Inside a hushed Boston College locker room, Eagles coach Steve Addazio awarded game balls to the family of Welles Crowther, a Sept. 11 victim and hero who inspired the red bandanna theme, and another to quarterback Tyler Murphy for leading BC to a 37-31 victory over No. 9 Southern California on Saturday night.
"The red bandanna game meant a lot. We talked a lot about Welles Crowther; we talked a lot about who he was and what it takes to be a BC man," said Addazio, who had one of the colorful handkerchiefs hanging out of each front pocket. "Our guys dug deep on this. This was a great win."
Murphy rushed for 191 yards, breaking free for a 66-yard touchdown with 3:30 to play to help clinch the victory over a USC team that was itself coming off an emotional win. The Trojans (2-1) had never lost to BC, but they now return to California to regroup before resuming their conference schedule.
"The goal, obviously, of being Pac-12 champs is very alive for us," coach Steve Sarkisian said. "I thought we came out playing well, and for whatever reason I thought we lost it. I've got to figure that out."
Jon Hilliman ran for 89 yards and two touchdowns, and Myles Willis and receiver Sherman Alston each broke off runs of 50-plus yards to help BC (2-1) amass 452 rushing yards. USC managed just 20 yards on the ground on 29 carries.
"We had a great game plan to run the ball, but Boston College did a great job of loading the box," said USC quarterback Cody Kessler, who completed 31 of 41 passes for 317 yards and four touchdowns, but was also sacked five times. "They did a good job of getting to me. We missed some assignments up front, and we should have made some better calls both offensively and by me."
The Trojans were coming off a last-minute victory over Pac-12 rival Stanford that moved them up five spots in The Associated Press Top 25. Now they are certain to drop, having lost to a BC team that had not beaten a top 10 opponent since a victory over 10th-ranked West Virginia in 2004.
The Eagles wore helmets, shoes and gloves decorated in the red bandanna theme to honor Crowther, a BC graduate known for the accessory who died in the World Trade Center after helping usher others to safety. The Eagles were shown a video about Crowther during the week, and the USC sideline joined in the applause when Crowther's parents were honored on the field during a break.
Addazio stormed into the postgame news conference clapping his hands and immediately launched into a tribute to Crowther, crediting his inspiration for the victory.
The last time an unranked BC team beat a top 10 foe was a 2002 victory over No. 4 Notre Dame in South Bend that cost the Irish a chance at the national championship. This one could be even more shocking, following the Eagles' lackluster loss to Pittsburgh last week.
"Coach really challenged us as a team this week," said Murphy, a transfer from Florida in his first season in Chestnut Hill. "It's a big win for our program, and we're taking things in the right direction."
The Eagles trailed 17-6 in the second quarter before scoring 24 unanswered points.
Leading 27-17 with 12:22 to play, Murphy started the drive with back-to-back runs for a combined 52 yards and BC moved to the USC 5 yard-line. But the Eagles settled for a 25-yard field goal that -- thanks to a missed extra point on their opening score -- left them with a 13-point lead.
USC took over at its own 25 with 7:42 left and engineered a 10-play drive that finished with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Kessler to Nelson Agholor. Getting the ball at its 28 with 4:25 left, Murphy moved BC to the 34 before breaking through the line and streaking into the end zone.
Kessler led USC to another score, hitting Darreus Rogers from 14-yards out to make it a six-point game with 78 seconds left. Shakim Phillips covered the onside kick for BC, and Hilliman broke off a 22-yard run to help the Eagles milk the clock.
The Trojans opened a 17-6 lead, but couldn't deliver the rout that was widely expected.
Murphy gained 16 on one run and 23 on another to put the ball at the USC 3. Hilliman took it in from there to make it 17-13. It stayed that way until the Eagles took over at their own 46-yard line and Alston broke loose on the opening play of the drive for a 54 yard touchdown run that give the Eagles a 20-17 lead.