Down 10-0 with 4:16 left in the game, Heisman hopeful Matt Ryan overcame what was, to that point, a disappointing effort by leading the Eagles (8-0, 4-0 ACC) to two lightning-quick scoring drives to win the contest and remain undefeated.
Starting at their own 8-yard line with 4:16 left, the Eagles marched 92 yards in nine plays and 2:05 to keep hope alive. Ryan completed 4-of-8 passes on the drive for 81 yards, including the 16-yard score to Rich Gunnell at the 2:11 mark. Steve Aponavicius' PAT made it 10-7, but it was his onside kick on the next play that might have been the key play of the game.
The ball bounced off the Hokies' Josh Morgan and was recovered by the Eagles' Tyronne Pruitt at the BC 34, where Ryan took over again, this time connecting on 5-of-7 for 66 yards. The game-winner came on 3rd-and-20 from the Tech 24, when Ryan scrambled for what seemed like an eternity, finally finding Andre Callender wide open in the corner of the end zone for the crowd-silencer with 11 seconds on the clock. Aponavicius set the final score at 14-10 with his PAT, and the No. 8 Hokies dropped to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the ACC.
"This is a tough one to handle," Tech head coach Frank Beamer said after the loss. "[But] that's what sports are all about. There are so many opportunities to win it, and it didn't happen. But it's not because of lack of effort. I thought it was one of those nights. The last six minutes fell into place for them."
Ryan finished 25-of-52 in the game with 285 yards, the two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Nearly half of the Eagles' 317 total yards came during the last two drives. BC managed just 32 rushing yards on the night, but the receivers made up the slack, and Brandon Robinson led the way with 86 yards on five receptions. Callender added five catches and 38 yards to go with his touchdown, and Kevin Challenger (60 yards) and Ryan Purvis (40 yards) caught four apiece.
For Tech, Sean Glennon started at quarterback in place of the injured Tyrod Taylor and had a solid game, completing 15-of-25 for 149 yards and a touchdown, while rushing 14 times for 23 yards. Tailback Branden Ore had a season-high 97 yards on 20 carries, including a season-long run of 34 yards late in the second quarter. Eddie Royal led the receiving corps with four catches for 77 yards and the Hokies' lone touchdown.
Tech's defense had a dominating performance until BC's last two possessions and pressured the Eagles all night long. End Orion Martin tallied five tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, a sack, a pass breakup and three quarterback hurries. Fellow end Chris Ellis added four quarterback hurries to go with two pass breakups, 1.5 sacks and four tackles. Tackle Carlton Powell chipped in with four tackles of his own, and linebacker Xavier Adibi led the way with nine stops. As a whole, the Hokies totaled 11 passes broken up, three forced fumbles, and two interceptions - one by Brandon Flowers and one by D.J. Parker.
The first three possessions of the game for either team ended in punts, but the Hokies finally broke through on their fourth drive with a season-long effort in plays (16), distance (91 yards) and time (7:13). The drive started at the Tech 9 with 2:44 remaining in the first quarter, and ended at the 10:31 mark of the second with an 8-yard scoring pass to Royal. Jud Dunlevy's PAT gave the Hokies a 7-0 lead that they would take into halftime.
Glennon went 5-of-6 during the march for 55 yards and the score, and Ore rushed six times for 18 yards. After taking a 5-yard sack on 1st-and-10 from the BC 11, Glennon nailed tight end Greg Boone with an 8-yard completion before finding Royal with the touchdown pass, his fourth of the season. There was good coverage on the play, but Tech's line bought the redshirt-junior signal caller some time and as he scrambled toward the right sideline, he found Royal at the side of the end zone, and he made a diving catch while dragging his toe inbounds. The play was reviewed, but the officials confirmed what proved to be Royal's fourth touchdown of the season, second receiving.
The 7-0 halftime score marked the first time since Sept. 20th, 2003 against Miami - a streak of 53 games - that Boston College was held scoreless in the first half. It was also the first time this season that the Eagles had trailed at halftime.
The Hokies extended their lead to 10-0 with 5:33 to play in the third quarter. After a 14-yard punt return by Royal, he and Glennon hooked up again, this time on a 41-yard bomb to the BC 41-yard line. It was the 104th reception of the flanker's career, and it moved him into sole possession of fourth-place on Tech's all-time list. A holding penalty on Tech backed the ball up 10 yards, but a subsequent pass interference call moved the Hokies to the BC 36. A pair of short runs by Ore and Glennon was followed by a 6-yard completion to Justin Harper at the 27, where Dunlevy drilled a 44-yard field goal, his 11th 3-pointer of the season.
"I think the deal is we are probably going to need to win the rest of our [games]," Beamer said. "If we do, I think we have a chance to play in the ACC Championship game. That's what I think we have to rely on, I do believe. Coming back from this one is going to be tough, but I fully expect us to go back and give great effort down at Georgia Tech. That's what we plan to do."
The Hokies will travel to Atlanta on Nov. 1st for another Thursday night ESPN contest vs. the Yellow Jackets.