Boston College linebacker Connor Strachan heard the story from his uncle about 1984 Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie’s grand exit after a game.
Steve Strachan, a running back on BC’s 1984 squad, told his nephew that Flutie led the Eagles to a victory over Holy Cross in their regular-season finale, hopped on a helicopter to New York and picked up the Heisman.
“I heard he left the field in style,” Strachan said. “That’s pretty cool.”
For the first time in 32 years, BC (1-0) and Holy Cross (0-1) renew what was once New England’s biggest college football rivalry on Saturday at Alumni Stadium.
BC coach Steve Addazio, who played at Central Connecticut, remembers seeing a game in the series that was played 82 times from 1896-1986.
“I was a New England College football player and this was big-time college football and I wanted to come up and watch it,” he said. “It was a great atmosphere. I can honestly remember that like it was yesterday.”
After their 1986 matchup — won by the Eagles 56-26 at the Crusaders’ home field in Worcester — the schools went in different directions football-wise. Holy Cross joined the Patriot League, cut its athletic scholarships and ended the series. The loss of scholarships also prevented BC — then a 1-A program (now FBS) — from playing a then-1-A (now FCS) school in games that would count toward bowl eligibility.
In 2013, the Patriot League returned athletic scholarships and shortly after the schools agreed to resume the rivalry.
“I just know that this was a big game between two geographical catholic schools and, back in the day, there were plenty of rivalries like this,” Addazio said. “I’m a big proponent, a big fan of these non-conference geographical games. I think they bring fan interest and I think it’s good for everybody.”
Here’s what to look for in the 83rd meeting between the Jesuit schools:
Eagles QB Anthony Brown was surprisingly sharp in his first game back after a season-ending knee injury required surgery and cost him the final two regular-season games and the bowl game in 2017.
Brown threw for 279 yards with four TDs and no interceptions.
“It’s over now in terms in hesitation and not being confident,” Addazio said after the UMass win. “He exceeded my expectations.”
The Crusaders are trying to turn things around under first-year coach Bob Chesney. They lost their opener 24-17 to Colgate and have finished over .500 just once in the past five seasons.
BC says it owns a 48-31-3 edge in the series. Holy Cross says its 47-32-3. The dispute is the 1896 matchup.
The most famous game of the rivalry came in 1942. The Eagles (8-0) were ranked No. 1 and ready to accept an invitation to the Sugar Bowl, where they’d face Georgia. The problem was Holy Cross stunned the Eagles 55-12, and BC canceled its victory celebration party.
The party was scheduled to be held at Boston’s Cocoanut Grove nightclub, where a fire broke out that night and killed 492 people.
Coming off its 55-21 season-opening victory over another in-state school, Massachusetts, BC is treating this week like any other.
“It’s the same maniacal preparation,” Addazio said. “It doesn’t matter who we play, when we play, where we play. It’s going to be the exact same. The minute you start picking and choosing how you’re going to take your week and you prepare for any opponent, that’s when you stop getting better.”
Last week, BC collected 598 total yards.