Dec. 29, 2004
SportsLine.com wire reports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Coach Tom O'Brien knew what to expect as soon as Boston College accepted an invitation to play North Carolina in the Continental Tire Bowl.

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The 25th-ranked Eagles would have to win another game in a hostile environment.

"If you look at the last couple of years, we've gone into South Bend and beat Notre Dame, we've won at Penn State, we've won at West Virginia," O'Brien said Wednesday. "We've done a pretty good job on the road."

Good thing, too. With North Carolina's campus about 150 miles away, the Tar Heels expect to have about 65,000 fans at Thursday's game. Their home field, Kenan Stadium, only holds 60,000.

"That's just awesome," coach John Bunting said. "I'm totally impressed with the support they've given us."

That extends beyond game day. Downtown is littered with signs congratulating the Tar Heels (6-5) on their season, and the team hotel has been filled with supporters for the past several days. Even the hotel employees there got in the spirit, donning Carolina blue shirts and hats.

Of course, it's been three years since North Carolina reached a bowl, so everyone had plenty of time to prepare.

"They're everywhere," center Jason Brown said. "Even if they're not wearing something Carolina blue, you can still see them. It's been great."

The Eagles (8-3) don't appear too worried, and maybe it's because they really didn't want to be here. They only needed a victory over Syracuse in the final game of the regular season to secure their first outright Big East championship and earn a spot in a Bowl Championship Series game.

Instead, with quarterback Paul Peterson out with a broken hand, Boston College lost 43-17.

Welcome to Charlotte, BC.

"I think we definitely had a chip on our shoulder after it happened, because it was the last game of the year," Eagles defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. "We put that behind us before we even got here. That was out of our heads."

Peterson is back for what will be the final game of his college career, nearly fully recovered from surgery to help that broken bone in his throwing hand heal. He's 11-2 in 13 starts over the past two seasons, including victories over West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.

He was on his way to a career day at Temple before his injury, completing 12 of 15 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown in less than two quarters.

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"I looked at him when he came off the field, and it was like, 'How can this happen?"' O'Brien said. "But he's always been upbeat. He did a good job of not rushing into getting back."

That was the toughest part for Peterson, who had never missed a game due to injury.

"It's been too long since I've played," he said. "It's frustrating to watch, thinking about how much we had already accomplished and the things we had left to do."

Whoever loses this game won't have to wait long for a rematch. With Boston College joining the Atlantic Coast Conference next season, the teams are scheduled to meet at Kenan Stadium.

Then, as Bunting pointed out, the Eagles won't have to face quite as many angry fans.

"With us going to the ACC, this is a very important game," Peterson said. "We've got a lot to prove."