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Eagles QB Ryan takes, keeps control

BC's Matt Ryan thrust himself into the spotlight as one of the Heisman Trophy favorites with his late heroics against Virginia Tech. BC's Matt Ryan thrust himself into the spotlight as one of the Heisman Trophy favorites with his late heroics against Virginia Tech. (MATT GENTRY/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

He is everywhere these days. Television, radio, print. Even Tim Russert gave him a plug at the end of NBC's "Meet The Press" last weekend. But for quarterback Matt Ryan, what counts most is on the field, when his Boston College team needs him to make something happen.

Ryan was at his best last Thursday night against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., bringing the second-ranked Eagles (8-0, 4-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) back from the abyss of their first loss of the season, a loss that probably would have dashed national championship hopes for BC and Heisman Trophy hopes for the senior QB.

In front of an ESPN audience in prime time, BC trailed, 10-0, with 4:11 left in the fourth quarter when Ryan took control.

Stymied by a stingy Hokies defense for the first 55 minutes, Ryan engineered a nine-play, 92-yard drive capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass to Rich Gunnell that cut the deficit to 10-7. After the Eagles recovered the onside kick, Ryan then topped that drive with a seven-play, 66-yard march, finding Andre Callender in the corner of the end zone on a 24-yard touchdown pass for the winner with 11 seconds left.

"[Callender] made a great play to sneak out and find his way," Ryan said yesterday in his weekly conference call. "I glanced over and saw him. I thought I could make the throw, it just worked out."

The 14-point outburst silenced some of the doubters of BC and Ryan.

"We don't worry so much about what other people think," said Ryan, who yesterday was named one of 15 semifinalists for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award. "We only worry about what we can control."

The win also kept the Eagles, second in the Bowl Championship Series standings behind Ohio State, afloat in a town awash in celebration with the World Series champion Red Sox and the unbeaten Patriots.

Ryan, meanwhile, has handled everything with a matter-of-fact ease that masks the intense competitor that comes out in every game.

But make no mistake, it's there. A combination of talent and willpower has helped Ryan throw for 2,433 yards and 19 touchdowns this season to put him in a two-man battle with Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon as the Heisman favorites.

"I don't think about myself in that light too much," Ryan said. "There are so many good players. I'm just happy to be a part of it. All we're focused on is winning the next game against a very tough opponent."

The Eagles' next challenge comes Saturday in another prime-time showdown (8 p.m., Ch. 5), at The Heights against Florida State (5-3, 2-3).

"Hopefully in the next four games, we can continue to improve," said Ryan, who led the Eagles to a 24-19 victory over the Seminoles last season despite an injured foot. "There is a lot of room for improvement. I hope to do that."

Last weekend's comeback win has had lingering effects.

"Going on the road and winning a tough game in a tough place against a very good team does boost confidence," Ryan said. "We've worked hard toward getting to our goal [the ACC championship game]. Eight games into it, we're in pretty good position. It's going to be a lot of fun working toward that goal."

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