TALLAHASSEE — A maddening week off the field for Florida State ended in disappointing fashion on it Saturday evening.
A few days after a brawl with members of a fraternity led to the suspension of five receivers, the Seminoles offense struggled to find a rhythm and the defense struggled to make stops as Boston College pulled the upset, 27-17, before an announced homecoming crowd of 79,792 at Doak Campbell Stadium that was clad in black as part of the "Blackout Game.''
To make matters worse, the No. 20-ranked Seminoles (7-3, 4-3), who wore their specially designed black uniforms, entered the game in control of their fate in the Atlantic Division and the race for a spot in the ACC championship game on Dec. 6 at Raymond James Stadium.
Those hopes aren't dead, but they're suspended.
"I guess that's one of the reasons it's so disappointing,'' FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "It's been a lousy week.''
Meanwhile, the Eagles (7-3, 3-3) can win the Atlantic for a second straight year if they win at Wake Forest on Saturday then beat visiting Maryland on Nov. 29.
"They made a real big deal about the 'Blackout,' so we got all of our guys black shirts and said, 'Well, if we are not going to get invited, then let's go ahead and crash the party,' " Eagles coach Jeff Jagodzinski said. "And that's what we did.''
The Eagles dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, using their size — and surprising quickness — on the defensive front to shut down FSU's heretofore vaunted running attack.
FSU entered the game averaging 205.2 yards rushing, 19th nationally, but were held to a season-low 73 yards on 24 carries. The leading rusher was kicker/punter Graham Gano, who gained 24 on fake punt.
"When you can't run the football, that throws everything on your quarterback," Bowden said.
"And when your quarterback doesn't have time to throw and you can't run the ball, you ain't got nothing."
Redshirt sophomore Christian Ponder hit 15 of 31 passes for 183 yards and three interceptions, one of which was returned 87 yards for a touchdown and one in the end zone that snuffed FSU's chance to tie the score early in the fourth quarter.
So how much did he miss the suspended players, especially Taiwan Easterling, Bert Reed, Corey Surrency, who had combined for 51 catches for 722 yards and eight touchdowns?
"It would have been good to have those guys, but I don't think it made that big of a difference,'' Ponder said.
It sure didn't give the Seminoles as many options as usual.
"You actually had to pull back,'' Bowden. "The reverses that 82 (Easterling) runs, the takeoffs that No. 1 (Surrency) runs and the flares that 83 (Reed) runs, they were not available.
"But I wouldn't take a thing away from B.C.''
Despite three turnovers (an interception and two lost fumbles), quarterback Chris Crane was solid with 181 passing yards and a touchdown. And freshmen tailback Montel Harris (from Jacksonville Trinity Christian) was a star with 121 yards and a touchdown.
Boston College not only converted 9 of 16 third downs — that against a FSU defense that was tops in the nation in stopping teams on third down — but controlled the ball for 38:07.
Heck, after Ponder's last interception on a jump ball to Greg Carr (who caught a touchdown from receiver Preston Parker to get FSU back in the game), B.C. went 67 yards on 16 plays in 8:55 to seal the game with a field goal.
"They whipped us up front,'' Bowden said. "There's not many positives that came out of this game for us.''
Brian Landman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3347.