History of the Series
Sept. 26, 2013
By Reid Oslin
Fifty-six years ago Saturday - September 28, 1957 - the Boston College Football Eagles scored their first victory at the then-new Alumni Stadium on the University's lower campus in Chestnut Hill.
The opponent that day? The Florida State Seminoles, who fell to the Eagles by a 20-7 score.
A lot has changed - for both the schools and their football programs - since that day so long ago.
The Seminoles didn't even start a varsity football program until the 1947 season and by 1957, under Coach Tom Nugent, the `Noles were looking to establish themselves in the college football hierarchy. Boston College, which had been forced out of their previous home field, Fenway Park, had hastily built the new Alumni Stadium at its present site. A week prior to the Florida State contest, BC had lost the Stadium's dedication game, falling 46-6 to a nationally-ranked Navy eleven.
Alumni Stadium was packed to its then-capacity of 26,000 for Navy, but only 10,000 loyal fans turned out a week later to watch BC's Don Allard put on a masterful passing performance to tame the Seminoles for the team's first win in its new football lair. Allard, who is a member of the Boston College Hall of Fame, connected on 12-of-18 passes for 147 yards and a score as he led the Eagles' attack that day. Allard's passing numbers may seem paltry by today's offensive standards, but he certainly impressed the Florida State visitors. "He's as fine a quarterback as I've seen in the past few years," gushed Nugent - who later became the successful head coach at Maryland - after watching him play.
BC's ground scores that day came by way of short runs by backs Alan Miller and Larry Plenty, and the late Jim Cotter - who after graduation became the long-time head football coach at Boston College High School - connected on two of three extra-point kicks.
BC had a 20-0 lead before the Seminoles scored in the final quarter.
Boston fans had no way of knowing back in 1957 that they were watching a "star in the making" on the Florida State roster. Listed as one of the team's running backs that day was junior "Buddy" Reynolds of Palm Beach, Fla. After his collegiate football career was over, Reynolds reverted to his given name of "Burt Reynolds" and became one of Hollywood's best-known actors.
BC's starting center in 1957 was sophomore Tony Abraham, who like most of his teammates was from Massachusetts. "I remember that some of the Florida State guys came in and looked at our stadium, and even though it was brand new, said that it looked like a `high school field' with the wooden bleachers and such."
The stadium, which was originally built on a reclaimed section of the Chestnut Hill reservoir, was horseshoe-shaped on the south (Beacon Street) side of the structure, but had a flat bleacher on the north end. Well-kicked extra points would often go over the stands and into the water that backed up to the rear of the flat bleachers, and a student manager would be dispatched in a small rowboat to collect the football.
"But in spite of it all, we played a great game that day," Abraham recalled. "We just had a good feeling going in."
After the game, BC's always-reserved head coach Mike Holovak congratulated his team on the victory but told them they had a lot more goals ahead of them in the '57 campaign. "Mike never had a lot to say," said former tackle Jim O'Brien '60 who played for the Eagles that day. "I think he just said a couple of extra `by gollys' - that was his favorite expression - in the locker room after the game. But I will never forget it. That was my first victory as a BC football player."
Abraham added: "Mike knew we had put up a good fight against Florida State, but he wanted us to look ahead to the rest of the season. We ended up playing pretty well [the team finished 7-2 in 1957] and we beat Holy Cross that year which was our biggest thing."
Abraham also remembered that the next week, BC was scheduled to play the Quantico Marines, a barn-storming group for former collegiate football players who had joined the Marine Corps and played games against some of the top Eastern football schools. "The guys that were scouting for Quantico that day were Florida State grads," Abraham said. "When the game was over they asked some of us on the BC team to consider joining the Marines' Platoon Leaders Class program to become a Marine officers and eventually play for the Quantico team. I was going to do it, but when I went down to take the physical, I flunked the eye exam," laughed Abraham, now more than 50 years later.
One BC player, All-East lineman Tom "Tank" Meehan did elect to join the Marines, and in addition to playing football, he earned his pilot's wings at flight school and went on to become a highly-decorated Marine aviator in the Vietnam War. Meehan is also a member of BC's Varsity Club Hall of Fame.
Florida State and Boston College did not meet again until 1976, the year that the `Noles hired former West Virginia mentor Bobby Bowden to spruce up the program. After road losses to Memphis State, Miami and Oklahoma to start the season, Bowden's team surprised the favored Eagles 28-9 in Chestnut Hill that day to jump start Bowden's legendary 34-year tenure in Tallahassee.
When the Eagles joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2005, the first league foe was - you guessed it - Florida State. The Seminoles visited Chestnut Hill on September 17 for BC's inaugural ACC appearance, an event that drew a packed house and national television audience. The `Noles took an early two touchdown lead in that one, and then held on as the Eagles battled back, with eighth-ranked FSU eventually winning by 28-17 score.
Now yearly ACC opponents, Boston College and Florida State are still close competitors - so don't be surprised if the two teams spin up yet another chapter of football history on Saturday.