Boston colleges enjoy banner football season
As preposterous as it may sound, Boston has emerged, however quietly, as this season's top college football city. Though not noted as a cradle of touchdowns, New England's largest metropolis has had an exceptionally good year on ye olde gridiron.Skip to next paragraph
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Leading the way, of course, is 12th-ranked Boston College, which has risen to a position of national prominence by beating back-to-back national champions Clemson and Penn State, plus traditionally powerful Alabama. The Eagles are currently preparing to meet Notre Dame in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 29.
Largely overlooked until now, even locally, is Boston University, which plays in the almost-major flight known as Division I-AA. On Sunday, however, B.U. made people take notice of its stunning upset of Eastern Kentucky in the I-AA playoffs. Knocking off the defending national champions was quite a coup, especially in Richmond, Ky., where the Colonels hadn't lost since 1977.
That same day, Bentley College, a school just inside the ''Technology Highway'' ringing greater Boston, secured its second consecutive national club football championship with a 28-20 victory over Worcester State.
The week before, Harvard, which plays its games in Boston even though the main campus is across the Charles River in Cambridge, won the centenniel Harvard-Yale clash to grab a share of the Ivy League title.
Even Northeastern, which is always being confused with Northwestern, came through with its first winning season in five years, a fact certainly distinguishing the Back Bay school from its near-namesake on Lake Michigan.
With the Huskies' 6-4-1 mark, the ''big four'' of Boston football - Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, and Northeastern - all completed successful campaigns for only the second time in that last 15 years. Besides seeing winning football, local fans have been treated to an entertaining brand of play.
Quarterback Doug Flutie, a Heisman Trophy finalist, is responsible for generating a lot of the excitement at Boston College, where his scrambling makes him a renowned escape artist.
At Harvard, innovative coach Joe Restic uses a no-holds-barred offense called the Multiflex, which occasionally sends even the quarterback in motion.
At Northeastern, Coach Paul Pawlak decided to go to the air after several years with a ground-oriented attack. Senior quarterback Gregg Prebles wound up passing for more yardage than in the previous two years combined.
At Boston University, junior tailback Paul Lewis has been a one-man highlight film, scoring more touchdowns (20 in the regular season) than he did a year ago as the I-AA scoring champion.
At times, though, Lewis and his teammates might as well have been playing in a closet for all the attention they've received. A sign at one end of Nickerson Field, the Terriers' home, says ''Beware of Dogs.'' People appear to take the message literally judging by the size of the crowds.
B.U. football has always been a hard sell, partly because the school's urban campus doesn't foster the kind of ambiance associated with college games elsewhere. The biggest crowd this season was 7,300 for Yankee Conference rival Rhode Island, and the smallest 1,500 for intersectional foe Morgan State.
The average attendance fell about halfway between, a sad figure for a team that plays in an 18,700-seat stadium and has been New England's winningest school in either Division I-A or I-AA with a 43-21-1 record since 1978.