Down The Stretch We Come

Through the first seven games of their season, the top-ranked University of Miami football team has rarely, if at all, been faced with a critical turning point in any of the contest.

Quite the contrary.

Having outscored the opposition 307-65, most of the Hurricanes first-teamers have found themselves peeling of their jerseys and upwrapping athletic tape from their hands, instead of playing any meaningful football in the third and fourth quarters of those same games. That could all change Saturday- Nov. 10- in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

Awaiting the No. 1 Hurricanes at Alumni Stadium: the surprising and upstart Boston College Eagles. The Eagles (6-2, 3-1), off last week, have bolted to the upper tier of the Big East conference with five victories in their previous six games behind a strong offensive attack and opportunistic defense. Their only two slip-ups this season in the second week of the season at Stanford and last month at Virginia Tech.

"We're going to face an experienced team in Boston College that is very balanced and has a great group of seasoned veterans," said Miami head coach Larry Coker. "They can throw the ball and run it. We're certainly in a for a true challenge."

The Eagles, in third place in the Big East, find themselves in a position to create a three-way tie for the conference lead with a victory over Miami in part because of Virginia Tech's loss against Pittsburgh last week.

But the Eagles have done plenty of damage on their own-especially at home.

The Eagles have posted a perfect 4-0 mark this season at home and have ran off nine consecutive wins at Almuni Stadium, dating back to last season. And junior running back and potential Heisman Trophy candidate William Green has been at the forefront of the Eagles turnaround.

Green, the leading rusher in the Big East and the entire country, is the focal point of a Boston College offensive unit that has recorded 30.5 points a game (third in the conference) and is averaging 387.1 yards a game (second in the league behind Miami).

Green has rushed for 1,164 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season, including 100 yards or more in seven of eight games this season. In a 21-17 victory over Notre Dame several weeks ago, Green rushed for 195 yards on 28 carries, which included a career-long 71-yarder.

Green has already visited the 200-yard club this season, for the third time in his career. He torched the West Virginia defense for 204 rushing yards in BC victory on the second week of the season. He had 225 and 223 against UConn and Rutgers last year, respectively. Oh, and he can catch the ball to. Green has 14 receptions and 203 yards with two touchdown catches

Coker is well aware of the exploits of the 6-1, 217-pound Green and expects the Eagles to utilize their talented running back.

"William Green is just an exceptional football player and one of those guys who could change the course of a football game," Coker said. "His size and explosiveness make him very hard to bring down. There is no question it will be one of a few challenges for us."

Coker might be right- stopping Green may not the only thing facing the Hurricanes defense. Whenever Green hasn't been running or catching the ball, junior quarterback Brian St. Pierre has been providing some of his own offensive fireworks, along with a talented core of wide receivers.

St. Pierre second in the Big East in passing yards per game (145.5), passing efficiency (142.5) and total offense has shown the ability all season long to lead the Eagles down the field. St. Pierre enters the Miami game with 19 touchdown passes for 1,475 yards on 109-of-199. He has thrown six interceptions. He is already tied for fourth in school-history for TD passes in a season. The all-time leader? Doug Flutie with 27 in 1984.

"St. Pierre is playing exceptionally well and makes some real smart decisions," Coker said. "He doesn't make too many mistakes back there." Among some of St. Pierre's favorite targets this season, besides Green: Senior Derick Dewalt (28 receptions, 373 yards, 2 TDs), junior Jamal Burke (26 receptions, 248 yards, 7 TDs), senior Ryan Read (16 receptions,238 yards and four TDs) and Sean Ryan (14 catches, 187 yards and two TDs). "Those guys have really stepped up for us this season," said BC head coach Tom O' Brien. "But Miami has one of the best defensive backs in the country. It's going to be real tough for us."

Defensively, the Eagles rank third in the conference, allowing 306.8 yards a game. Junior strong safety and Doug Besette and junior linebacker Vinnie Ciurciu are tied for the team lead in tackles with 61 each. Senior linebacker Scott Bradley is third with 58.

"There very strong on the defensive front and overall are very talented, as well as being very physical," said Coker.

The Eagles win over Notre Dame in their last outing marked the third consecutive year they have been bowl eligible- Boston College played in the 2000 Aloha Bowl and 1999 Bowl. The last time BC went to three straight bowl games was 1982-84.

But beating Miami has been another story. Miami leads the overall series with Boston College by a 19-3 count and has a 9-0 edge since the Big East was formed in 1990. The Eagles last victory over Miami was 1984 in which Flutie threw the now famous "Hail Mary" pass. "I take that, as long as we have one more point than they do," O' Brien said.

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