Crane carries Eagles past Wolfpack

Published 2:56 am Sunday, October 5, 2008

By By AARON BEARD, AP Sports Writer
RALEIGH, N.C. — Chris Crane knew there was no more room for up-and-down performances. Not if Boston College had any hope of contending in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Crane scampered around the left side for a 13-yard touchdown with 22.8 seconds left to help the Eagles beat North Carolina State 38-31 on Saturday, giving BC its first league win along with a big boost of confidence for Crane after a shaky start to the season.
Crane’s third rushing TD capped a huge day for the senior quarterback, who also threw for 428 yards and two scores to help the Eagles (4-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) hold on despite blowing a 14-point fourth-quarter lead. Rich Gunnell had 11 catches for 123 yards and a score for Boston College, which finished with 578 yards but needed almost the entire game to put away the pesky Wolfpack (2-4, 0-2).
It all started with Crane, who is in the unenviable position of trying to replace Matt Ryan — the NFL first-round draft pick who helped the Eagles reach No. 2 in the rankings last year.
To this point, Crane had shown the ability, but not the consistency. Two weeks ago, he was booed and benched before running for a pair of third-quarter scores and throwing a touchdown pass in the fourth of a 34-7 win over Central Florida.
Last week, he led the offense to just 32 yards in three first-quarter series before being relieved by Dominique Davis, who led the Eagles to four straight scores in a 42-0 win over Rhode Island. Still, coach Jeff Jagodzinski said afterward that Crane would start against the Wolfpack.
Crane rewarded his coach’s faith, throwing for 241 yards and two touchdowns and running for a 5-yard score to help BC take a 21-17 lead at the break. He scored again on a short keeper to cap the Eagles’ first second-half possession, helping the Eagles stay out front of the Wolfpack and former coach Tom O’Brien most of the day.
Crane completed 34 of 51 passes, including a 36-yard connection with Lars Anderson on the decisive drive. Then, with the Eagles facing a second-and-1, Crane broke free on the left side and got just inside the pylon for the 38-31 lead just when it looked BC was setting up for a field goal.
His only mistakes were a fumble late in the first half and an interception at the sideline early in the final period, though neither turnover led to points for the Wolfpack. His first TD toss, a 41-yarder to Justin Jarvis, came on third-and-15 in the first quarter. He also had a 27-yard completion to Brandon Robinson on a fourth-and-9 to set up Steve Aponavicius’ 17-yard field goal for the 31-17 lead with 12:29 to play.
Russell Wilson threw for a touchdown and ran for two more, helping N.C. State erase the late deficit. The redshirt freshman, who missed last week’s loss to South Florida due to injury, connected with Owen Spencer for a 61-yard touchdown to cut the margin to 31-24, then scored on a 2-yard keeper with 3:33 left to tie the game.
But the Wolfpack struggled to find consistent offense. N.C. State ran for 35 yards on 22 attempts and finished with 253 total yards. Before the late rally, N.C. State had managed only one offensive touchdown — Wilson’s 10-yard keeper — to go with T.J. Graham’s 100-yard kickoff return for a score.
It was the second meeting between O’Brien and his former program. O’Brien left BC in 2006 as the Eagles’ winningest coach with 75 victories in 10 seasons, and guided them to eight straight winning seasons and six straight bowl wins. Last year, Boston College forced seven turnovers in a 37-17 home win.
O’Brien had downplayed the significance of Saturday’s game, though his players felt differently.