NEWTON, Mass. -- It took them four tries, but the Boston College Eagles finally got win No. 1.
That it came against an FCS opponent, UMass, doesn't matter much to Frank Spaziani & Co. The third-year head coach preaches that the first win is always the hardest to get.
"We're obviously elated to get our first victory. It took us four weeks, but we finally got it," Spaziani said. "It's a tribute to the kids and coaches, who did a good job getting ready, and the kids did a good job compartmentalizing and doing what they need to do. Hopefully we can build on it and move forward."
The Eagles completely outclassed the Minutemen, their intrastate Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
BC set season highs for scoring with 24 points in the first half and 45 for the game. The defense didn't allow a touchdown until the game was well in hand in the fourth quarter (UMass' other TD came on a 102-yard kickoff return by Jesse Julmiste, who set a school record for return yards in the game), forced four turnovers (two interceptions, two fumbles) and nearly outscored the Minutemen by itself (UMass 17, BC defense 14).
After averaging 80.7 rushing yards in the first three games, the Eagles piled up 193 yards against UMass. Chase Rettig threw one touchdown pass in the first three games. In the fourth game, he had three, setting a single-game high.
Montel Harris, the preseason ACC Player of the Year, played in his first game this season after undergoing an arthroscopic procedure to repair the meniscus in his left knee in training camp. Harris finished with nine rushes for 27 yards and one catch for 16 yards, but his biggest contribution may have come on the Eagles' first drive.
Hampton Hughes intercepted UMass quarterback Kellen Pagel on the first play from scrimmage, giving the Eagles the ball on the UMass 47. The Eagles didn't fool around. Rettig handed off to Andre Williams six straight times, and the big back moved the chains to the 8-yard line. After Rettig hit Colin Larmond Jr. for three yards on third-and-4, Spaziani decided to go for the end zone.
Needing a yard, the call went to Harris, and the senior delivered a first down. Two plays later, Rettig found Lars Anderson wide open in the back of the end zone for a one-yard score. Nate Freese made the extra point, and the Eagles were on their way.
Asked how beneficial the fast start was, Spaziani paused a second before answering.
"How beneficial is your next breath of air? It was fantastic," Spaziani said with a laugh. "You're an 0-3 team, and you have some [doubts or] whatever's in your mind, you're fighting to win, and you get a turnover on the first play. Something that was coached, and it happened and he did it and he went and made the play. And the offense came in and responded.
"It made a big difference."
Hughes said the Eagles practiced a play similar to the one the Minutemen ran on the first snap, adding he was lucky they ran it and called the play he made a "huge momentum-builder."
Indeed, BC never really looked back after.
"You can tell that BC played a lot better than they had the last couple of weeks," UMass coach Kevin Morris said. "Congratulations to them. The score certainly wasn't indicative of the score of play.
"They were looking to figure some things out and get better with a win. They got that today."
The Eagles hope win No. 2 comes a little more readily.
The easiest part of their schedule might be over, however. Left on the docket are road trips to Clemson, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Notre Dame and Miami. The Eagles also have to play Florida State, though that game is in Alumni Stadium.
But with Harris back -- Spaziani said his enthusiasm every day in practice gives the team a lift -- encouraging performances from a number of players on both sides of the ball and a win under their belts, the Eagles hope they can build on Saturday's performance.
"I think we were just trying to get over the hump," Rettig said. "The first game, we were right there. The second game, we were there until halftime. And then we know how that went. The third game, it just didn't go our way.
"It's just important that we got a win and we're 1-0 this week. I think we can build off of it this week in practice."
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.