THE SOARING EAGLES
It would be easy to look at Boston College's 35-32 upset of Penn State in State College and figure that the Nittany Lions are lucky that they're headed for the Big Ten—a conference with more cream puffs than your neighborhood bakery. It also would be easy to look at the Eagles' victory and wonder how long it will take the 2-4 New York Giants to dial up BC coach Tom Coughlin, who was a Giant assistant from 1988 to '90, to request his services once again. But that's not how people should look at the Boston College-Penn State game. Everyone, even the Lions' crestfallen fans, should view the game as an advertisement for college football at its heart-stopping, gut-wrenching, emotion-tugging best.
You like to second-guess coaches? What about Joe Paterno's decision to have Penn State try to block an Eagle punt with the ball on the BC 35 and the Nittany Lions clinging to a 10-7 lead with 4:59 left in the first half? Instead of blocking the punt, Penn State roughed the kicker, and the ensuing 15-yard penalty opened the floodgates for BC.
You like two-minute drills? After the roughing penalty, Eagle quarterback Glenn Foley, who attended Penn State football camps as a youngster, threw three touchdown passes to shock the crowd of 96,130 and send BC to the locker room with a 28-10 lead.
You like controversy? On the morning of the game, Penn State's players and coaches held a meeting. The players were already down because of their loss to Miami the week before, and the confab did nothing to buck them up. "Some things were said to some people that hurt their feelings," says Lion cornerback Shelly Hammonds. "It got a little loud at times."
Happy Valley got very quiet when Foley's fourth TD pass put BC ahead 35-10 in the third period. In fact, some Penn State fans went home. The faint of heart missed a Nittany Lion comeback that was as electrifying as BC's first-half explosion.
After quarterback John Sacca took Penn State on an 80-yard TD drive that cut the gap to 35-24 midway in the fourth quarter, he injured his collarbone and left the game. In came Kerry Collins to direct a 90-yard scoring march that made the score, following a two-point conversion, 35-32 with 1:39 remaining.
The Lions recovered an onside kick, but when Collins tried to find the Lions' magnificent senior receiver, O.J. McDuffie, who finished with 11 catches for 212 yards (both school records), Eagle cornerback Joe Kamara picked off the pass, and BC had its first win in State College in its 10 trips there. The two teams are not scheduled to meet again.
After the game Kamara said of his interception, "Jay was definitely with me." He was referring to Jay McGillis, the Eagle defensive back who died of leukemia on July 3. Last Saturday would have been McGillis's 22nd birthday.