Steve Addazio plowed through the door of Room 210 at the Yawkey Athletics Center and turned the corner, casting a smile from ear to ear. He noted proudly that he had just listened to the Boston College football team, his team, belt out the school fight song, “For Boston,” in the locker room.
A celebratory locker room.
And that, summed up by the 54-year-old Addazio, was a moment to savor.
His first game as the head coach at Boston College, in the program’s 115th opener, was far from smooth. The Eagles’ guest at Alumni Stadium on Saturday was Villanova, a team coming off an 8-4 season and pegged to be a top-10 team in the Football Championship Subdivision.
“You have to start, and our first goal was to win the opener,” said Addazio as he rattled off the numbers of a few of his playmakers — power back Andre Williams, quarterback Chase Rettig, receiver Alex Amidon, and fullback Bobby Wolford — that were pivotal in a 24-14 come-from-behind victory before 30,922 fans.
“They faced adversity. They had to overcome adversity. First games, sometimes are very often like that. . . . We have a win, but we have a lot of work to do.”
For a program coming off a 2-10 season under Frank Spaziani, it was a much-needed boost.
“We’re 1-0, and that’s the most important thing,” said Rettig (23 of 30, 285 yards, 2 TDs), who connected with Amidon (13 catches, 146 yards) for a game-tying 49-yard scoring strike down the middle of the field on the first series of the second half.
Exactly seven minutes later, Williams provided the go-ahead score on a 26-yard burst around right end. Williams accounted for 114 yards on 23 carries, before sitting the fourth quarter with a tweaked hamstring.
The Eagles only needed two plays to score the go-ahead TD. The first was a 34-yard toss to Wolford, a redshirt freshman who converted from linebacker during camp.
BC shut out Villanova over the final 49:20, racking up four sacks (the Eagles totaled six in 2012) and forcing four turnovers.
“To face a little adversity in the beginning [trailing 14-7] and overcome that proves we can do that game in and game out,” said senior linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis, who submitted a team-high 12 tackles.
Villanova struck first, with a bit of trickery.
Jamal Abdur-Rahman, a fleet-footed 5-foot-9-inch receiver, serving as protector in punt formation, took the snap, then pretended to snap it again. As the play went right, Abdur-Rahman escaped to the left and 47 yards down the middle of the field just 1:54 into the game.
“It’s a one time a season, every fifth or sixth year play that you run,” said 28-year Villanova coach Andy Talley, noting that future NFL standout Brian Westbrook took it the house once against Pitt, and another time the Wildcats went the distance against New Hampshire.
The Eagles responded with a 13-play, 70-yard drive fueled by the 6-foot, 227-pound Williams before Rettig lofted a 1-yard scoring toss to Wolford.
Villanova surged back on top, 14-7, when sophomore QB John Robertson (team-high 94 yards rushing, 158 passing) connected with Abdur-Rahman on a 27-yard catch and run over the middle. Robertson’s 37-yard keeper down the left sideline sparked the six-play, 75-yard march.
But that was it for the Wildcats.
Midway through the second quarter, Villanova threatened to grab a two-touchdown cushion with first and goal at the 6. But the drive died on the 1, when Robertson, pressured by the BC front, could not connect with Joe Price, the ball tipping off the fingertips of the 6-3 receiver.
Sophomore corner Bryce Jones added another big play with about two minutes to play before half, picking off a halfback pass by Gary Underwood at BC’s 25. In the fourth quarter, with BC leading by a touchdown, junior corner Manny Asprilla made a diving interception of Robertson at the Eagles’ 44.
That play set up an eight-play drive that led to Nate Freese’s 39-yard field goal with 5:18 remaining.
Josh Keyes (forced fumble) and Sean Sylvia (interception) locked up the win with two more clutch defensive plays.
“When I first got here [from Everett High], I had never been 0-1 in my life, so now that we’re 1-0 in my third year, it actually feels great,” said Asprilla.
Across the field, Talley lost his third straight opener to Addazio-led teams.
“I think we got worn down a little bit, which is natural against a team like BC, and the heat,” said Talley. “I think if it was at night, it would have been better for us.”
The Eagles will kick off their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule Friday night, hosting Wake Forest (1-0) at 8.
And now they have a victory to build upon.
“It was special for our kids,” said Addazio. “I just wanted some good moments for our players. Almost in a weird way, the way they had to come back and win this to me, probably helped us from the standpoint of building the program.”Craig Larson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.