After about a week's worth of sifting through the memories of the past year, we're ready to crown the most memorable moment of Boston College athletics in 2014. Before we begin, however, let's recap each of our four selections:
F1) Murphy's Run vs. USC
The top seed in the Football Division, Tyler Murphy's 66-yard run for the end zone sealed Boston College's victory over then ninth-ranked USC. As the top moment of the football season, it defined what we came to know about the transfer quarterback, and it helped define his legacy as the signal caller for the Eagles. Despite only having one season in which to ply his trade, Murphy really broke out with the offense against the Trojans. Following this game, we all started to realize how BC would operate this year, and because of this performance, we not only accepted it but also elevated expectations of the team. As for the quarterback, it indelibly etched his name into the annals of Boston College athletics, and it kick-started a record-breaking season in which we truly saw a completely different look from the football program.
There's so much about this play that altered the course of the 2014 Boston College football season. For starters, the predictions of 5-7 or 6-6 all of a sudden sky-rocketed, and we saw a whole new ceiling to the Eagles. We knew there were holes within the team, and we knew those deficiencies were fatal. But we also became aware of how lethal BC could be. If a defense didn't gameplan the right way, Tyler Murphy could carve them up. It allowed us as fans to not fear Florida State or Clemson, and the belief in Steve Addazio only grew stronger as the year went on. Sure, the record didn't change, but find a person not happy with the season this past year? You really can't.
H3) Boston College defeats UMass-Lowell in NCAA Tournament
When Notre Dame defeated Boston College in the Hockey East Quarterfinals, the majority of the college hockey world felt robbed since it eliminated the potential to watch the Eagles and UMass-Lowell battle in single-elimination format for a trophy. Luckily, the Pairwise Rankings broke the right way, and both UML and BC fell into the Northeast Regional bracket as part of the NCAA Tournament.
Playing Denver and Minnesota State in the first round, there felt an inevitability about what would happen with a trip to Philadelphia on the line. BC dispatched the Pioneers easily, winning 6-2. UMass-Lowell had a slightly tougher time with Mankato, playing a tough, evenly-matched game through two periods before scoring the eventual game-winner in the last minute of play. Up 2-0, the Mavericks scored too little too late, giving us a chance to set up the grudge match.
The BC-UML game stands out as two teams competing at their very best. Arguably the two best teams in Hockey East, the game became a heavyweight fight where both sides scored knockdowns and haymakers. Deadlocked through two periods at 2-2, the game felt very much like the young lion on the block (UML) going head-to-head with the old guard (BC). It was back-and-forth every step of the way, and it gripped those watching it. Neither team committed a penalty after the first period, combining for 21 shots apiece in the second and third. But then Teddy Doherty found Ian McCoshen halfway through the third, giving BC a 4-3 lead. The next nine minutes played out, and the Eagles were on to Philadelphia.
B1) Win It For DK
Every now and then, a single game belies an entire season. Mired in one of their worst seasons in program history, everyone kind of knew this year was Steve Donahue's last run. Heading up to Syracuse to take on the undefeated, top-ranked Orange, the question wasn't if BC would lose but only if they could keep it close. ESPN tabbed the game as a lock for the host, giving the Eagles a less than 1% chance at winning.
On top of it all, the basketball team from Chestnut Hill hurt spiritually. Their mentor, Dick Kelley, the longtime sports information director beloved by the BC community, had passed away that week, succumbing to Lou Gehrig's Disease. The team attended his wake and funeral, then left for New York State to play one of the most talented teams in the nation.
Having not won a game in about a month, Boston College began shooting lights out from beyond the arc. They would outscore Syracuse 33-6 from long range, going 11-for-22. They kept Tyler Ennis at bay. And Olivier Hanlon looked like a bonafide superstar with his 20 points, including a layup towards the end of the game to tie things up in regulation. The defense bottled up the Orange, and the Eagles went on to win 62-59 in overtime.
It didn't change Donahue's fate. It didn't change the lost season. But for one moment, Boston College stood on top of the college basketball world. And somewhere in the heavens above, Dick Kelley probably sat back, exhaled, and smiled.
I admit I'm a baseball guy by nature. Having played the game, having worked in the game for years, I know how one bounce, one lucky hop here or there, can change the complexion of a whole season. If you're a player, the difference between a Hall of Fame career and a journeyman minor leaguer is pretty much one extra hit per week. That's how razor-thin the margin of error can be in baseball.
The Boston College baseball team has been disappointing to fans of the athletic department over the last couple of years. I know I've been extremely frustrated, especially as the team's limped through four straight seasons on the outside looking in on the ACC Tournament. For me, the bubbling over of frustration took its turn through analysis and questions. For others, it took on a whole different complexion.
