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Proving ground

But with a stunning comeback at hostile Virginia Tech, Matt Ryan and the Eagles made a titular statement as they avoided becoming the latest No. 2 to fail to make it through its first weekend with the ranking still intact.

And it was all enough to make Ryan lose his lunch.

"I don't know what it was," Ryan said. "But I wasn't feeling too good."

The fifth-year senior had been knocked down, intercepted and chased around by a No. 8 Hokies defense that made him look like a shell of the quarterback who had powered the Eagles to their best start since Franklin Roosevelt was in the White House. But with 4:11 remaining, Ryan led second-ranked Boston College to a 14-10 comeback win that had some in the postgame press conference bringing up another BC quarterback with a reputation for the miraculous -- Doug Flutie.

"Matt Ryan made a big-time statement tonight as the best quarterback in the country," BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski said.

Through the first 12 drives, Ryan threw for 128 yards and two interceptions and looked completely out of his game. His usually lauded judgment came into question on more than one occasion, like when he failed to even look toward a wide-open Andre Callender on a second-quarter play, instead deciding to throw into double coverage for a short gain.

He redeemed himself, though, in those closing minutes, throwing for 158 yards and two touchdowns on the final two possessions as Boston College avoided the fate that awaited South Florida, Cal and USC, the last three teams to hold the No. 2 spot in the AP Poll.

Facing a 10-point deficit and first-and-10 on their own 8, Ryan directed a nine-play, 92-yard drive culminating in a 16-yard touchdown pass to Rich Gunnell to cut the Virginia Tech lead to three. Then the Eagles took a page out of the Hokies' special teams playbook and recovered an onside kick and marched 61 yards as Ryan threw the game-winning touchdown pass -- twice.

The first was called back because of a holding call, pushing the Eagles back to second-and-20 on the Virginia Tech 24. Ryan threw an incomplete pass, and with 11 seconds left gave himself a defining moment should he earn a trip to New York City for the Heisman ceremony.

"That's what Heismans do," Hokies defensive end Chris Ellis said. "They don't ever give up. We beat the O-line, put licks on him and he came through at the end. He had a 2-minute drill -- two of them. He did what he had to do."

With 11 seconds left, Ryan, who isn't known for his mobility, eluded the rush and rolled left, searching for an open man. He saw Callender -- who had slipped out of the backfield -- alone in the end zone and, throwing across his body, delivered a 24-yard touchdown that gave Boston College its best start since 1942. And immediately puked on the 20-yard line.

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"That's not [Ryan's] game, but he ended up staying alive and it's hard to hang onto coverage that long," Jagodzinski said. "We ended up having a guy open there late."

Blacksburg was where many believed these Eagles would be exposed and shown as a national title pretender in a season that's been defined by them. And there were so many reasons to believe that this comeback was completely out of the question:

• The Boston College defense, which came in No. 1 against the run in giving up a paltry 46 yards a game, had been toasted by Branden Ore and Co. for a season-high 116 yards, including 101 from Ore himself.

• With starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor out with a high ankle sprain, former starter Sean Glennon came in and played out of his mind. He had outshined Ryan for much of the night in throwing for 149 yards and a touchdown and shook the notion that he wasn't a mobile QB by running for 23 yards and continuously eluding BC's rush.

• There was a Virginia Tech defense that seemed to be camped out in the Eagles' backfield for much of the night. Ryan had been sacked six times the entire season and picked off only six times. But the Hokies had sacked him three times and picked him off twice.

"I told the kids that things like that will happen to them in special years," Jagodzinski said of the comeback. "And I think that's one of those types of years here."

But as much as what happened in Blacksburg was about Boston College proving its worth as it won on the road against a top-10 Virginia Tech team, the more pressing issue was when they won.

The eyes of the collective college football universe were squarely on Blacksburg, at least those not watching the World Series. Yes, in a testament to BC's place in the lexicon of Boston sports, the Eagles were playing in arguably the biggest game in school history -- and it was up against the region's religion, also known as the Red Sox, who were playing Game 2 of the World Series. Even the players and coaches seemed all too interested in the Red Sox. Jagodzinski's first remarks when looking at a television upon entering the press conference was "Those guys are hanging on, too," while the first words out of Ryan's mouth were "What's the Sox score?"

But Ryan and the Eagles took full advantage of the national attention, adding a win that should legitimize their standing after a largely underwhelming schedule that, outside of a 14-point victory over then-No. 15 Georgia Tech, saw BC somewhat struggle in wins over Army, UMass, Bowling Green and Notre Dame.

They may have gained respect, but there remains a question of whether we really should consider this BC squad as a real threat to get to New Orleans. It passed its first real hurdle, but must still play Florida State at home and faces trips to Maryland and Clemson before a home game with Miami, and a possible spot in the ACC Championship game. Then there's the perception of the ACC itself. The fifth-ranked conference in the Sagarin Rankings, behind the SEC, Big East, Pac-10 and Big 12 has been dealing with a label of being "down" and we'd be kidding ourselves if we didn't realize that if these Eagles were able to play for the BCS title, there'd be outrage that they were simply the product of a struggling conference -- a familair storyline for the current No. 1 Ohio State, too.

But like it or not, BC has proven itself -- and so has Ryan. It's high time we become acquainted with a team -- and a player -- that has the most manageable path to the title game. Ryan undoubtedly upped his Heisman profile, making a hot draw. Offering insight on everything Ryan, it even tackles the tough issues, like "What's Matt Ryan's favorite local pizzeria?"

If you're scoring at home, it's Presto's. Though Ryan wasn't divulging if that's what he left on the 20.