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"Surreal": Reflecting On The Unforgettable 2007 Boston College Football Season

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Two friends reminisce about their time on campus during the most exciting BC football season in recent memory

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Today, SBNation.com is looking back at the insane 2007 college football season, in which Boston College was (somehow) a key player. BC Interruption writers Grant Salzano and Joe Gravellese were sophomores during that wild and crazy season. With this year marking ten seasons since Matt Ryan and the rest of the Eagles captured the imagination of everyone on the Heights, Grant and Joe sat down to look back on the memories of those incredible four months.

Grant Salzano: This season marks ten years since that that wild and crazy 2007 NCAA football season that saw ridiculous teams like, well, Boston College, climb into the national spotlight atop the BCS rankings. Week after week, someone would get knocked off, and a new unexpected team would rise up to fill the void.

Somehow, and that "somehow" was named Matt Ryan, the Eagles were right in the middle of it all. And with this being the ten year anniversary, we thought we would look back and relive some of that season.

So, Joe, when you look back on 2007, what are some thoughts that come to mind?

Joseph Gravellese: There are a lot.

I think it has to start with the offseason. One of the sort of fallacies that a lot of sports fans seem to have is that progress with their favorite teams and players is going to be linear. You start at a certain level, keep getting a little better, then reach the very high level you're looking for.

Reality tends to be a little more complicated than that. But for BC fans, we were kind of spoiled with something along those lines for a little while, and it was quite something to be along for that ride. Tom O'Brien came on board with the program in dire straits, and quickly restored the team to competitiveness. Then, in the mid 2000s, a couple things happened: BC kept knocking on the door of big bowl games (and usually blowing those chances), and a kid named Matt Ryan showed up and was clearly very special.

In 2006, BC came up one game short of winning the division title in the ACC Atlantic yet again, and many BC fans were hungry for something more. The new coach, Jeff Jagodzinski, promised that something more.

GS: You're exactly right. 2007 was our sophomore year at BC, and after a pretty good freshman year, and having Matt Ryan come back for his senior season, it felt like we might finally have that breakthrough that we never got to see under Tom O'Brien.

I distinctly remember — and I'm sure you do too because I always talk about it — walking back to College Road from McElroy telling you that I (someone who had now watched exactly one season of college football) thought BC was going to be a national contender. And you told me I was crazy!

Now, in fairness, I was crazy, but somehow that's exactly what happened.

Then we went down 14-0 to Wake Forest like 5 minutes into the first game of the season which is kind of funny.

JG: Looking back, obviously, things didn't work out with Jags, but the excitement of that first year with him and Steve Logan, promising a more wide open and aggressive style, was palpable. That showed itself on day 1 when BC dug out of that big early hole to beat Wake 38-28.

BC threw for 408 yards and 5 TDs. That's basically inconceivable now.

After going down by two scores I remember thinking "well, during the TOB years, that would pretty much be the end of it," and then having this magical feeling come over me when they came back. And I guess that's really the one word that comes to mind when I think of that fall — magic. It was just infectious. We were so lucky to be students then. Campus was wild and the national attention coming to our little underdog of a program was truly amazing.

I guess that's how people feel all the time at schools that are always in the mix. Maybe that's why this sport is so popular.

Anyway, over the next few weeks BC kind of plugged along and made it clear they were pretty dang good. A win at Georgia Tech on a Saturday night was the first big sign that they were very legit and by that point they cracked the top 20.

GS: That Georgia Tech game was really when things started to get real. After going 2-0 we crept into the rankings (a quick search with the Google machine shows we were ranked 21st after NC State), but I remember BC really shot up after beating GT. First off, it was because we were one of the only teams in the country to open with three conference games, but also, Georgia Tech was really good — 15th in the polls at that time — and we just totally smoked them on the road.

There was a whole lot of buzz in the dorm during and after that win, which shot us up to 14th in the polls with, suddenly, a handful of really winnable games on deck.

And everyone else around us just kept losing.

JG: BC pushed their way through some "easy" games against Army and UMass and as they did that, it seemed like everyone fell by the wayside.

