EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — the first time in four years, Doug Flutie wasn't in uniform when Boston College opened its football season. He was just another member of the media, having signed a contract with ABC earlier Thursday, watching from the press box.
"I'd love to be out there," Flutie said in response to a question from one of his new media colleagues as he looked out over the field at the Meadowlands, where players from Boston College and Brigham Young were warming up for the Kickoff game.
But Flutie knew he no longer belonged on the field with the Eagles. He even turned down an invitation to stand with them on the sidelines.
"This is Shawn's night," Flutie said.
He was referring to Shawn Halloran, the junior whose unenviable task it is to replace 1984's Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback for Boston College.
Halloran has had better nights than he did Thursday in the 28-14 loss to Brigham Young, the defending national champion.
He threw 37 passes, only five fewer than he had thrown in two seasons as Flutie's backup, and completed 18 for 165 yards, but Halloran also had three interceptions and rarely generated the offense that Boston College needed to overcome the explosive Cougars.
"Shawn probably learned more tonight than he did in all his previous years at Boston College," Brigham Young Coach LaVell Edwards said.
This night belonged to Edwards' quarterback, senior Robbie Bosco, who led the nation in total offense last season and finished third in the Heisman voting.
Bosco completed 35 of 53 passes for 508 yards and three touchdowns. He also had four interceptions, two deep in Boston College territory, but the most-valuable-player voters didn't hold that against him.
Another MVP candidate was Bosco's favorite receiver, senior Glen Kozlowski, who caught 10 passes for 241 yards. Six of Kozlowski's catches netted more than 20 yards, including one for 40 and another for 51.
But the most dominating player Thursday night might have been Boston College's 254-pound senior nose guard, Mike Ruth.
Ruth, who will make a decision after this season whether to play professional football or enter the priesthood, was a holy terror.
Although he was double- and triple-teamed most of the game, he had nine tackles, eight unassisted, and four quarterback sacks.
"He's one big boy," Bosco said of Ruth. "I just tried to throw it and get out of the way."
That didn't always work.
Ruth was responsible for stopping at least two potential touchdown drives.
In the first quarter, when the game was still scoreless, Brigham Young drove to the Boston College 14. On third and eight, Ruth sacked Bosco for a 12-yard loss. That forced the Cougars to attempt a field goal, which was blocked.
In the fourth quarter, Brigham Young had its two-touchdown lead and was going for more from the Boston College four-yard line before Bosco threw his fourth interception.
Who got it? Who else?
Before Ruth could begin running with the ball, a Brigham Young lineman, probably waiting all night for the opportunity to unload on the Boston College noseguard, leveled him with a flying tackle, forcing a fumble. So maybe Ruth isn't sure-handed. That was his only fault Thursday night.
Still, most of the attention on this night was focused on Halloran, who said before the game he wanted to open with a long pass. That wasn't the call, but he did complete his first attempt, a nine-yarder to the tight end on the game's first play.
His next two passes were overthrown.
He adjusted, underthrowing many of his other first-half passes.
"I had a little anxiety," he admitted afterward.
That was only natural. After having to back up Flutie for two seasons, Halloran knew he would be playing in No. 22's shadow in the opener and probably for several more games to come.
He tried to make light of it.
"I don't see why there would be all this interest in my position," Halloran said at a Wednesday press conference. "What was the name of that guy I played behind?"
Even in his serious moments, he made it clear that he was not thinking about Flutie, even if everybody else was.
"I really can't think about replacing a legend, but simply about leading the team and playing the best I can," he said.
Coach Jack Bicknell's standard reply was similar.
"It's the most natural thing in the world to not have Doug because he graduated," Bicknell said. "It's not something I really think about. It would be different if I had thought Doug was going to be here.
"Quarterback isn't our problem. We've got a lot more problems than at quarterback."
Unfortunately for Boston College, those problems are in the secondary, which was untested before Thursday night.
As it turned out, Brigham Young was too difficult a test for Boston College's young defensive backs. But Bicknell had expected as much. When he arrived in Boston four years ago, he designed his offense after the one t BYU. He even planned a trip to Provo, Utah, this summer to learn more about Edwards' system until the Eagles were scheduled against the Cougars in the Kickoff game.
After a scoreless first quarter, Bosco led Brigham Young to a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. Boston College came back early in the third to tie, but the Cougars controlled the rest of the game.
That was primarily because of Bosco and his talented receivers, and also because Ruth was becoming fatigued.
For the Cougars, it was their 25th straight victory since losing to Coach Grant Teaff's Baylor Bears in the 1983 season opener.
When he had appeared at a Wednesday press conference, Bosco wore a T-shirt from Teaff's football camp.
"Is that because you respect Teaff," Bosco was asked.
"No," he said. "It's because I do my own laundry, and I didn't have anything else that was clean."