Although the Boston College Eagles gutted out a 28-21 victory over Florida State last Saturday, they find themselves underdogs once again as they travel down to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech on Saturday afternoon. After many prognosticators chose the Eagles to finish in the cellar of the ACC's Atlantic Division this year, an underdog role isn't exactly a new thing for the Eagles.
Virginia Tech, which is coming off a semi-scare from the Duke Blue Devils last week, hasn't lost a home game in ACC play since Boston College's last visit in 2007. The Hokies have played strong since losing their opener to Alabama and have beaten two ranked teams, Nebraska and Miami, in Blacksburg.
This Eagles team is far different from the 2007 squad, which pulled out BC's last miraculous win in Blacksburg. The 2007 version of the Eagles was quarterbacked by current Atlanta Falcon Matt Ryan, who led the Eagles to 14 straight fourth-quarter points in a comeback win over the Hokies. The 2009 version of the Eagles is actually led by a quarterback who is one year older than Ryan, David Shinskie, who played seven years of minor league baseball and is now a 25-year-old freshman.
Shinskie has been one of the main reasons why the Eagles find themselves back near the top of the ACC Atlantic standings. After fumbling the ball on his only two possessions in a loss to Clemson (though he lost only one), it looked as if Shinskie would find himself buried on the depth chart.
During the following week in practice, however, coach Frank Spaziani must have seen Shinskie start to shake the rust off from seven years away from football, as the coach appointed Shinksie the starter against Wake Forest. Since then, the quarterback has gone 30-for-50 with 431 yards and five touchdowns against Wake Forest and Florida State.
The Hokie defense showed signs of vulnerability against Duke as QB Thaddeus Lewis carved up their secondary for 359 yards. If the Eagles' offensive line can continue to create time for Shinskie, there is no reason to think he can't keep up his strong play.
Part of the reason the Eagles were picked so low in preseason polls was the uncertainty at the quarterback position. Dominique Davis transferred during the offseason for academic reasons, and for the second year in a row, Boston College started the season with a totally new quarterback under center.
Shinskie was decent against Northeastern and Kent State in Boston College's first two games, essentially splitting time with Justin Tuggle. But in Boston College's first ACC test of the year against Clemson, Shinskie had a nightmare of a day. But fortunately for him, Tuggle didn't fare much better, completing just four of 20 passes and tossing three interceptions.
Now Shinskie will be taking his game to the road once again, into a stadium that is just as hostile. His performance Saturday should be a good indicator of just how far this Boston College team can go.
The Eagles have a tough stretch coming up: This weekend's game in Blacksburg is followed by a home date with old coach Tom O'Brien and the NC State Wolfpack, and then the big trip out to South Bend. This three-game stretch could help reveal how far Shinskie has come and how realistic the chances are for a third straight appearance for Boston College in the ACC championship game. A few more performances like the ones he's had the past couple weeks, and Shinskie could be proving that 25 is the new 18.