DEKALB, Ill. (AP) — Anthony Brown made the most of his final drive in his first career start.
Brown, the first freshman to start for the Eagles since 2009, had four straight completions during the game-winning drive, including a 12-yard fourth-down pass to Kobay White to set up Colton Lichtenberg’s 37-yard field goal with 2:13 to play.
“During that drive, we were getting everything we possibly could ask for,” said Brown, who learned he was starting a few days before kickoff. “It’s a wonderful feeling.”
Brown threw for two touchdowns to help Boston College edge Northern Illinois 23-20 in a season opener on Friday night.
Northern Illinois had a chance to tie it in the closing seconds, but Christian Hagan’s 39-yard field-goal attempt hit the crossbar.
Brown was 26-of-42 passing for 191 yards and an interception. He and the Eagles appeared poised to widen the lead after going up 20-10 midway through the third quarter but the offense sputtered. A handful of ill-timed penalties also hurt.
“In the fourth quarter, we stalled, but we were able to make enough plays to win,” coach Steve Addazio said. “Those penalties were simply drive-killers for us.”
Michael Walker and Ray Marten each had touchdown catches for Boston College, which got five grabs and a team-best 64 yards from White.
Ryan Graham threw for 190 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for the Huskies, who were seeking their fifth straight home win over a Power 5 conference opponent.
Boston College took a 13-10 lead to intermission after Brown connected with Walker in the final minute. Northern Illinois rallied to tie it early in the fourth quarter.
Addazio didn’t announce a starter earlier in the week and only informed Brown, who beat out experienced graduate student Darius Wade.
“He graded out the highest in preseason camp on work,” Addazio said. “We said we’d look at the body of work to have a measurable stat. I had to have something tangible and that’s how we made our decision.”
Lichetnberg converted all three field-goal attempts but the Eagles weren’t expecting much in the run-up to the opener. The junior missed two tries in last season’s opener before a quad injury helped cost him the starting job for the rest of the fall.
“I was not pleased coming out of camp with our field-goal kicking,” Addazio said. “I think he gained a lot of confidence. This is going to pay a lot of dividends for him.”
Boston College’s offense hit its deepest valley early in the second quarter when Jon Baker hiked the ball past Brown, who was looking away when the third-down snap was delivered. Brown raced back to dive on the ball, but the 18-yard loss forced the Eagles to punt.
Boston College: The Eagles were next-to-last among FBS teams in total offense last season and had their share of fits and starts on the first night of the new year. The Eagles looked sharp on both touchdown drives but a pair of costly three-and-outs and an illegal-block penalty on another possession stymied them late in the second half and kept the game close.
Games against Notre Dame and national champion Clemson loom later in September.
Northern Illinois: The Huskies have had success in the past with versatile quarterbacks and Graham, who also was kept under wraps until kickoff, showed flashes with his arm and feet in his ninth career start. The redshirt junior led all rushers with 99 yards and kept the Huskies’ first touchdown drive alive with a 60-yard keeper.
“I don’t think my job is locked and I still need to perform,” he said. “It’s definitely not ‘I’m this good and I have this job.'”
Boston College: The Eagles, who have dropped their last three Atlantic Coast Conference openers, kick off their conference slate Sept. 9 when Wake Forest visits Chestnut Hill.
Northern Illinois: The Huskies welcome FCS-member Eastern Illinois the same day. Coach Rod Carey is 3-0 against such foes in his five seasons.
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