Looking at the next few games it felt like BC could crawl in to the top 10 maybe. But things got bananas and they ended up doing a lot better than that. I remember it just feeling surreal waking up on a Monday (I was in college, I woke up late) and seeing littler and littler numbers next to BC's name. 16. 12. 8 before the sixth game against Bowling Green.

After shredding Bowling Green (and putting up another 55!!! points) all of a sudden BC shot up to #4 going in to the trip to South Bend.

I remember hanging out in the dorm the night after the BC-Bowling Green game and sitting there absolutely stunned as you and I followed along on ESPN GameCast or something as Stanford beat #2 USC, in what was an absolutely monumental upset at the time. I remember this vividly; it was before Twitter and before you could stream just about any game — there was definitely no way to watch it from BC.

That's when it started getting really surreal. There was a long way to go but you knew things were getting crazy and historic.

GS: Ha, that Stanford vs. USC upset was bananas. John David Booty... there's a reference for you.

So many ridiculous things happened that year that it seems impossible that it all happened in the same season.

JG: It was possibly the most improbable of all the dominoes that had to fall for BC to get its brief moment in that top 2, aside from maybe the Michigan-Appalachian State game.

GS: God, that was 2007 too!!

You're right though. Stanford vs. USC took things from "wow this is epic" to "WHOA HOLD ON A SECOND."

JG: And so all of a sudden there's a whole new layer added to the then-far-more-frequent BC-Notre Dame game in week 7.

At the time BC was riding (I think) a 5 game winning streak against the Irish. It's actually kind of wild to think about the dominance BC had against Notre Dame for quite some time, but it became a defining part of the program's identity during what was, arguably, their most impressive stretch in the modern era (though obviously the Flutie and Coughlin eras have strong arguments, despite being shorter periods of success).

GS: That BC-ND game was quite a reversal of fortunes, too. Notre Dame stunk that year, BC was in the top 5 of the polls, and we were just hoping that Notre Dame wouldn't have the opportunity to repay all those heartbreaks we gave them.

That's pretty much all I remember about that game — “don't blow this now.”

JG: Yes, the role reversal aspect was one of the big storylines going in.

This is normal for sports fans but obviously looking back, we never really did properly appreciate what we had for a while, which was a team that was consistently quite good and also occasionally capable of giant-slaying. That's... about as much as you can ask for, honestly, as a fan of a team that isn't from one of the CFB hotbeds.

To think, a segment about BC on a national ESPN show aside from breaking a conference losing streak... *sigh*

Also, this guy:

GS: THAT WAS ALSO 2007?!

"I just know that when I look at my degree from BC I'm going to be pretty darn proud of it." "Oh, oh, I'm sure, I would be too, I'm not saying that..."

Savage. Jeff Weinstein is forever a damn legend.

JG: Anyway, I remember watching that game with all your bandmates at Roggie's (RIP) in their basement function room, and BC winning a little more closely than we wanted, 27-14.

We got some great videos from after that Notre Dame game:

It's honestly hard to believe that video is on the same planet as the one we live on now, man.

Look at that! Here's another one. I mean, my God.

I apologize to the "national" fans who might be reading this, thinking, "this is normal."

GS: God. That is just incredible. That looks like... fantasy world.

JG: Yes, like literally something I would dream of being a part of.

Hey, we got to be a part of it, though it didn't necessarily have the best ending. Bah.

But we're not there yet.

So BC beats Notre Dame. 7-0. And moves up to #2, because two more ridiculous upsets happen. USF getting up to #2 was pretty weird and they managed to lose to Rutgers on a Thursday night special. BC has a bye week and the hype really starts picking up.

GS: And now we arrive at the single most ridiculous day in my sports watching life, I think.

JG: Yes. Honestly one of the best days of my life. Not ashamed to admit it.

October 25, 2007. A Thursday. I just remember the entire campus floating on air that day waiting for the game at night. How do you even begin to describe everything about that game? BC fans have written about it a lot.

GS: There was a near-zero productivity level in classes that day. I mean, really.

