BC, Wake of like minds
Sep 5, 2013
By Reid Oslin
Boston College and Wake Forest University share many common attributes - lofty academic reputations and religion-based educational heritage are just a few. So there's little wonder why these two fine schools have also presented college football fans with one of the ACC's best and most competitive rivalries.
Over the past 10 seasons, each team has won five games (although the Demon Deacons have won the last two games to even up the modern series score.) And, just how close have those games been? Wake has outscored BC by only three points - 241 to 238 - in the more than 600 minutes of football.
That margin is just about the same hair-breadth distance as the two schools stand in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings of the nation's top universities - where Wake Forest held down the 27th spot in the 2012 listing, a short step ahead of Boston College at No. 31.
Even the school's backgrounds are similar in spite of the geographic distance from Winston-Salem, N.C. to Chestnut Hill, Mass. Boston College was founded by the Jesuit order 150 years ago to provide higher educational opportunities for the sons of Boston's Irish and Italian Catholic immigrants; Wake Forest was established by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina in 1834. Both schools have remained true to the core liberal arts curriculum and ideals of service upon which they were founded, and to this day, both schools are annually among the nation's leaders in graduation rates for student-athletes.
With undergraduate student bodies of 4,775 (Wake Forest) and 9,088 (BC), the schools are among the smallest in the Atlantic Coast Conference, yet each school has an illustrious athletic history, with All-America players, post-season appearances, and honored coaches on each side of the ledger.
If Boston College salutes 1984 Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie as one of its top sports alums, Deacon fans will counter with golfer Arnold Palmer, who competed for Wake before he turned professional in 1954.
Now what does all this mean when the Eagles and Demon Deacons get together on the football field? Let's take a look at some of the high points in the BC-Wake rivalry:
In 1941, Boston College, still basking in the glow of the unbeaten Sugar Bowl championship season on 1940, was ranked sixth in the country when the Deacons took the long train ride north to New England to meet the Eagles in Boston's Fenway Park. The visiting Deacs gave BC all they could handle in the first half, before BC - led by All-America and future College Hall of Fame full back Mike Holovak - wore down the visitors and prevailed 26-6.
After the war, the teams met on a yearly basis from 1946 to 1953, as both schools were seeking to build intersectional rivalries and national reputations. Interestingly, most of the games in this period were played at Braves Field, a former National League baseball stadium that is now owned by Boston University and called Nickerson Field. Like tonight's contest, many of these Braves field games were played on Friday nights.
The tight competition between the two schools was even evident back in those post-war days, as both Wake and BC claimed three victories and two games ended in 7-7 ties. The BC-Wake draw in 1950 was the only bright spot on an otherwise dreadful season for the Eagles, who finished 0-9-1 on the year, spelling the end of Coach Denny Myer's days at the Heights. BC didn't make a visit to Winston-Salem until 1952, when the teams played to the other 7-7 tie.
The series was renewed in 2003, two years before Boston College formally entered the Atlantic Coast Conference, and in the ensuing decade has provided some of the most thrilling games on the fall football calendar.
The 2005 BC-Wake Forest game will go down as a "coming-out party" for BC's future All-America quarterback Matt Ryan. In a game played on a rainy afternoon, Ryan came off the bench to help the Eagles overcome a 20-point halftime deficit to the Deacons. With BC trailing 30-21 in the final minutes of the game, Ryan fired touchdown passes to wide receivers Anthony Gonzalez and Kevin Challenger to earn a huge 35-30 comeback win and earn the nickname "Matty Ice" for his coolness under pressure.
The following year, No. 22-ranked Wake turned the tables on No. 16 BC in Winston-Salem, scoring a 21-14 upset in a game nationally-televised on ESPN. Ryan had a career night passing in the game, throwing 57 times and completing 40 for 402 yards and a score. However, after leading the Eagles down the field for a final chance at victory, Ryan's pass into the endzone was picked off by a WF defender with just 57 ticks left on the clock.
Another nail-biter came in 2009 when Wake signal-caller Riley Skinner fired a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to force overtime. In the extra session, however, BC walk-on kicker Steve Aponavicius booted a 23-yard field goal to give the home team a three-point advantage. The Demon Deacons had one more chance in the extra session and Skinner brought his team to a first-and-goal situation at the BC four, but BC safety Wes Davis pounced on a fumbled sweep-play toss to preserve the hard-fought Eagle win.
Last season, Wake prevailed 28-14 in Winston-Salem to even the series at 5-5 over the last decade.
Will tonight's game go down to the final minutes? If Boston College and Wake Forest's football history is any indication, fans won't want to leave Alumni Stadium early.
- Reid Oslin served as director of Eagles' athletic publicity from 1974 to 1997 and author of two books on the history of Boston College football.