BC focused on Notre Dame, despite road losses and awe of Irish

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

Boston College senior defensive end Jim Ramella grew up in the Midwest a self-proclaimed “huge Rudy fan,” and played every Friday night at St. Ignatius High School in Westlake, Ohio, with the dream of earning a scholarship to Notre Dame. His uncle went there. His cousin went there. Two of his former teammates and good friends -- defensive end John Ryan and wide receiver Robbie Parris -- both play for Notre Dame now.

“I mean, who didn’t want to go to Notre Dame as a kid?” Ramella said. “There’s not movie about Boston College.”

There’s not, but there have been plenty of blockbuster moments in the storied rivalry between the country’s only two Catholic schools who play FBS football, and just to be a part of it works for Ramella, who in retrospect, couldn’t be happier in Chestnut Hill. After all, the Eagles have won the last six games in the series, and Ramella has a chance to graduate with an undefeated record against the program he once aspired to play for.

“You can’t let it overtake your whole perception of the season,” Ramella said. “I didn’t think about this game until we beat NC State, and then it was like, ‘Oh, we have Notre Dame this week.’ It’s going to be a little bit extra special going to play there with my relatives there and my friends there, but it’s not like you treat it like any different game.”

It is special, though, considering the series will end next year in Chestnut Hill. Officials from both schools have talked about resuming the rivalry in the future, but nothing has been determined beyond 2010. BC and Notre Dame enter the series tied at 9-9, and last year BC earned the first shutout victory in the rivalry with a 17-0 win. This year, though, the Irish are a much improved team under the leadership of quarterback Jimmy Clausen, and the Eagles have yet to win a game on the road.

Consider these road woes from two trips this season:

  • BC has managed 14 first downs and averaged 108.5 yards of offense per game. Opponents have averaged 347.0 yards.

  • Boston College has not been able to put up any points until the fourth quarter and is being outscored 53-0 in the first three quarters.

  • The Eagles also have just one yard of total offense in the first half in their two road games.

  • They’re averaging 39 points at home, where they’re 5-0, compared to 10.5 on the road.

  • BC has converted just 2 of 25 third-down attempts in road games (8 percent), and 28 of 68 at home (41 percent).

And yet the Eagles are still in a position to win the Atlantic Division and play in the ACC championship for the third straight season.

“I’m not stunned,” first-year coach Frank Spaziani said. “We understood going in what our problems were. We had a long way to go, and we knew we had to try and manage our way through. These players never cease to amaze me and they never surprise me, never stun me here at Boston College. That’s one of the reasons I’m still here. So no, we’re not stunned.”

Instead, they’re confident heading into one of college football’s most traditional rivalries.

“I’m sitting here in my fifth year and I’ve never lost to Notre Dame,” said linebacker Mike McLaughlin. “That’s a special thing to be able to say that. We take pride in that. I understand how important this game is to both schools.”