JG: Now, it has always felt Very BC to be right there on the threshold of doing something special, start to get national attention, and then just throw it away. Losing to #8 Virginia Tech on the road wouldn't quite be on the level of throwing away, but still, it was hard not to feel just heartbroken as VT pulled out to a 10-0 lead.

Like most sports fans I am always convinced that the media is rooting against my team (except I'm right!) so I remember cursing loudly at my perceived glee of the commentators as BC was going to get cut down to size.

I definitely used a very bad word that embarrassed my girlfriend at the time, who was watching in your dorm.

I remember the weather being really crappy, so it felt like nobody was going to score... didn't VT have a touchdown that maybe shouldn't have been, it was a questionable call?

I don't really remember. And this oral history is probably less fun if I consult actual highlights.

GS: It was sometime late in the first half I think, in the middle of the slow-motion monsoon slog where, like you said, it felt like no one would ever score. The VT receiver caught the ball with a foot touching the sideline and it wasn't overturned.

JG: And so things looked bad.

GS: And then it looked... worse. Matt Ryan threw a pick down two scores with 6 minutes to play and the entire bubble of air over campus just deflated.

Of all the emotions I felt after the game, the pure, concentrated elixir of defeatedness that everyone felt after that pick was pretty damn potent.

I mean, it was over.

All of it, the run of the last two months, the excitement, everything, it was over.

JG: But BC gets one back. A little hope.

Then the onside kick happens.

GS: Ha, that onside kick...

JG: I'll never forget that. Just, people spilling out of doors in to the dorm halls after BC recovers that onside kick, courtesy of Steve Aponavicius (worthy of his own article).

That's the funniest part of that day in my memory. No question.

Some big guy absolutely knocked me on my ass. It was great.

I know there was some debate about kicking it deep vs going for the onside kick. Obviously the onside kick worked out.

GS: I remember running out into the hall after the kick and I don't even know how many others did too, and me and some guy, I have no idea who he is to this day, just ran up to each other and started screaming in each other's face something along the lines of "DID YOU SEE THAT ARE YOU EVEN WATCHING THIS DID THAT HAPPEN?!"

And we hadn't even done anything yet!

JG: Yeah, I definitely didn't know anyone else we directly interacted with at that point.

GS: For about 90% of the game there was a measure of decorum from people watching — no one really shouting, everyone keeping their parties within their respective rooms.

But everything after the onside kick it was like the whole dorm was watching together, purposely shouting loud enough to the neighboring rooms could hear each other.

JG: And then Ryan just carved VT up down the field to get in to somewhat of field goal range.

GS: We were so damn excited to be in field goal range... We didn't even know, man.

Now this is all a blur here, but I feel like I remember a big play right before the touchdown getting called back on a holding call. Am I misremembering this?

JG: No, you're right. A TD pass to Gunnell in the end zone.

And then, just... the Ryan scramble and TD. One of the memories I'll take to my grave. When I think of single, solitary sports plays that just absolutely overwhelmed me... it's gotta be #1, I think.

I definitely remember hearing you say "oh my god" when we noticed Callender was open.

GS: I know what you mean — one of those lucid frozen moments in time where you remember the tiniest detail.

After that touchdown was just... I mean, when we say pandemonium...

JG: Pandemonium for hours. Not just in the Mods. Everywhere.

GS: So many people were hugged. While simultaneously getting screamed in the face.

Nobody knew what to do with themselves. I mean that literally, in the literal sense of the word “literally.” Everyone just kind of... ran. And yelled. And didn’t know where to go or what to do to release the catharsis.

JG: You stole the show by playing For Boston on your trumpet all through campus. That was fun. Though you were pretty much out of breath.

GS: Yeah that was like 3am at that point, too. Not a soul on campus was going to sleep until the team got back on the charter.

JG: Man, that was just one of the happiest days I'd ever had and will ever have.

GS: I need to dig up some videos of campus from that night. Let's just enjoy this for a second.

I have never to this day seen anything in the same stratosphere of what happened on campus that night. People were just spilling out of buildings.

