The 1987 Boston College football team entered the season with somewhat tempered expectations. The '86 season had been a bounce back one for a team that had gone from the Cotton Bowl win in '84 and #4/5 in the country to a disappointing 4-8 campaign in 1985. That 1986 team, led by Shawn Halloran, Kelvin Martin, Troy Stradford and the late Steve Trapilo finished 9-3 with perhaps the most exciting bowl win in BC history, 27-24 in the Hall of Fame Bowl against #17 Georgia.
Many of those key players had graduated and now it was time for new players to take over in key spots, including quarterback and running back. Enter Westboro, Massachusetts native Mike Power and Madison, CT tailback Jim Bell.
Power, the nephew of former Boston College basketball coach, Frank Power, he of the Power Gymnasium inside Conte Forum, had just a handful of starts under his belt at the time as the Eagles had opened the season 2-2, with home wins over TCU and Temple, and losses at USC in a game that BC could have won, and a 27-17 loss the week before the Pitt game to #15 Penn State in Foxboro.
Bell on the other hand, had stepped in for Stradford and was on his way to 1015 yards rushing on 213 carries. He was a power runner, who had worked hard to become a better pass catcher to fit in Coach Jack Bicknell's pass first offense. Bell notched 100 yard plus efforts against Temple (183), Syracuse (112), in an upset home win over Tennessee (177) and in the Pitt game (139).
"Sometimes, I get a little stubborn", said Bicknell. Why? Well to beat Pitt, the wide open offensive philosophy went out the door and BC ran it's way to a 13-10 come from behind win, capped by Mike Power's naked bootleg run off a gorgeous play fake to Bell who leaped into the end zone, just without the ball, to give the Eagles the win.
The game had started well enough, with Eagle DT Mark Murphy intercepting a Sal Genilla pass on the first play of the game, leading to a 35 yard Brian Lowe FG and a 3-0 BC lead.
The next possession lead to another Panther turnover,with DB Vinnie Munn picking off Genilla, but the turnover was once again only turned into three with a second Lowe FG putting the Eagles up 6-0.
The Eagle defense would play well, but the offense would stall...a lot. Ten straight failed third down conversions. The 6-0 lead wouldn't hold and the Panthers went into halftime leading 7-6 when the immortal 260 lb running back Craig "Ironhead" Heyward bowled over from the 2 to cap a nine play drive, all on the ground.
Pitt coach Mike Gottfried felt fortunate not to be behind "28-0 or something" as he put it as the teams went to the locker room, but the Panther defense and in particular linebacker Zeke Gadson, who was credited with 5 1/2 sacks on the day to go with 11 tackles, would keep BC at bay.
After that 0-10 stretch, the Eagles changed their philosophy, thanks in part to an exchange between Bicknell and long time Quarterback Coach and Offensive coordinator Sam Timer..."Let's run for our lives" was the message..and so they did. 12 straight times.
FB Jon Bronner, Bell and Power combined on the game winning drive, with the Power bootleg off the fake to Bell accounting for the game winner with 6:59 left.
Bell ran for his 139 yards while Bill Romanowski lead the defense with 15 tackles in a game that reminded many of a throwback to the 1930s...or maybe to BC 2015.
October 3 Notes:
Boston College is 7-4-1 all time on October 3. Home 6-1-0, Away 1-3-1, as a ranked team 0-0-1, vs a ranked team 0-1-0. October 3 also has a special place in my life as it was my first Boston College game on 10/3/1970 as the Eagles trashed Virginia Military Institute 56-3. If they were all that easy!
1896 - L - Campello (yup, the section of Brockton) 24 BC 0 - Braves Field
1914 - W - at Maine 27 BC 6
1925 - W - at BC 6 Catholic University 0 - Alumni Field
1931 - W - at BC 13 Dayton 0 - Alumni Field
1938 - W - at BC 24 Northeastern 6 - Alumni Field
1942 - W - at BC 33 West Virginia 0 - Fenway Park
1953 - L - at #19 LSU 42 BC 6
1970 - W - at BC 56 VMI 3 - Alumni Stadium
1981 - L - at West Virginia 38 BC 10
1987 - W - BC 13 at Pittsburgh 10
1992 - T - BC 24 at #24 West Virginia 24
2009 - W - at BC 28 Florida State 21