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Throwback Thursday: BC 38 Army 24, 1988: Eagles first trip to Ireland a success

Eagles beat Cadets in first major college football game played in Europe

Boston College Bookshelf

As we all know, this coming Saturday the Eagles and Georgia Tech will open the 2016 college football season in Dublin, Ireland.  The contest marking another trek overseas for American universities to showcase the pageantry and excitement of the sport.  But 28 years ago, the trip across the big pond was a novelty indeed with BC and Army being the answer to the trivia question of which two programs played the first game in Europe, the Eagles riding a stellar relief effort from backup quarterback Mark Kamphaus and three Ed Toner touchdown runs, to a 38-24 win at Landsdowne Road, a rugby pitch, in the inaugural Emerald Isle Classic.

It had not been a stellar year for the Maroon and Gold.  Coach Jack Bicknell's team had struggled in 1987 after a bounce back year in 1986.  There were tempered expectations for a solid season, but from opening night when Rodney Peete and the USC Trojans dominated BC at Alumni, 34-7, it was pretty clear the '88 team would struggle.

The Eagles entered the contest just 2-7, with wins over Cincinnati (41-7) and Pitt (34-31) and had lost four in a row and had already played four games against the top 16 teams in the country, taking losses to #8 USC, #16 Penn State, #6 West Virginia and #15 Syracuse.  Army on the other hand, entered the game at 8-1, winners of six in a row and Sun Bowl bound under Jim Young in what was the resurgence of the Black Knight football program.  The Cadets only loss that season to date had been a 31-17 defeat at #17 Washington.

Despite the Eagles poor record entering the game, the thought of a trip to Ireland carried the day.  An estimated 7,000 BC fans traveled to the game, including Boston Mayor (and Providence College basketball All American, Ray Flynn) among the 42,524 that day.  The visit of the American spectacle of college football to Dublin grabbed the interest of the locals, with the marching bands (in the day, BC even had its own Golden Girl twirler, cheerleaders and the Cadets.

BC went to the lead midway through the first quarter on a Mike Sanders 53 yard touchdown run, one they would never relinquish.

Army, even at that point, a wishbone team, continued to try to grind it out, but the Eagle defense played a solid game, holding the Cadets to just 3.6 yards per carry on the day.

The teams exchanged field goals, with Brian Lowe staking BC to a 10-3 lead, before Kamphaus, back after missing seven games with a broken jaw he had suffered against TCU, took over from starter Willie Hicks.  Kamphaus would lead the Eagles on 5 play, 55 yard drive, the big one a 47 yard completion to Marcus Cherry, before he took it in himself from four yards out, on a staple Bicknell play, the naked bootleg, to increase the lead to 17-3.

Army cut the deficit to 17-10 late in the first  half, before BC received a gift, recovering an Army fumble on the first play of the second half at the Cadet 28.  From there is was Ed Toner, who had taken over the role of designated TD plunger, scoring the first of what would be three second half touchdowns, to put BC up 24-10.

The Black Knights got the game to one score at 31-24 on a Mike Mayweather run before Kamphaus (15-20, 194 yards) lead the Eagles on the clinching drive, capping it with the last of Toner's TD carries.

The Eagles had done more than win their 3rd and final game of the season that day (they would lose the finale at Temple the next week), they had made a connection with the Irish community and that became as much or more the story than the game itself.