It was absolutely, in the truest sense of the word, surreal.

Here are four videos that look like abstract art in how little you can see in them, which seems appropriate given how the whole night was a total blur anyway.

Well, at some point we have to move on to the next week, don't we.

JG: Ugh. Do we have to?

GS: Just the worst.

JG: I guess this just adds to the layers of that crazy fall — BC truly establishes themselves with their biggest win in ages, and then in the next week... it's gone.

I don't remember much about the game against Florida State. I remember it was cold and rainy. I remember thinking it would be to our advantage. It wasn't. I also remember tearing up on my way back to College Road. Not ashamed to admit it. Though it's honestly one of the only times I can remember actually being that devastated by a game.

GS: My lingering memory of the Florida State game is the ****ing Tomahawk Chop.

JG: That ****ing chop. Of all teams to lose to.

I guess it would have sucked losing to anyone.

And then we lost to ****ing Maryland. Which is still weird. We beat Maryland even when we suck!

GS: The band (or at least a portion of it) got sent to each of the away games after the Virginia Tech game. I was at the Maryland game, and that game was just the absolute worst.

I guess I said the Florida State game was the worst, but the Maryland game was... miserable.

JG: The Maryland game wasn't heartbreak, yeah, it was misery. Like everything was going down the drain.

GS: I don't know how we only lost by 7, because it felt like we got freaking smoked.

JG: I think they made a crazy bid at a late comeback, if I recall correctly. But they couldn't stop anyone. The team was struggling and they had a trip to Clemson on deck that would determine if they would make the ACC Championship Game or not. That... didn't feel good.

That reminds me, BJ Raji and Brian Toal had to redshirt that season. Can you imagine? Thankfully, the presence of both as fifth-years in 2008 helped BC win the division again the next year with Chris Crane at the helm. But still.

GS: After that Maryland game the band was getting assaulted by Terp fans as we left the stadium. People throwing elbows and stuff. Miserable.

JG: Ohhh I forgot you were at that game. That must have been terrible. I've heard some stuff about Maryland fans.

GS: Let's just say the ACC as a whole is probably glad to be rid of them. Animals.

JG: So, Clemson. You were there, too, right?

I have my own story from that night, but you go first.

GS: I was indeed also at the Clemson game, with the band. That was a complete opposite experience from Maryland.

We had a lot of time to kill before the game and we had an opportunity to roam the tailgates. After the experience the week before with Maryland fans, we were warned to be careful walking around. That warning was entirely unnecessary as the experience of meeting and interacting with Clemson fans was a true highlight of the season.

The game itself was incredible. So many ups and downs. Despite the undefeated season not being on the line, it was a far, far better football game overall than the VT one was.

The winning touchdown pass to a wide, wide open Rich Gunnell was a rainbow, and just as damn pretty as one.

This deep cut from YouTube is one of my favorite videos on the internet — it really captured a first person second-by-second view of every single person's reaction to that play:

"Oh Jesus, oh Jesus, oh my God ahhhhhHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH"

/chaos

JG: Yeah, that game was almost just as surreal thinking about it because BC was kind of left for dead at that point. It felt like the magic was gone.

I was in Washington DC that weekend and on the Saturday night I basically desperately poked around the Georgetown area for somewhere that would put the game on. I ended up in some Italian restaurant where I was the only person in the entire corner of the room so they kept the game on for me. I couldn't drink at that point so I'm ordering pasta and dessert like crazy to justify continuing to stand there swearing at their TV.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, this place turns in to a straight-up nightclub at around 9 or so, so they're moving all the tables out around me.

I end up standing in the middle of a darkened room, soon surrounded by people coming in to go clubbing, watching the game, living and dying with every play. I'm pretty sure I shouldn't have been in there since I was under 21 but I don't think the staff had the heart to ask me to leave seeing how I was reacting to the game.

My enthusiasm for what was happening obviously got the attention of people around me. Then the Gunnell pass happens and a random 40-ish year old African-American woman nearly knocked me over with a giant hug.

