Virginia Tech needs to win its last two games to make a bowl for the 20th consecutive year. The chance to spoil that is the most Boston College can hope for during its second straight losing season.
“It’s critical to maintain that this is an aberration from what this program does,” said BC offensive lineman Emmett Cleary, one of 16 seniors who are hoping that a win in their final home game on Saturday will make up for an otherwise disappointing season. “You can’t treat this stuff like business as usual, and you can’t if you want to be the program that we think we are.”
A week after trying — but failing — to ruin Notre Dame’s national championship hopes, BC (2-8, 1-5 ACC) will has little to play for except the opportunity to keep the Hokies (4-6, 2-4) out of a bowl.
Though they’re not exactly longtime rivals like BC and Notre Dame, the only two Catholic schools in the FBS, Boston College and Virginia Tech have had some memorable matchups dating to their days in the Big East.
Shortly after they defected to the ACC one year apart, BC won three straight regular-season matchups against ranked Hokies teams. But Virginia Tech beat the Eagles in the conference title game in 2007 and again in ‘08.
“It’s still Virginia Tech,” BC center Andy Gallik said. “We’re going to have a little more emotion. And it’s the last time the seniors are going to play at home as a family.”
Since then, BC has struggled, winning fewer games each year and finally ending its bowl streak last year. Virginia Tech would need to beat BC on Saturday and then Virginia next week to extend a bowl streak that reaches back to 1993.
“It’s not something you can really ignore because we haven’t been 4-6 around here in a long time,” Hokies cornerback Antone Exum said. “We feel like we’re probably the best 4-6 team out there. Our record doesn’t indicate how good of a team this is. We still have talent and guys that can get it done, but for some reason, the ball just hasn’t been bouncing our way this year and we’ve just to focus on finishing these last two games and getting to a bowl game.”
BC (2-8) has lost two in a row since beating Maryland for their only Atlantic Coast Conference win of the year. The Eagles have lost four straight to Virginia Tech, including the 2008 ACC championship game.
The Hokies opened the season as the No. 16 team in The Associated Press Top 25 and moved as high as 13th before a loss to Pittsburgh and on Sept. 17 and then two more losses in the next three games sent them tumbling from the rankings. In all, they have lost five of their last six games, including a 28-22 loss to No. 8 Florida State after taking a 22-20 lead with 2:19 left.
“We know what we have to do,” quarterback Logan Thomas said this week. “After the loss we just had, it’s encouraging to see how well we can play. We kind of put it all together. ... We know that we’ve got to have these next two to go to a bowl and we’re excited about it just because the added pressure makes you play better.”
For BC, the only pressure is on the seniors playing their final home game.
A group that joined one of the most successful classes in school history — four-time bowl winners with a 39 victories in four years — is leaving at one of the program’s low points. With just two wins, the Eagles could match the 1989 for the worst record since the winless 1978 season and they are certain to post the first back-to-back losing seasons since Tom O’Brien took over in the wake of a gambling scandal that cost the school its football and basketball coaches along with its athletic director.
Unless the Eagles win their last two games — they play North Carolina State on Nov. 24 — it would be the fifth consecutive season of diminishing win totals.
“I think Saturday will be a lot more enjoyable if we get a win,” tight end Chris Pantale said.
“I could leave Alumni (Stadium) with a good taste in my mouth.”