NEWTON, Mass. -- Hanging on the southeast wall of Boston College's Alumni Stadium is the newly retired jersey number 22, last worn by the Golden Eagles' patron saint of lost causes, Doug Flutie.
But yesterday afternoon, in front of a stunned gathering of 42,877, it was the Navy Midshipmen who intercepted the Flutie magic, rallying from an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit for a shocking 32-31 upset win.
The Navy locker room is closed to the media, but the Mids must have had "22s" painted on their chests. The proof of that could be found in the waning seconds, when a 40-yard field-goal attempt by Boston College kicker John Matich sailed wide left.
"There wasn't one of us who didn't believe we could win this game," said Navy tailback John Vereen, whose second fourth-quarter touchdown run, from 8 yards out with 1: 41 left -- along with Tom Vanderhorst's extra point -- capped the remarkable comeback.
If so, they may have been the only ones in the place who could visualize such an outcome.
Not with standout Golden Eagles runner Mike Cloud enjoying a hyper-productive 186-yard, two-touchdown afternoon. Not with BC quarterback Scott Mutryn firing for two more scores in a career-best 30-for-45, 369-yard showing. And not with a Midshipmen defense that had surrendered 42 points per game in their last four.
But still the Mids believed.
"These young men have faith," coach Charlie Weatherbie said of the 3-4 Mids, who rallied for 21 fourth-quarter points to beat Colgate last week. "In God, in themselves, and in one another."
So when Boston College (3-4) took a 28-10 lead toward the end of the third quarter on Mutryn's 46-yard pass to Jermaine Walker, Navy responded with a drive of its own.
It measured 60 yards on 12 plays, and was capped by a yard run by Vereen with 12: 19 left. Navy quarterback Brian Broadwater, who made his first-ever start in last week's 42-35 win, picked up the two-point conversion, although because of an offside penalty he had to run it in from the 7.
That set the Mids offense off on a 22-point spree over the next 10 minutes, while the defense, picking up the trend, gave up only three points to the Eagles the rest of the way.
"The defense eats off the offense," said Weatherbie. "They feed off one another, they encourage one another."
None of that could have happened without the Mids making some plays at critical times.
They also benefited from some great luck. On the drive following Vereen's first score, Cloud took off on what would have been sure 84-yard touchdown scamper. Only he stepped out of bounds 7 yards into it.
Boston College wound up punting on that possession, and just two plays later, Broadwater (11 of 14, 192 yards) threw a 55-yard pass that flanker Ryan Read turned into a 78-yard touchdown to bring the Mids to within 28-25 with 8: 06 remaining. It was the third longest pass play in school history.
Matich kicked a 42-yarder for Boston College with 4: 36 left, but Navy roared right back by driving 71 yards on seven plays. The drive culminated in Vereen's second score, which gave Navy its first lead since the second quarter (10-7). But it seemed like ancient history by then, and it never would have happened without a clutch play by the most improbable of heroes, wide receiver-cum-option passer Ronel Reyes.
Reyes, a 5-foot-11, 174-pound senior from San Diego, isn't even listed on the Mids' depth chart, and had never touched the ball in a varsity game, until the flanker option was called to take advantage of what Navy coaching felt was some overpursuit by the Eagles. On second-and-13 at the Navy 38, Reyes took the pitchback from Broadwater, then threw a strike 48 yards downfield to Jason Wolf.
"I haven't touched the ball yet this year," said Reyes. "I just prayed that I would [not fumble] the ball. But we practiced it enough that I was pretty confident."
The Mids still couldn't breathe easily, even after Navy linemen Jason Snider and Bwerani Nettles combined to sack Mutryn at the BC 27, with Snider coming away with the ball, with 1: 31 left. Navy missed a chance to seal the win, when Vanderhorst missed a 34-yard field-goal try.
Mutryn, doing his own Flutie impersonation with 41 seconds and no timeouts to work with, willed his team 63 yards down the field into field-goal position, completing five of six passes, only to have Matich misfire with no time showing.
"I've been here for three years," said Snider, "and that was the best game, offensively and defensively, I've ever seen. Point-blank, it was the best victory I've had in my time here."
Next for Navy
Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
When: Nov. 7, noon
Yesterday: Lost to Tulane, 52-24
Pub Date: 10/25/98