Bo's Blog: Old School Power Boston College Faces New School Pioneers Boise State

By Bo Carter

It’s a little Old School vs. New School in the eighth annual SERVPRO First Responder Bowl Wednesday, Dec. 26, before a national television audience at historic Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas with a 12:30 p.m. (CST) airtime on ESPN.

Boston College, often regarded athletically and academically as the Notre Dame of the East, faces a Boise State program, which has prospered immeasurably on the national scale since the mid-1990s.

BC, founded in 1863 by the Jesuit Order of the Roman Catholic Church, first hit the varsity football gridiron in 1893 and proceeded to win 500 games (with the 500th win coming over Virginia Tech Nov. 3 by a 31-21 count) and has left a laundry list of individual greats and a claimed national championship during the 1940 season. NFF College Hall of Fame coach Frank Leahy guided the Eagles to a 11-0 mark that year with a 19-13 win over Tennessee in the 1941 Sugar Bowl to cap arguably the greatest season in BC annals. That continues to be school mark for victories along with the 2007 Eagles who finished 11-3-0.

Some of BC’s most notable figures are 1985 Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie, Art Donovan, Ernie Stautner, Frank Cavanaugh, Charlie O’Rourke, Chet Gladchuk, Gene Goodreault, George Kerr, Mike Holovak, Mike Ruth, and coach Leahy – all members of either the NFF College Football Hall of Fame or Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Add in 26 all-time bowl appearances, including 17 over the last 20 seasons, and the Eagles appear even more formidable in the Old School demeanor. Interestingly, the first BC postseason appearance came in the 1940 Cotton Bowl Classic at Cotton Bowl Stadium against former Vanderbilt great and then-Clemson head coach Jess Neely. The Tigers, who play Dec. 29 in Arlington, Texas, in the College Football Playoff semifinals and the Goodyear Cotton Bowl skirmish against Notre Dame, were competing in their first bowl tussle and edged the Eagles 6-3.

BC’s all-time mark of 500-390-14 over 84 seasons (the college dropped football during most of the 1903-36 seasons to concentrate more fully on academics.)

While Boston College’s total 125-year history in football competition is impressive, Boise State has posted almost similar numbers and is considered one of the true 21st Century “miracle” teams in the NCAA FBS.

In only 23 seasons of NCAA varsity activity (BSU competed as a community college from 1932-95), the Broncos are on the verge of compiling a 10-win annually average if they can down Boston College. BSU is in its 23rd campaign of college football and has a 229-66-0 mark (.776 winning percentage – 50 points better than Alabama at .726 historically) with 18 bowl games and a 12-6 mark (.667 winning rate).

The Broncos literal rags-to-riches’ story with no stadium or program prior to the middle-1990s literally is unique in college football. The bowl voyages also include 18 invitations in the last 19 seasons with only a 8-4 squad failing to gain a bid in 2001 because of interspersed conference contracts with the 25 FBS postseason contests played in post-’01.

Even more significant are the records of the last three head coaches of the Broncs. Dan Hawkins guided BSU to 53 victories and four bowl games over his five seasons from 2001-05. In the 2006-13 era current Washington head coach Chris Petersen won 92 games and enjoyed a 13-0 record in 2006 and 14-0 worksheet in 2009 with postseason Bowl Championship Series triumphs after each of those regular seasons. Head coach Bryan Harsin (2014-18) has maintained the tradition with double-digit verdict seasons in four of those five years, five consecutive bowl appearances and 52 wins prior to the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl.

And recognize some of these names from BSU’s successful, recent history: RB Jay Ajayi, LB Kamalei Correa, DL Tyrone Crawford, CB Donte Deayon, S George Iloka, DE Demarcus Lawrence, OT Charles Leno Jr., RB Doug Martin, QB Jared Zabransky, and RB Jeremy McNichols, among others? Yep, they are playing on Sundays for playoff-bound teams throughout the NFL.

Yes, the cagey veteran program of Boston College does face a major challenge in three-decade national powerhouse “new kid on the block” Boise State, and fans can expect some solid college football production as these schools meet for just the second time in history. BC edged the Broncos 27-21 at Chestnut Hill, Mass., in 2005.

Art Garcia