Will 3rd time be charm for Rettig vs. Irish?

Chase Rettig and BC's offense face a tough test against Manti Te'o and Notre Dame's defense. US Presswire

NEWTON, Mass. -- Chase Rettig remembers it well.

He walked out of the tunnel at Alumni Stadium for the first start of his career. The lights were on. The stands were full. The fans were raucous.

Notre Dame was in town for a prime-time edition of the Holy War.

In a perfect world, Rettig not only wouldn't have started -- he wouldn't have even been on the depth chart.

The Eagles loved Rettig's potential, and they were hoping that sophomores Dave Shinskie and Mike Marscovetra could get them through the 2010 season at quarterback. That would allow them to redshirt the highly regarded Rettig, giving him a year to adjust to the college game before being thrust into the fray.

But this is not a perfect world. Far from it, in fact.

So during a lifting session on the Sunday after the third game of the season, head coach Frank Spaziani had a message for his true freshman signal-caller: "We're going to give you an opportunity."

That's how Rettig remembers it. It wasn't an anointing, an instant elevation from bench to starter. Rather, it was a suggestion that his time might be coming sooner than expected.

"I was just really excited," Rettig said. "It was all happening so fast."

Things did not go as he hoped in the beginning. His first four attempts were incomplete, and the fifth attempt was complete to Sterlin Phifer but resulted in a 1-yard loss.

"The first couple series everything was going so fast," Rettig said.

"It was such a big stage to start a game on, a night game against Notre Dame," wideout Alex Amidon said. "So you kind of expect the start that he had. But then he started getting into a little rhythm."

Rettig hit his next throw, to Chris Pantale, then had his first big play, finding Bobby Swigert for a 58-yard touchdown.

"Once we scored it slowed down," Rettig said, "and then unfortunately I got hurt."

He sprained his ankle and had to come out of the game. Marscovetra came on in relief in the second quarter, handling the snaps in the rest of the eventual 31-13 loss.

But the day's message was clear: Rettig was the future, and his time had arrived.

When Rettig takes the field against No. 4 Notre Dame on Saturday night (8 ET, ABC), the Fighting Irish will be facing a mature passer who's finally producing as the Eagles always thought he could.

"Oh, he's made tremendous progress," Spaziani said of his QB. "He took over in very difficult circumstances."

Rettig has had to deal with adversity in each of his three seasons as the starter. There was the injury to his ankle in Year 1, the revolving door at offensive coordinator (from Gary Tranquill to Kevin Rogers to Dave Brock) in Year 2 and an inconsistent, up-and-down team in Year 3.

"With some stability over there [in the coaching ranks] now, he's the quarterback we thought he'd be," Spaziani said. "He's always been the quarterback that we thought he was, but he's producing like you would hope we would."

Rettig is in the top 25 in the nation in several passing categories, including attempts (349, 14th), completions (197, tied-24th) and yards (2,556, 18th). He has thrown 16 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions, three coming in his last game against Wake Forest.

With three games left in the season, Rettig already has set career highs in attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns.

"You can definitely tell the amount he's grown throughout the past two years," Amidon said. "Now there's so much different you can see, the confidence he plays with and the throws he's able to make.

"He's always had a great arm and stuff but he's able to make these throws now that he wasn't before."

New offensive coordinator Doug Martin has installed a system that clearly suits Rettig, whose completion percentage is up to 56.4 from 53.6 in 2011 and 51.3 in 2010.

"He's a big league quarterback," Spaziani said. "When we give him time, he's excellent."

At times, the Eagles have struggled to do that. According to cfbstats.com, BC has given up 21 sacks so far this season, tied for 86th most in the country.

That is a worrisome statistic this week, as Notre Dame comes into the matchup with the 15th most sacks (26) this season.

It's a big game for the Eagles, facing their biggest rival with a chance to ruin the Irish's perfect season and BCS title hopes. Last season, Notre Dame beat BC 16-14.

And for Rettig, it's another chance to face a team he's seen a lot of on a big stage.

"I remember being a child and seeing Notre Dame have success and just being a big-name program," Rettig said. "So having that start my freshman year was kind of surreal."

Rettig's mother went to Oregon State, and the BC QB remembers watching the 2001 Fiesta Bowl with his family. OSU won 41-9.

The odds are against BC winning Saturday night, but that won't stop the Eagles from trying.

"If we can play as a team and come together and play four quarters of football and maybe have a chance to win at the end of the game," Rettig said, "then it would definitely erase everything that's kind of happened so far, I guess."

And make a memory that will last forever.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.