Fed up with the way the program's looked to the public eye the last couple of years, some of the BC faithful began arguing during baseball coverage about dropping the program altogether. Considered a "southern sport," they opted for the argument to get rid of it altogether. Dropping baseball would necessitate changes throughout the other sports, an influx of recouped cash. It would allow them to possibly add lacrosse (which is the major argument), but it would also allow BC to spend those dollars elsewhere on programs "more likely to succeed."
The baseball argument is one that draws out passionate, almost irrational responses, from both sides. In order to have nice things throughout other programs, you have to drop baseball for money. Conversely, you don't need to drop baseball in order to sink money into anything, and the facilities, the equipment, the travel? That means nothing to the success of baseball; it's coaching and mechanics.
Either way, it's an argument that didn't go away throughout the 2014 schedule. And since we can't add lacrosse without dropping baseball (according to some), that argument looks to rage again in 2015 unless there's an improvement on the field.
Now on with the matchups:
F1) Murphy's Run vs. H3) BC over UMass-Lowell
There's no doubting how big of a game the BC win over UMass-Lowell felt. It was an instant classic. It lived up to the hype, and it was the seminal moment of a beautiful run by Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes, Bill Arnold, and the Sons of York.
It did not, however, redefine the landscape of Boston College athletics in 2014.
As great of a win as it was, BC didn't win the national championship. While the hockey players making up that team are still part of a hockey buzz among the faithful, it didn't quite alter the landscape altogether. Think of what life was like as a Boston College fan before the Eagles played USC. Think about the way USC ran out of the tunnel and challenged the BC tunnel. Think about the Trojans' swagger, and how it felt like BC would be lucky to hang tough with a top ten team.
Remember what you thought about the BC offense after the Pittsburgh game going into the USC game.
Then think about how you felt on Monday about the entire football program, Steve Addazio, and Boston College on the whole.
That's what Murphy's run for the roses did. It changed the landscape of Boston College athletics. Prior to the USC game, BC was a rebuilding franchise, a brand built around the success of hockey with rebuilding starting in basketball and football. After the run sealed the victory, Boston College once again morphed into a football school with a signature moment. It was the top story on ESPN, and the flair for the moment went beyond just what happened on the field.
Winner: Tyler Murphy's Run
B1) Win It For DK vs. BC5) #DropBaseball
Look, there's one cold hard fact here that makes this a really quick argument.
Do we all want BC to succeed? Of course we do. But college baseball, as important as it is to the community it's built upon, isn't making top story in the USA Today just for winning a regular season game. In fact, BC's beaten top-ranked teams before (2013 vs. Florida State for starters, though I'm not sure if FSU was actually #1 in the nation), and you probably didn't even notice it. College basketball though? That's a different story. I'd be lying I tried to argue otherwise. We don't want baseball to fail, and we'd love a College World Series championship. That said, winning a basketball tournament would change the face of the entire athletics department forever.
Winner: Win It For DK
F1) Murphy's Run vs. B1) Win It For DK
There's one thing I have to come back to when discussing the legacy and impact of these two moments.
Murphy's Run against USC was such a huge moment. It changed the way we felt about so many other things, and it lasted beyond a full week. It was the moment where emotion burst open, and the pure adulation of that game capped itself in the jumping up and down in the stands. It spilled over onto the field. It was something to behold.
The win over Syracuse is something that will last a lifetime, but like I said during the basketball analysis, it did nothing to alter the fate of the program. It was one moment in a lost season. It didn't save Steve Donahue's job, and it didn't stop Ryan Anderson from transferring. It didn't all of a sudden put BC in the national tournament hunt, and it didn't make them a contender overnight. When we woke up the next day, we felt great about the win, but it didn't change the fact that the basketball program was where the football program was in 2012.
That's the difference between what happened in 2014. Tyler Murphy's run was the biggest moment on the biggest stage at that point of the season. It completely changed the way others looked at BC football, and it changed the way we viewed it ourselves. It squashed any and all arguments about who the best team in the Northeast was. We were able to watch BC compete in the Mid-Atlantic against schools from Pennsylvania and down into the South against conference foes with confidence. We realized that if BC went head-to-head with anyone else from this area of the country, they would squash them.
Before the season started, we didn't feel that way. By the time the season ended, we had that confidence. That's what makes Tyler Murphy's run the moment of 2014.
Winner: Tyler Murphy's Run
Here's to hoping we have so many more memorable moments in 2015, and as always...GO EAGLES!