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Boston College Athletics delivers unexpected holiday cheer

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The last two football and men’s basketball events of 2016 ended the year on a high note

Quick Lane Bowl - Boston College v Maryland Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

Ho ho ho.

Sandwiched around Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - the men’s basketball game vs. Providence on December 23, and the Quick Lane Bowl on December 26 - two of Boston College’s marquee sports programs delivered a year-end gift. The way the two games played out seemed to give a morale boost to all but the most jaded Eagles fans, and gives hope that 2017 will be better.

2016 was, as we know, for the most part not a particularly good year for Boston College football and men’s basketball.

The hoops team capped off BC’s historically futile ACC stretch back in March, ending the conference season winless. BC football suffered four horrendous blowouts and needed to ride a very easy nonconference schedule in order to get in to a bowl. While the 2016-17 basketball season seemed to come in with some promise, promise gave way to frustration quickly, with losses to Nicholls St., Hartford, and Harvard.

But Friday’s win over Providence - in which, to be clear, the Eagles blew past a very good Friars team in the second half, with only a disastrous late run making the game look a little closer - combined with the earlier win over Auburn gives hope that this team can contend and win against good teams. Of course, in the brutal ACC, almost every team is even better than both Auburn and Providence. But the wins offer hope, and Friday offered a measure of regional bragging rights in an era when BC basketball has managed to lose to seemingly every school in New England short of MIT and Emmanuel.

Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson were bombing away from beyond the arc, and for Bowman in particular, it capped off a great week; Bowman was on fire against Fairfield too, though his teammates didn’t oblige. If Christian can continue to bring in athletes the caliber of Robinson and Bowman, and stack four classes full of such talent, he’ll have something. In the interim, if those two guys get hot and BC gets quality play from one of the big men, they can sneak past some ACC teams and pick up confidence-boosting wins.

When Boston College football pulled off trick plays and a late, aggressive first half drive to put up 29 first half points against Maryland, I felt just as disoriented as I did watching BC basketball rain hellfire on Providence from beyond the arc - is this real life? is this really happening?

Things slid back to earth in the second half with the BC offense we are familiar with taking center stage, but the defense held firm. And no, it wasn’t the Orange Bowl, but BC notching its first bowl win since 2007 is nothing to sneeze at. As I mentioned here a few weeks ago, perception is reality. This win helps the coaching staff sell the program. And the way the offense operated in the first half shows that the Eagles are capable of moving the ball and scoring.

2017 is going to be a fascinating year for BC Football because all the complaints about the schedule being too easy mostly have to go out the window. There are no FCS teams on the schedule; the home UConn game is replaced with a potentially tricky trip to Hartford, with UConn having a new coach; there are two decent MAC teams on the slate, as opposed to a UMass or a second FCS team; and of course, there’s Notre Dame. And then there’s the usual onslaught of challenging ACC games, with Florida State and Virginia Tech highlighting the home slate.

The good news is, a few wins against some of these foes can help change the entire attitude around the program and spark some interest. Can BC turn the corner? They showed signs down the stretch of being able to do so.

As the calendar gets set to turn to 2017, we don’t know if they can, but we do have some hope.

Meanwhile, Boston College hockey continues to be in the mix. Despite prognostications of doom after losing so many key players to the NHL, the Eagles sit atop Hockey East and at #12 in the Pairwise rankings. With a win against Denver under their belt, BC knows they can skate with anyone. And on the women’s side, the Eagles sit at #5, with every opportunity to possibly host a home tournament game and advance to the Frozen Four.

It was a challenging year to be a BC fan; just about every year has been lately. But holiday gifts delivered on December 23 and 26 should have us all in a more festive mood as we ring in the new year.

2017 gives a pretty early opportunity to be a better year, with Syracuse coming to town on New Year’s Day. Go get ‘em, Eagles.