BOSTON — Twenty-four years after his uncle Doug threw the pass that earned Boston College a berth in its last major bowl game, Billy Flutie helped put the Eagles back on a path to New Year’s Day with a short flick of the wrist.
The BC backup quarterback, punter and kick-holder threw for a 9-yard touchdown on a fake field goal Saturday to lead the 20th-ranked Eagles to a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game with a 28-21 victory over Maryland.
“Flutie,” Eagles coach Jeff Jagodzinski said. “You haven’t heard that in a while around here, have you?”
BC (9-3, 5-3 ACC) will play Virginia Tech in the ACC title game on Saturday — the second straight year the former Big East foes will play for the conference’s spot in the Orange Bowl. For the Eagles, it would be their first-ever trip to a BCS game and their first major bowl appearance since Doug Flutie led them to a Cotton Bowl victory after the 1984 season.
“Everything that we do and the way that we do it is geared towards the championship,” Jagodzinski said. “No one said we could do it except the kids on the field. That’s the best part of coaching: getting your guys to believe in it.”
Maryland (7-5, 4-4) had been in contention for the conference title before losing three of its last four, including a 37-3 loss to Florida State last week. The Terps fell to 4-1 against ranked teams this season and into a logjam of ACC teams seeking a secondary bowl berth — the conference has 10 teams competing for nine guaranteed spots.
“You do the math,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “I hope we go to a bowl. That’s what I hope. From what I hear there are some other teams in other conferences.”
The nephew of former BC teammates Doug and Darren Flutie, Billy Flutie followed his famous name to Chestnut Hill, where a statue called “The Hail Mary Pass” graces the entrance to the stadium, forever freezing uncle Doug in bronze as he rears back to throw.
Billy Flutie played quarterback in high school but hadn’t completed a pass in college until he lined up as the holder for what would have been a 27-yard field goal with BC leading 14-7 midway through the third quarter. Flutie took the snap and rolled to his right before finding little-used tight end Jordon McMichael, who lumbered in the rest of the way from the 3.
“I’m a Flutie, and I take a lot of honor in my last name,” he said when asked about the challenges of following his Heisman Trophy-winning uncle on campus. “Darren and Doug did great things here when they were here, and I’m looking to contribute to that.”
Chris Turner led the Terrapins on an 11-play, 70-yard drive, converting a third-and-2 with a 23-yard pass to Emani Lee-Odai and a fourth-and-3 with a 5-yard pass to Danny Oquendo. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Turner and Oquendo connected again from 13 yards out for a touchdown that made it 21-14.
BC turned conservative and went three and out, but Maryland’s Obi Egekeze missed a 36-yard field goal attempt and Robert Francois intercepted Turner and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown to give BC a 28-14 lead with 1:42 left. It’s the seventh straight game in which the Eagles have gotten a touchdown from their defense or special teams.
Turner connected with Smith for an 8-yard touchdown with 14 seconds left, but the onside kick attempt went out of bounds and Boston College ran out the clock.
Rich Gunnell caught three passes for 78 yards and a touchdown, and Montel Harris ran for 116 yards on 25 carries, including 10 in a row down the stretch as BC tried to run out the clock. Dominique Davis, in his first game since starter Chris Crane sustained a season-ending broken collarbone, completed 12 of 24 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns.
The Eagles defense held Maryland to minus-6 yards rushing and added two more interceptions to bring their total to 25 — best in the nation.
Turner completed 33 of 57 passes for 360 yards and two touchdowns for Maryland, which had been in contention for the conference championship before losing three of their last four, including a 37-3 loss to Florida State at home last week.
BC took a 7-0 lead in the first when Davis hit Justin Jarvis for a 7-yard touchdown pass. Maryland tied it on its next possession, when Turner scored on a 1-yard keeper one play after hitting Torrey Smith for a 43-yard pass. Davis found Gunnell wide open in the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown that made it 14-7 with 1:05 left in the half.