NEWTON, Mass. -- It was a gorgeous late-summer-easing-into-fall day on the Boston College campus, other than the dark cloud hovering ominously over Dave Shinskie.
OK, that's an overly dramatic view, if not a distorted one.
The sky above Alumni Stadium actually was a comforting blanket of blue Saturday afternoon. But when it comes to Shinskie, all observations are through a warped lens. He's not simply BC's sophomore quarterback -- he's the Eagles' 26-year-old sophomore QB, his age never left out of the conversation.
Because he's older than some NFL starting quarterbacks -- including a much-decorated Eagles predecessor, Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons -- Shinskie seemingly has had "26-year-old" tattooed on his back, the ceaseless implication being that he's old enough to make wise judgments with the football, mature enough to lead a team.
Shinskie did indeed lead the Eagles to a 26-13 victory over Kent State before 35,122 at The Heights, zipping in a pair of third-quarter touchdown passes that broke open a game that was closer than it should have been (BC was up 6-3 at the half). But before Shinskie's post-halftime flurry roused a crowd that had been relatively sedate in the three-quarters-filled stadium, the best that could be said of the Eagles quarterback was that he hadn't given the fans any reason to climb to their feet and scream at him.
Coming off a season-opening victory over Weber State in which he threw two touchdown passes but also two interceptions, Shinskie started Saturday's game with a "safety first" mantra. Although he would finish 18-of-27 passing for 214 yards, Shinskie had a relatively quiet first quarter, connecting on just 3 of 8 for 44 yards. But most of his incompletions were the right throws -- throwaways when receivers were double-covered.
"It's encouraging when Dave doesn't throw any interceptions," BC coach Frank Spaziani said with a smile. "It wasn't so much that we designed our play calling to not put him in those situations. Dave just did a better job this week of pulling the ball down."
Shinskie was pulling it down, all right, but his 8 rushing yards gained didn't move the ball very far.
"He doesn't exactly remind you of a ballet dancer when he's running around out there," said Spaziani. "But last week he threw the ball sometimes [when he shouldn't have], while [this week] he pulled it down. That's encouraging. We'll try to make him faster and more agile this week."
Still, the first four BC possessions produced a scant four first downs and just three points -- and that 27-yard Nate Freese field goal came courtesy of an Alex Albright interception and return that set up the Eagles' offense at the Kent State 9. Shinskie's contribution to the scoring "drive" (three plays, zero yards) was essentially that he twice thought better of throwing into double coverage.
Three points are better than nothing.
"It's frustrating because we couldn't get going," said Shinskie. "They played great defense. They moved around a lot. They blitzed us a lot. We watched tape of them against us last year [a 34-7 BC win], and they did what the coaches said they were going to do."
Prepared as they were, the Eagles could do no better early on than avoid a spate of momentum-killing turnovers. Of course, once the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule kicks in (BC hosts No. 13 Virginia Tech in two weeks), simply avoiding giveaways isn't going to be enough for Shinskie. He's going to have to make things happen. Good things.
On Saturday, the good things started to happen on Shinskie's watch only after he had sat and watched. Midway through the second quarter, Spaziani replaced his starter with fellow sophomore Mike Marscovetra (a mere child of 19), who had been expected to see action at some point in the game.
The timing seemed foreboding, though, as Shinskie handed over the reins of an offense that was treading water.
"I hate coming out of the game because I'm not in control," he said. "But that's the game of competing with someone. If it's not working with me, it might work with someone else. That's up to the coaches. If we had scored a touchdown and got on a roll, I'm behind Mike 100 percent."
That's not what happened, though. Marscovetra's first possession lasted about a minute, a three-and-out. And that was longer and more successful than his second possession, which began in great field position (the Kent State 43) after an interception by BC sophomore safety Jim Noel. But Marscovetra handed it right back to the Golden Flashes on the next play, throwing a pick while under pressure up the middle. Kent State had the ball at the BC 46, moved 18 yards on six plays and got a 45-yard Freddy Garcia field goal to tie things at 3.
That brought Shinskie back into the game, and on third-and-6 he made the same mistake as Marscovetra -- but without the repercussions. Shinskie's pass into coverage along the sideline went right into the hands of a defender, but it slipped through and was caught by Clyde Lee for a first down. That reprieve really put a bounce in Shinskie's step.
He hit freshman receiver Bobby Swigert for 13 yards, and three plays later connected with sophomore tight end Chris Pantale for 16 more to the Kent State 21. A pass interference call put the ball at the 6, setting up a 22-yard Freese field goal on the final play of the half.
The Eagles walked into the locker room with the lead ... but not satisfied.
"We were a little down," said Shinskie. "But we made it our focus to go out in the second half and score on our first drive, and that's what we did."
In leading the way, Shinskie began acting his age. He completed four straight passes, sandwiched around several short runs by Montel Harris (29 carries, 80 yards), to move the ball into Kent State territory. After an incompletion, Shinskie threaded the needle to hit Swigert for a 23-yard touchdown, making it 13-3.
The Golden Flashes answered with a field goal, but Shinskie had a swagger now. Although the Eagles' next possession stalled, Kent State muffed the punt, and Shinskie confidently stepped back on the field and immediately hit Lee with a 31-yard touchdown strike.
Well, not exactly a strike.
"The defender wasn't really looking and I saw Clyde put his hand up, and I threw the ball behind him," said Shinskie. "It's the best pass in football, an underthrown pass."
On this day it sure was because BC now was up 20-6 with 2:34 left in the third quarter. The way the defense had played all day (Kent State passed for 201 yards but ran for just 4), the game was essentially put away.
With no Shinskie interceptions. Which is not to say there weren't blemishes.
"Interceptions come, interceptions go," said Shinskie. "To be a good quarterback, you've got to leave those mistakes behind you. I made a lot of mistakes tonight that weren't interceptions, but they were still mistakes."
Sounds like a mature outlook. Like one might expect from a 26-year-old.
Jeff Wagenheim is a contributor to ESPNBoston.com.