BC uses inspiration to advantage
By TIM CASEY
Time had expired, the squirrel had crossed the end line and the scoreboard above Notre Dame Stadium read Boston College 31, Notre Dame 29.
And as the victorious Boston College players walked off the field, through the tunnel leading to their locker room, one by one they paid tribute to Mike Poidomani. Standing at the end of the tunnel, with Touchdown Jesus in full view and Eagle fans outside the gate celebrating, Poidomani embraced each player. The Boston College strength coach has been an integral part of the Eagles' turnaround from a 4-7 team a year ago to their current 8-2 record and a place in the top 25.
"We got 'em," the elated Poidomani told his players as they headed to the locker room.
That scene is becoming all too common.
Six times this season, the opponent has knocked off the mighty Irish. A year removed from a perfect record at home, the Irish ended their 1999 home campaign with a 5-2 mark at Notre Dame Stadium.
Bob Davie likes to say that every time an opponent plays Notre Dame, they always regard it as their biggest game of the season.
Why don't the Irish treat it the same?
Because emotion, motivation and playing hard for 60 minutes has nothing at all to do with the strength of your opponent. Or how many players you have injured. Or how talented you are.
It comes from within.
And that's what been so frustrating for Irish fans this year.
Boston College had plenty of reasons to be excited for Saturday's game. For starters, they were denied a victory in last year's game when running back Mike Cloud was stopped four times within the 5-yard line.
They used that defeat as a source of inspiration. In the offseason, a photo of Deke Cooper stopping Cloud on fourth-and-1 to seal the 31-26 victory was posted in the Eagles locker room. The caption was entitled, "How hard are you going to work this summer."
This week the slogan was changed to "How hard are you going to work this week."
On Saturday, the quote of note read "Who wants it more."
The Eagles also felt slighted for being 10-point underdogs to a .500 team when they were 7-2 and in the top 25.
Then came Friday night, at the pep rally, in a full to capacity Joyce Center, when Davie added fuel to the already flaming BC fire.
Addressing the attendees, in the middle of his usual monologue on how big a game this is and how we have the best band, cheerleaders and student body in the country, Davie turned to a group of Boston College students who were situated in the bleachers. Looking over his right shoulder, Davie said "that's another reason right there to kick Boston College's ass."
When word of Davie's comments got back to the Boston College players, they took it to heart.
"Sure, I said it in front of 12,000 people," Davie said referring to the pep rally. "I think that's what a pep rally is for, but I wouldn't take things so seriously."
The BC players obviously did. As too, they did with an unconfirmed report that Davie had guaranteed a victory for the Irish.
Davie denied ever making such a claim.
"That's totally false, totally ridiculous," Davie said referring to the alleged guarantee. "I never made a statement like that in 20 years of coaching and I definitely didn't make a statement like that this week. I'm not overreacting to it because I think it's all kind of silly."
Nevertheless the Eagles used it as a motivating force. Corny, overused catch phrases caught the BC player's attention.
Something the Irish were missing. For no apparent reason.
Notre Dame could have found motivation in several areas. It was the last home game ever for a group of seniors who had been through the resignation of a coach and no bowl victories. A victory over Boston College would have kept the Irish in the bowl picture. They were playing the only other Catholic-affiliated school in Division 1-A football, a rivalry that stands right behind the annual clashes with USC and Michigan.
With representatives from the Insight.com bowl game present, the Irish came out like they were ready to head to Arizona for the Christmas vacation. They scored two quick touchdowns on runs by Tony Fisher and Julius Jones within the first eight minutes of the game. The players were pumped, the coaches were emotional and the 80,012 fans had visions of winning by a large margin for the first time since the Arizona State game.
They proved that they have the talent to beat Boston College.
But then came an interception of a Jarious Jackson pass by the Eagles' RaMon Johnson. Suddenly the momentum turned to Boston College, as they scored on the ensuing possession.
It stayed that way until midway through the fourth quarter when Julius Jones's 67-yard punt return narrowed the margin to 31-29, giving the Irish hope. Notre Dame had another chance, with the ball on their 27-yard line. But a Pedro Cirino interception sealed the victory for the Eagles.
"When you're down by fourteen points [the Irish were down 31-17 in the fourth quarter], it's hard to rally and come back to win the game," Davie said.
Weren't the Eagles down by 14 and didn't they come back to win?
"We're a team that goes out there and grinds out every play," said Bryan Arndt, Boston College's leading receiver on the day with five catches for 80 yards. "We're a 60 minute ball team."
It would be nice if a Notre Dame player or coach could say that ... and mean it.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Sports Stories for Monday, November 22, 1999