Dec 28, 2007

Boston College Fights Off Spartans For Champs Sports Bowl Victory

(AP) Matt Ryan and Boston College had a much more enjoyable trip to Florida this time around.

Ryan threw three touchdown passes, two to Rich Gunnell, and the Eagles extended the nation’s longest bowl winning streak to eight with a 24-21 victory over Michigan State in the Champs Sports Bowl on Friday.

Boston College (11-3) won 11 games for the first time since 1940, but it was a season that at times had the promise of being even better.

The Eagles were ranked No. 2 in the country after rallying to beat Virginia Tech in late October. But they ended the regular season losing three of five, including a rematch with the Hokies in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game in Jacksonville, and ended up in the Champs Sports Bowl.

They found plenty of motivation, though, wanting to extend their impressive bowl streak and send Ryan and his fellow seniors out on a high note.

Ryan finished 22-of-47 for 249 yards, but he also had an interception and a costly fumble.

Gunnell had six catches for 138 yards, including TD receptions of 29 and 68 yards. Both catches came against Michigan State freshman Chris Rucker, who was playing for the first time since having three medical procedures in the last two months to correct a detached retina.

BC All-America safety Jamie Silva had two interceptions and was the game’s most valuable player.

The Eagles sealed the win with their fourth interception of the game. Paul Anderson picked off Brian Hoyer’s pass and returned it to the Michigan State 29 with 2:29 remaining.

The Eagles ran out the clock from there.

Hoyer finished with five turnovers — four interceptions and a fumble — for the Spartans (7-6).

Michigan State, in its first bowl in four years, played without four academically ineligible players, including defensive end Jonal Saint-Dic, one of the best pass rushers in the Big Ten. Also ineligible were offensive lineman Abre Leggins, punt returner Terry Love and receiver-cornerback T.J. Williams.

Coach Mark Dantonio also suspended senior linebacker SirDarean Adams for violating an unspecified team rule.

Despite Hoyer’s struggles, he made it close down the stretch — thanks mostly to Ryan’s fumble.

Leading 24-13 in the fourth, Ryan fumbled as he was sacked by Greg Jones. Oren Wilson recovered at the Boston College 37.

Hoyer, whose first four turnovers helped stake BC to an 11-point lead, connected with Devin Thomas for a 23-yard gain. Then he rolled right, released the ball just before he stepped out of bounds and found Deon Curry open in the back of the end zone.

Hoyer hooked up with Kellen Davis for the 2-point conversion that made it 24-21 with 6:04 remaining.

The Spartans got the ball back twice in the closing minutes, but couldn’t pick up a first down.

No surprise, since three of Michigan State’s four scores came courtesy of great field position.

Thomas returned the opening kickoff 79 yards to set up the first touchdown, and the Spartans later turned a shanked punt into a field goal that made it 14-10.

The Spartans got it right back, too, when Eric Gordon picked off Ryan’s pass.

But Hoyer threw an interception on the ensuing play. Silva’s second pick was as important as his first.

Silva picked off Hoyer in the end zone in the first quarter, preventing the Spartans from extending their 7-0 lead.

Boston College tied the game late in the first by taking advantage of Hoyer’s fumble — the second of his three first-half turnovers.

Hoyer muffed a snap, and Mark Herzlich recovered at the Michigan State 11. Ryan rolled left on first-and-goal at the 1 and found Jon Loyte all alone in the end zone.

Ryan’s 29-yard strike to Gunnell capped a 70-yard drive and made it 14-7 midway through the second quarter.


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