This list is strictly my opinion. I am sure many fans will quibble with some of my selections and my ranking. Please share your thoughts in the comments section. I was surprised by how tough it was to narrow this list to 10. There were 20 deserving debacles. What surprised me most is how many bad games have come in the last four years -- supposedly TOB’s best stretch. Maybe with more at stake the pain of the L is greater. Maybe my memory is still fresh. Or maybe we as fans are just getting tired of letting games slip away in similar fashion.
Here are the games that barely missed the final cut: Either of the Wake games, Pitt ’02, the two Temple losses, Navy ’98, Virginia Tech ’02, Miami ’00, WVU ’03, and Stanford ’01.
Now the 10 worst in reverse order.
10. BC 17, Pitt 20. Oct. 16, 2004. While another conference loss in our final Big East season was 10 times more painful, in reality this one did as much damage. Paul Peterson’s gutsy drive in the fourth quarter forced overtime, but the real story was the number of mistakes BC made. Wasted red zone opportunities. A blocked punt that bounced forward for a Pitt first down because our guys didn’t know the rules. Failing to wrap up Palko. Playing for overtime with one last possession. Lester reaching for a first down and fumbling (something that he kept doing into the next year!!!). Nearly 140 penalty yards. Just a sloppy game that BC gave to the Panthers. The loss contributed to BC blowing the best chance it will ever have at a BCS bowl.
9. BC 28, Colorado 62. Dec. 31, 1999. If BC is pushing the bowl streak as a major accomplishment, I am going to include this game as a reminder of life before the streak. This was an embarrassment. The team was runover by an average Buffalo squad. Because it was our first bowl under TOB, the pain did not linger. We were just happy to be here. But with time, the score and lack of effort don’t change. In the last year TOB has even admitted that he didn’t prepare the team well for this game. Not one of his shining moments.
8. BC 14, Syracuse 39. Oct. 18. 2003. This was the plane game. Long story short, BC had plane trouble and arrived very late. At least the plane showed up. The team didn’t. I won’t even get into the questions that arose about how, when and why we travel when we do. Instead what makes this loss so bad is that the team was outclassed by a really average Syracuse team. Lack of effort and our old scapegoats -- questionable special teams (including one 10 yard punt) and the wrong starter (Porter over Peterson) -- were also factors. In retrospect what bothered me most about this game is that the guys didn’t seem to care. I know travel’s a bitch sometimes, but take it out on the other guys. Don’t just give up. And the coaching staff seemingly did nothing to get the guys going. One last note…some DB named Diamond Ferri had a pretty good game including one INT.
7. BC 44, Miami 45. Oct. 18, 1997. This is the infamous OT game. Long story short, TOB went for two in OT before he had to. Later he admitted to not fully understanding the rules. I was broadcasting this game for BC student radio and no one in the press box fully understood the intricacies of the new College OT. That is understandable for idiot media types and wannabes like me. Not acceptable for head coaches. BC didn’t convert and lost the game. Bonehead for sure. Not especially painful since it was TOB’s first season and that team was probably not going to accomplish much any way.
6. BC 28, Miami 31. Oct. 23, 1999. This is the 28-point lead game. A complete choke job, meltdown. Fumbles. INTs. Letting guys get wide open. This game had it all, including the 'Canes last-second, game-winning field goal. While not epically painful seven years later, blowing a 28-point lead needs to make any top 10 list of bad games.
5. BC 17, Florida State 28. Sept. 17, 2005. BC’s first ACC game and we were behind by 14 before you knew it. Porter’s bad start was hard to watch. Yet the comeback made me think things might be different. But when our Maine Man went down later with an injury, the coaching staff hid in its shell and hoped to hang on. The cowardly coaching and the questionable play calling as Matt Ryan tried to get us back in the game merit this game's place as No. 5. If BC wins this game, they are in the inaugural ACC Championship Game.
4. BC 14, UNC 16. Nov. 5, 2005. I don’t know what is more frustrating, that I saw this loss coming two months in advance or that despite making huge errors the game was still in reach in the final minutes. Most readers know the story or could guess it if I asked -- bad special teams and the wrong QB. This was a bad UNC team. And the loss also cost us a shot at the ACC Title game. Keeping Porter in as long as TOB did is indefensible. Even John Bunting expressed shock when Porter started the second half. What was very telling was that after the game when trying to justify blowing the chance at the ACC title game, TOB said he never expected Florida State to lose. This led BC fans to believe that he might have done something different -- like play Ryan -- if he had known the stakes. Nothing like mailing it in with three games left!!
3. BC 7, Miami 18. Nov. 11, 2001. In fairness to TOB, this was one of his better coached games. That doesn’t make it less painful. Real painful. BC went toe-to-toe with one of the all-time great college teams without our best player (the suspended William Green). And in the final moments, while nearing the Miami goal line for the potential go ahead score, St. Pierre threw the flukiest interception I’ve ever seen. Here is the AP’s description “With Miami clinging to a 12-7 lead in the final minute, BC quarterback Brian St. Pierre moved his team from its own 30 to the Hurricanes 9. With just over 20 seconds left in the game, St. Pierre dropped back and tried to hit Ryan Read at about the Miami 2. But the low pass ricocheted off Miami cornerback Ed Rumph's left knee and into the hands of 262-pound defensive tackle Matt Walters at the 10. The lineman ran 10 yards before teammate Reed grabbed the ball from him at the 20 and outraced a BC defender to the end zone.” Going from victory to defeat like that always leaves a lasting scar.
2. BC 26, Notre Dame 31. Nov. 7, 1998. This will probably be my most controversial pick on the list. The season was a wash for BC and TOB was only in his second year, but this was an opportunity to upset a good Irish team that came into the game 7-1 and ranked No. 13. What moves this loss to No. 2 is the maddening ending. BC was first and goal from the ND 4 with minutes remaining and down 5. Four straight runs by Mike Cloud. Four straight stops by the ND defense. I understand giving it to your best player. I don’t understand the stubborn play calling. To this day I still wonder where was the play action pass on second or even third down.
1. BC 17, Syracuse 43. Nov. 27, 2004. Calling this the worst loss of the TOB era doesn’t even capture how painful this was. If you could break this game down into ten smaller portions, they would each easily be more painful to me than any other game on this list. Unlike the UNC game or the Pitt game when our ultimate postseason fates were still unknown, BC came into this game knowing what it had to do. Beat a bad Syracuse team and their lame duck coach at home and BC walks into the Fiesta Bowl. That was the script. Unfortunately, no one told the Orange. They came into Alumni and ran all over BC. The worst part? No one on BC responded. The team was punched in the mouth and never recovered. There were a few glimpse of hope -- including a blocked punt from Toal, but this team was not prepared mentally or strategically. Some apologist point to Paul Peterson’s injury (he broke his hand the week before) as the reason for the loss. Unacceptable. Syracuse was playing with a patchwork backfield. Some DB named Diamond Ferri was handed the ball for the first time all year and ran for 141 yards. Injuries happen. Dropped passes and shitty tackling were the big factors in BC’s loss. This game crushed me and made me question why I invest so much time into BC sports. Sure I came back to cheering for BC pretty quickly, but I still am not over this game.