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Saturday, December 26, 2009
Instant Analysis: USC 24, BC 13

By Heather Dinich

Here's a quick look at USC's 24-13 win over BC in the Emerald Bowl:

Montel Harris
Montel Harris was a bright spot for Boston College, rushing for 102 yards and a touchdown.
How the game was won: USC took advantage of BC’s mistakes, and pressured quarterback Dave Shinskie into third-and-long situations and poor decisions in the second half. USC’s defense had a forced fumble and recovery, a pass breakup, and beat the Eagles up front to sack Shinskie several times. Quarterback Matt Barkley had the better performance and was able to overcome the absence of three key starters, while Montel Harris wasn’t enough for the Eagles’ offense.

Turning point: Shinskie was intercepted with 12:22 left in the game, and it was another costly turnover in his fledgling career, as Barkley completed a 48-yard pass on the following play to the BC 1-yard line. Barkley punched it in on the next play, and finally gave the Trojans some separation with a 24-13 lead. It would be the score that won the game.

Stat of the game: Boston College had just 23 yards of offense in the third quarter. After a solid performance in the first half, in which Shinskie did a good job of managing the offense without turning it over, he had a string of five straight incompletions in the third quarter.

Unsung hero of the game: BC running back Montel Harris. Despite a bruise to his backside in the third quarter, Harris continued to forge ahead and give the Eagles some offense. Considering Shinskie’s penchant for turnovers and inconsistency, Harris was their best hope in the fourth quarter. He finished with 102 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.

What it means: Despite the loss, Boston College should take some pride back to the East Coast for keeping things interesting, and approaching USC with respect, not awe, for its tradition. It was yet another reminder, though, that the program isn’t yet where first-year coach Frank Spaziani wants it to be, but it is headed in the right direction. The brief injury scare to Harris was a reminder of the depth that still needs to be built, and the offensive improvements that still need to be made.

Record performance: Senior wide receiver Rich Gunnell’s 61-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter gave him 91 in the game and 2,420 in his career, which is the new BC career receiving record. He surpassed Pete Mitchell’s 2,388 yards that he gained from 1991-94. It was the second longest reception of Gunnell’s career. He caught a 68-yard pass on December 28, 2007 in the Champs Sports Bowl against Michigan State. Gunnell finished with 117 yards and one touchdown on five catches.