By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer
Boston College dominated a good portion of the team's ACC debut, but the Seminoles came from behind for the win.
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Drew Weatherford looked a bit lost ... and so did the game.
For the better part of three quarters Saturday night, the Boston College Eagles, playing in their long-anticipated inaugural ACC game, dominated the Seminoles on both sides of the ball.
But when the Seminoles needed Weatherford to look like a veteran, he seemed unflappable and guided them to two fourth-quarter touchdowns and a 28-17 come-from-behind win before an announced sellout crowd of 44,500 at Alumni Stadium and a national television audience.
The No. 8 Seminoles (3-0, 2-0) took early command of the Atlantic division and the race for a spot in the inaugural ACC title game Dec. 3 in Jacksonville.
Meanwhile, the No. 17 Eagles (2-1, 0-1) suffered a critical, albeit not insurmountable, setback. They need help from at least two other league teams to have a chance to catch the Seminoles.
B.C. quarterback Quinton Porter had completed 42 of 55 passes (76 percent) for four touchdowns and no interceptions against BYU and Army, but he was far more fallible on this night.
Slipping on the rain-slicked artificial turf on the opening play from scrimmage, he threw an ill-advised pass toward receiver Larry Lester. FSU linebacker A.J. Nicholson looked more like the intended receiver, easily picking it off and returning it 19 yards for a touchdown.
Seven seconds in, seven points down.
Welcome to the ACC.
Nicholson came up with his second interception moments later to stop a B.C. drive, and the Seminoles quickly capitalized. Weatherford hit freshman receiver Greg Carr on a fade route to the right for a 20-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
But the Eagles responded, dominating the line of scrimmage behind their experienced, mammoth offensive line (averaging about 317 pounds) that FSU coach Bobby Bowden had likened to an NFL group size-wise.
Mixing straight-ahead runs with short passes, the Eagles drove almost at will for 17 points on their next three possessions to take the lead early in the second quarter.
To that point, the Eagles had the ball for 15:58 of the opening 19:24, amassing 196 yards and 15 first downs. FSU entered the game seventh nationally in total defense (202.2 yards) and had allowed a total of 10 points to Miami and the Citadel.
Even when FSU stopped the Eagles offense, their defense proved it was ACC worthy.
Weatherford had just hooked up with receiver Chris Davis, the former St. Petersburg Catholic star, for 17 yards to the B.C. 41 late in the half. But on second down, cornerback Jazzmen Williams came untouched around the left edge on a blitz, stripping Weatherford (his second turnover of the game) to end that chance.
Eagles kicker Ryan Ohliger missed a 39-yard field goal early in the third quarter, and the Seminoles defense stiffened, keeping FSU in the game. The offense finally looked effective late in the third quarter as Weatherford hit receiver De'Cody Fagg for 18 yards, then Davis for 29.
On the next play, Weatherford hit Lorenzo Booker on a screen and Booker cut across the field and raced down the left sideline for what looked like a sure 33-yard touchdown.
But star defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, the Big East defensive player of the year in 2004 and the preseason favorite to win that award in the ACC, chased down Booker and stripped him near the goal line. The ball went out of bounds in the end zone for a touchback. A replay didn't reverse the call.
Hardly. Weatherford, working strictly from the shotgun, was near flawless on his next series. He hit 8 of 9 passes for 56 yards, including a 7-yard strike to Davis on third and 3 and culminating with a 5-yard go-ahead touchdown pass to Carr.
Sophomore Matthew Ryan, in for Porter who injured his right ankle late in the third quarter, was unable to move the Eagles as the Seminoles defense took command. FSU freshman safety Darius McClure blocked a punt and Booker followed with a 4-yard touchdown run with 3:53 left.