s loss. I was just devastated that a team that had gotten so hot and been so fun to follow came up inches short of making a historic College World Series appearance. 2016 Birdball was one of the most likable teams I can remember and Miami was its antithesis. I’ll remember Edgar Michelangeli’s showboating after his game-changing grand slam, the way Nick Sciortino and the Birds stood up to him, and of course, TJ’s on-air tirade directed at Miami’s players and fans (I would love to get a link to that, it deserves to be shared).
1. Football: Penn State 31 – BC 30 (OT), December 27, 2014
Relive the pain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZV8Lb2WTqc
Why it makes the list: A little bit of everything
What I’ll remember: I knew immediately this was going to claim the No. 1 spot on this list. First of all, I hate Penn State and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. To me, they’re worse than BU, worse than Notre Dame, worse than everyone. I could write pages about my dislike for Penn State and its fans. Instead, what I feel compelled to point out is that this game is remembered all wrong by most. Very few people
remember that BC held a 21-7 lead in the second half with a strong defense that should have put the Nittany Lions away. Further than that, even after Mike Knoll missed the PAT that would have given BC a 31-24 OT lead, BC’s defense backed PSU into 3rd-and-15 and allowed a conversion. If you’re a dedicated enough BC fan to be reading this, you’re probably no longer blaming Knoll alone for losing the Pinstripe Bowl, which is the right perspective.
I remember being in the building and being ticked off at how Penn State’s fans outnumbered BC’s in Yankee Stadium that afternoon. I was annoyed BC had again failed to win a bowl game to cap a strong season. 7-6 felt a whole lot worse than 8-5. Things did not improve as I left the Stadium. I took the subway alone downtown to Penn Station among throngs of delirious PSU fans. Their banter only added insult to my injury. I was embarrassed that the national media was going to latch onto the fact that BC had lost by a missed extra point. I was angry the Penn State fans had reason to celebrate. I was numb from the surprise of the Eagles losing a 14-point lead. I was flat out upset. As a diehard fan of three of the four pro sports in America, my teams had had plenty of terrible losses that I had to endure. BC’s loss to Penn State in the home building of my favorite professional team stands as one of my worst sports fan moments, ever.