There were some Georgetown bros there who felt convinced to root for Jesus, also, if I recall correctly.

It was a trip. I was so hyped up after the game that I rode around on the DC metro for like 3 hours because I was too jacked up to go back and sleep. I am lucky I didn't get lost or killed. YOLO.

There were some festive AIM away messages that night.

Actually, that's one vivid memory I still have from the Virginia Tech night, all the maroon and gold AIM away messages. For the entire BC Buddy List.

GS: That is one hell of a snapshot in time.

JG: 10 years is a long time.

So with that win BC goes to the ACC Championship Game for the first time, in Coach Jags' first year.

Legendary.

GS: That game also freaking sucked.

JG: Oy.

Well, let's not forget we had a cool, somewhat forgotten moment — Matt Ryan's senior day, beating Miami for the first time since 1984.

GS: Oh yeah, that happened.

JG: But then the ACC Championship Game... yeah, that was a heartbreaker. I was very sick that day. Something like a 102 degree temperature. Watched most of it in the common room on CoRo. Sad.

GS: I was there, because band, yay, but it was a kick in the junk.

Weirdly, we score a touchdown that should put us up by two scores, and then give up the 2 points the other way on the blocked kick to make it a 7 point game — a 7 point game that we're leading, by the way — and it feels like we're toast.

JG: Yeah, that's when it felt like things weren't going to go our way.

(Narrator voice: They didn't.)

Still, it didn't feel totally devastating. We'd still had a great season and we had this feeling like we were in for a great decade with Jags and Logan.

Just making the ACC Championship Game was a huge step for the program.

GS: Yeah, and then we win a quality bowl game against a quality opponent in Michigan State, end up 10th in the polls, a great time.

JG: Yes, the Michigan State game was a great way to end it. Like a nice refreshing ice cream sundae to finish off the season with.

Losing the chance — however slim — at a BCS berth... that was devastating. You knew that was once-in-a-lifetime stuff. Going to the ACC Championship Game? That felt like it could happen pretty often. And it even happened the next year!

GS: With Chris Crane!!

Not to rag on Chris Crane, the dude had the best option fake I've ever seen. But he was Chris Crane.

JG: Nice bowl game, in Florida, so we finally get good weather (we usually would get stuck in Boise or whatever). Big Ten opponent. Nice win. Solid performance by Matt Ryan. Good BC turnout. It was Nice.

Nothing historic or anything, but very nice. And to finish the year in the top 10 leaves me with a warm, fuzzy feeling about it, even though there were missed opportunities to do more.

Sigh.

GS: Fortunately, BC football history ended there and everything was very happy forever after.

JG: Yes, college football had a great run. When they cancelled it after 2008, everyone agreed, unlike some shows, that it went out on top of its game.

It's such a mix of emotions to look back on this. Obviously it stinks that they came up short of going to the Orange Bowl or whatever but I also feel incredibly grateful that I was there on campus for that season.

GS: That's how I feel about it too. There could have been so much more, but, as corny as it is to say it, the whole season experience was just such a gift.

JG: I guess the natural question from a BC perspective is, will we ever experience anything like that again.

GS: College sports are weird.

JG: "Ever" is a long time, so I don't know, maybe. But it would require a lot of circumstances to break right. I mean, everyone remembers that 2007 season for being crunk. It was also the culmination of years and years of solid recruiting and program building at BC, especially in regard to having a pipeline of really good fifth year seniors.

There's no instant gratification to be found, no Matt Ryan figure or Doug Flutie figure who's going to make BC what it was in 2007 again by magic.

But that's a whole 'nother article.

GS: You really never know. I don't think anyone at Stanford saw their run as a football power coming. They hadn't done anything of note for decades before suddenly exploding in the last dozen years or so. As you mentioned, them beating USC in 2007 was am absolutely colossal upset.

We're totally like Stanford, right? So maybe we're just a few years from a 10+ year run of powerhouse Boston College Eagles football.

JG: Sure. Let's go with that. I wouldn't mind having more of these great memories to look back on. Though with all things considered it'll be hard to top the memories of 2007.