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Nevada will pack them in

ANTHONY CASTONZO Game No. 54 on tap ANTHONY CASTONZO
Game No. 54 on tap
By Damin Esper
Globe Correspondent / January 6, 2011

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SAN FRANCISCO — When Boston College takes the field Sunday night against Nevada in the Fight Hunger Bowl, the Eagles likely will be facing a hostile crowd. Bowl director Gary Cavalli said yesterday that Nevada sold more than 15,000 tickets through the university, the most in the nine-year history of the game, which used to be called the Emerald Bowl.

It gets worse. Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault said he expected more than 25,000 fans to make the trek from Reno, which is a little over 200 miles away.

“It’s something that has rallied our community,’’ said Ault, noting that although Nevada now been to bowls in six consecutive seasons, the Wolf Pack had to travel to Honolulu twice, Boise twice, and Albuquerque once.

“Our people haven’t had the opportunity to travel,’’ Ault said.

BC sold about 6,000 tickets and returned 2,000.

He’s the most Barring a late injury, BC left tackle Anthony Castonzo will start his 54th game Sunday. That will be a school record, breaking the mark of 53 set by Gosder Cherilus from 2004-07. Cherilus is now a starting tackle for the Detroit Lions.

Castonzo hopes to join Cherilus in the NFL next season. From all reports, he’ll get a chance. He’s expected to be taken in April’s NFL draft.

“I feel I grew a lot this year,’’ Castonzo said. “I’ve learned a lot about myself and my technique throughout the season. I think I’ve been steadily improving and I’m looking to have my best game of the year on Sunday.’’

Said coach Frank Spaziani, “He’s been a great player for us. He’s only gotten bigger and better since he’s been here. He’s an intelligent kid, but he’s also an intelligent football player, and as good as he is off the field, that’s as good as he is on the field.’’

Castonzo was nominated by BC for a Rhodes Scholarship. He didn’t make it to the interview process, but he carries a 3.5 grade-point-average in biochemistry and has said his goal in life is to find a cure for cancer.

Castonzo is gratified that people think he can continue at the next level.

“It’s very humbling to just be considered,’’ he said. “I mean, that was my dream growing up as a little kid. You look at it as an almost unattainable goal and to think that I’m nearly there is pretty incredible.’’

Castonzo takes pride in his pass blocking but it’s his run blocking that has improved the most.

“I think with coach [Sean] Devine and the new staff coming in, I’ve really improved my run blocking a lot,’’ he said. “Just trying to finish on plays and really impose my will on a defender instead of just getting in the way of people.’’

That’s best exemplified by the success of junior running back Montel Harris, who topped 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season. Harris had 1,278 yards despite missing the finale against Syracuse with an ankle injury.

Solid backing Ault said BC’s linebacking corps of Mark Herzlich, Luke Kuechly, and Kevin Pierre-Louis is one of the best in college football. “They’re the No. 1 rush defense in the country,’’ Ault said. “They didn’t get that title for nothing. Their three linebackers are as good as we’ve seen all year. That includes Boise State.’’ . . . With the game on a Sunday, the Wednesday practice was what a Tuesday practice normally would be, with game plans taking center stage. “[Tuesday] we were a little bit rusty, and today we were a little bit better,’’ Spaziani said. “I expect that we need to be a little bit better tomorrow.’’

Jailhouse rock With the Eagles coming to San Francisco for the second consecutive year, only the freshmen will take the trip to Alcatraz Island tonight. The rest of the team will skip the former prison that once housed Al Capone, and instead attend a performance of Teatro ZinZanni, a local dinner theater extravaganza. The entire team will attend tomorrow’s NBA game between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers . . . A representative from Kraft foods called Spaziani “Coach Spazini’’ during yesterday’s news conference. Spaziani exchanged a look with his players sitting in the front row, but for the most part kept a straight face.