clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Boston College Football #TBT: 2003 vs. #12 Virginia Tech

After a couple of years knocking on the door, the Eagles kicked it in with a defeat over the nationally-ranked Hokies.

Getty Images

There is literally nothing better than derailing a rival's season.

In winning six in a row to open up the season, the 2003 Virginia Tech Hokies scored no less than 35 points. They demolished Rutgers and Syracuse by a combined 99-29, including a 51-7 routing of the Orange at Lane Stadium. After losing to West Virginia on the road, they rebounded in a huge way, beating the #2-ranked Miami Hurricanes, 31-7, at home. But the Hokies lost to Pittsburgh the following week, 31-28, again on the road, dashing all hope for the national championship. Although the wheels nearly came off with a one-point victory over a hapless Temple team, the Hokies could still hold out hope for a BCS bowl bid if they defeated their final two opponents, starting with Boston College.

The 2003 Eagles were an up-and-down team, having lost to Wake Forest to open the season at home, 32-28, before beating Penn State on the road, 27-14. BC put themselves in position for bowl eligibility by beating a weak schedule of Connecticut (transitioning to FBS as an independent, they would finish 9-3), Ball State (4-8 out of the MAC), Temple (1-11 and winless in the Big East), Notre Dame (5-7 in the final year of the Willingham Era), sealing it with a win over Rutgers (second-to-last in the Big East).

BC had no marquee wins that year, as Penn State was en route to a 3-9 season. They lost to Wake Forest, Miami, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia, meaning the Virginia Tech game was essentially a quest for a bowl bid, even though they would finish no worse than 6-6. That year, a 6-6 record, with a 2-5 conference record, kept Syracuse out of a bowl game, and the Orange beat North Carolina where BC lost to Wake Forest. If they tied, the last bowl bid for the Big East would likely go to New York's College Team.

To get into a bowl game, the Eagles needed to go through an extremely tough Hokies team. This was in between Vick era, with Michael in the rearview mirror and Marcus backing up Bryan Randall. Randall threw for nearly 2,000 yards that year, with Vick spotting him for reps as a freshman. Kevin Jones, a first round pick of the Detroit Lions who later played a couple of years in Chicago, was in the midst of a monster season, including 21 rushing touchdowns. Deangelo Hall, en route to becoming the eighth overall pick in the following year's draft, had become an incredibly special player, going both ways and playing pretty much every position he could while in Blacksburg.

BC, meanwhile, was in the first year of life after Brian St. Pierre. Derrick Knight rumbled to 1,700-plus yards on the ground as the featured running back, but the Eagles found themselves lacking in a true #1 quarterback for the first time in nearly 10 years. From Glenn Foley to Mark Hartsell to Matt Hasselbeck to Scott Mutryn to Tim Hasselbeck to St. Pierre, BC had recruited Quinton Porter to take over and be the next multi-year starter.

They also brought in junior college transfer Paul Peterson. Throughout the season, Porter didn't play poorly but failed to wow people. During the West Virginia game, he was injured, giving the ball to Peterson. Peterson went onto throw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns (and three picks), becoming the team's starter for the rest of the season. Facing Rutgers the next week, he threw two touchdowns in the second half to rally the Eagles by Rutgers, 35-25.

When BC went into the Virginia Tech game, they were two teams meeting at an interesting crossroads. Virginia Tech was slipping, losing traction on what was a sterling start to the season. BC was picking up steam, salvaging what was, to that point, a stereotypical case of beating bad teams and losing to better teams.

The teams opened up the game by trading field goals, tying the score at 3-3 halfway through the first quarter. But after Derrick Knight put BC up 10-3, Virginia Tech got the first big play they needed when Kevin Jones ripped off a 62-yard run to tie the game at the end of one at 10-10. The Hokies finished the quarter with 238 yards of offense, ripping apart the Eagles.

Of course, though, Frank Beamer outcoached himself. Throughout the season, he used Marcus Vick as a redshirt freshman. BC's defense prepared for this, knowing Vick rarely threw the ball and instead was used primarily as a runner. With Vick running the offense in the second quarter, the Eagles clamped down, holding the Hokies to just 37 yards and three points (four seconds into the quarter). BC's offense, meanwhile, responded with 14 points, all within the quarter's last 2:30. Knight ran it in from four yards out, and Peterson connected with Grant Adams with 38 seconds left to turn a seven point deficit into a seven point lead at the half.

The switch back to Randall didn't help VT in the second half, although they managed to hold the Eagles from scoring any points. With just 10 yards of offense from which to speak of, BC continued to lead into the fourth. About halfway through the quarter, trailing 24-20, Jones ran it in from 13 yards out to give the Hokies back the lead by a field goal. It would last approximately one drive.

With third and 10 from his own 36 yard line, Peterson hit Grant Adams for a 64-yard bomb to give BC the lead. They would add insurance points when Sandro Sciortino hit a 29 yard field goal, capping a drive in which Derek Knight rumbled 60 yards with under two minutes left. Cedric Humes fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Eagles would leave Blacksburg with a marquee win over a ranked opponent.

The win was huge because it continued the Eagle ascent. BC finished the year 7-5, ending the bowl game hopes of Syracuse (a win likely would've sent the Orange to a bowl game instead of the Eagles). With a marquee win, BC found themselves heading for the San Francisco Bowl, where they avenged a loss to Colorado State in the 2000 Bowl. Virginia Tech, meanwhile, dropped to #21 in the standings, well out of reach of a BCS bowl berth. They still had a shot for a decent bowl bid until they lost to Virginia. Relegated down to the Insight Bowl against Cal, the season finished a derailment when they lost, 52-49, on a last second field goal to Cal.

Bryan Randall played out his career with the Hokies and went undrafted in the '05 Draft. He bounced around a few training camps before going to Canada in 2008 and after a couple of years in the Indoor Football League, he was most recently assigned to the Philadelphia Soul in the AFL in 2013. Marcus Vick, meanwhile, ran afoul of the law and was declared suspended in 2004 (losing a year of ineligibility). He returned in '05 to win the starting job and lead Virginia Tech to the inaugural ACC Championship Game, but after numerous infractions off the field, he was thrown off the team prior to the 2006 season.

In the BC game, the Eagles totaled 460 yards of offense, including 229 on the ground. Knight finished with 38 carries for 197 yards and two touchdowns, hauling in a 37-yard reception for 234 all-purpose yards. After adding over 100 yards in the San Francisco Bowl, Knight finished the season with over 1,721 yards, setting the BC program career record with 3,725. That number would remain the record, although tied by Montel Harris, until Andre Williams shattered it with 3,739 yards on his career.

As for Peterson, he would remain the starting QB for the Eagles through the bowl game and into his senior season. He would throw for just under 2,600 yards to lead BC to within a game of outright winning the Big East on the way out the door.