For the second straight year, Boston College has made the trek westward to play their last game of the season in San Francisco at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park. The Eagles are hoping the name of the bowl game isn’t the only thing that has changed since last year.
A little more than a year ago, Boston College fell to USC by a 24-13 count in what was then known as the Emerald Bowl. The Eagles’ first visit to The City in 2003 ended with a 35-21 win against Colorado State in what was then the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl.
This year, with the bowl in its third incarnation, the Eagles (7-5) have drawn the BCS’ 15th-ranked team in Nevada (12-1) as their final opponent. But Boston College coach Frank Spaziani isn’t complaining.
“We love coming to San Francisco,” Spaziani said during Wednesday’s Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl press conference. “It is a great bowl and a great city.”
The Eagles drew a second consecutive cross-country trip thanks to a weak Pac-10 conference that did not have enough bowl-eligible teams to fulfill its bowl commitments. That opened the door for the Eagles to step in and face the Western Athletic Conference’s top team.
“We’ve got a tiger by the tail in the Nevada program,” Spaziani said. “They certainly have our respect. Boise State had the name recognition, but Nevada won the game.”
Nevada earned the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl berth by stunning then-No. 3 Boise State 34-31 in overtime on Thanksgiving weekend. The Wolf Pack figure to be among the toughest opponents that Boston College has faced this year.
But adversity is something Spaziani is comfortable dealing with — he is a New York Yankees fan living in the heart of Red Sox nation in Boston, after all. And he was able to coach a team that struggled to a 2-5 start in 2010, only to turn it into a bowl-eligible 7-5 team riding a five-game winning streak to close the regular season.
Spaziani is quick to credit his players for the Eagles’ run.
“They are a special group,” Spaziani said. “Not many teams could start 2-5 and win five in a row like this.”
But sophomore All-American linebacker Luke Kuechly credits Spaziani and his coaching staff for the turnaround.
“They’ve done a great job preparing us each week,” Kuechly said.
In his second season as coach, Spaziani has continued Boston College’s streak of bowl appearances of 12 straight years. Even though both bowl appearances for Spaziani have been in San Francisco, coming here hasn’t tarnished the experience.
“We’re very excited about being here,” said Spaziani, who served as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator from 1999-2008. “And now that we’re out here, it’s even more special than last year.”
When the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl’s board of directors met over a month ago to determine which Western Athletic Conference team to invite to this year’s game at AT&T Park, they struggled between inviting well-known Boise State and lesser-known, but up-and-coming Nevada.
It looks like they made the right choice when they picked Nevada, as the Wolf Pack have set a bowl record for tickets sold by a single school at 15,500 tickets. By comparison, Nevada’s opponent Boston College only sold 6,000 of their 8,000 allotted tickets.
“It turned out [Nevada] was a wonderful choice,” said executive director Gary Cavalli during Wednesday’s news conference.
Cavalli said 40,250 tickets have been sold so far. Only 2,000 tickets remain unsold, close enough to be considered a sellout.