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BC 27, Notre Dame 14

Eagles take fight out of Irish

Perfect BC poised to climb the polls

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - If you were looking for a spectacular blowout to justify Boston College's No. 4 ranking, you didn't get it.

If you were looking for a Heisman-highlight performance by quarterback Matt Ryan, you didn't get that, either, although the quarterback had his moments.

Instead, what coach Jeff Jagodzinski's unbeaten Eagles offered to the sellout crowd of 80,795 at Notre Dame Stadium yesterday was a replay of highlights from their first six weeks, glimpses of good defense and solid offense, in a 27-14 victory over the Irish.

Ryan completed 32 of 49 passes for 291 yards, a pair of touchdowns, and an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Andre Callender ran for two touchdowns and caught a TD pass as the Eagles roared into their bye week before facing Virginia Tech in a Thursday night Atlantic Coast Conference showdown in Blacksburg Oct. 25.

"I'm real proud of these guys," said Jagodzinski. "It's fun coaching these guys. Now we just have to keep it going in Blacksburg."

For the Eagles, it was a fun day all around, made better after No. 1 LSU was upset by Kentucky, and No. 2 California was stunned by Oregon State, which could put the Eagles as high as No. 2 in the country when the first BCS rankings are released today.

Beating Notre Dame for the fifth consecutive time also had a nice feel as the Eagles built a 20-0 lead before Notre Dame found a response, turning the game into a competitive affair in the second half.

Despite the mystique of the place, BC came in with a group of seniors led by Ryan and Callender on offense and Jolonn Dunbar and DeJuan Tribbble on defense.

From the start, the Eagles maintained their poise as they slowly, steadily built their lead, using what the Irish allowed on defense.

At the start, that included passes to Callender - 10 receptions for 91 yards and one touchdown, 90 rushing yards and two TDs - coming out of the backfield.

The Eagles (7-0) wasted little time establishing their turf. After forcing Notre Dame to punt on its first series, the BC offense took over on its 27.

The Eagles probed the Irish defensive line, looking for holes, and quickly found them, with Callender and L.V. Whitworth picking their way through.

The biggest burst was a 52-yard sprint across the field by Whitworth, who went from the BC 41 until he forced out of bounds at the Irish 7.

Callender completed the drive on the next play with a 7-yard burst into the left corner of the end zone for a 6-0 BC lead, which stayed that way after Steve Aponavicius's extra point attempt sailed wide left.

From there, it was give-and-take by BC, which seemed in control as long as it did not make the mistakes (seven turnovers) UCLA made in losing to Notre Dame, 20-6, last week. The Eagles made only one, but were hurt by 15 penalties for 131 yards. But it wasn't enough to spoil their afternoon - or season.

A 41-yard, eight-play drive, capped by Callender going the final yard for the TD, gave the Eagles a 13-0 halftime lead, which expanded to 20-0 on Callender's third touchdown, on a 9-yard pass from Ryan in the third quarter.

Notre Dame (1-6), which must deal with USC next week, finally showed some offensive life when coach Charlie Weis switched quarterbacks, benching Jimmy Clausen in favor of junior Evan Sharpley, who promptly took the Irish 79 yards on seven plays, ending with a 19-yard TD pass to Robby Parris. That cut the BC lead to 20-7 with 10:27 left in the third quarter, and gave Irish fans hope of a comeback.

The possibility of a rally became more real when a series of offensive holding penalties set up a bigger mistake when a Ryan pass over the middle was picked off by Brian Smith, who rumbled 25 yards into the end zone to cut the BC margin to 20-14 with 8:52 to play in the third.

"I made a poor decision," said Ryan. "I just should have thrown it away."

What he did, instead, was shrug off the mistake.

The Eagles - and Ryan - responded quickly and coolly. Given good field position following an unsportsmanlike conduct - Notre Dame was penalized for excessive celebration following Smith's touchdown - BC regained control quickly on a 44-yard drive that ended with a 13-yard TD pass from Ryan to Kevin Challenger to make it 27-14 with 7:00 left in the third.

As the game moved into the fourth quarter, the Eagles, who were hit with a series of major penalties, held a lead that looked anything but secure.

The Irish looked as if they had cut the BC lead to one touchdown when Sharpley completed a 13-yard TD pass to Parris, but that was negated by a holding call against the Irish, who then failed to convert the first down.

And BC had held on again.

"Matt never got rattled," said Jagodzinski.

As the final seconds ticked off, the Eagles were serenaded by a chant of "Undefeated, undefeated" from their fans.

Indeed, they are, as they continue to win and climb in the polls.

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