ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan was the last player to leave the Citrus Bowl, signing autographs, shaking hands and even posing for some pictures.
He didn’t want it to end.
Ryan capped his college career with three touchdown passes and a 24-21 win over Michigan State in the Champs Sports Bowl on Friday night, a victory that made coach Jeff Jagodzinski’s first season one of the best in school history.
“It’s bittersweet,” Ryan said. “Obviously, it’s great to win the game, and I had so much fun here at BC. But I’m disappointed to go a little bit. I’ll miss it, but I’m excited about the future as well.”
The Eagles (11-3) extended the nation’s longest bowl winning streak to eight and won 11 games for the first time since 1940.
“It was big to get to 11 wins,” Jagodzinski said. “To get to double-digit wins is hard to do in any league. These guys bought into what I was talking about and they did everything I asked them to do to get to that point.”
It was a great start for Coach Jag, but after an 8-0 start, the season had potential to be even better.
The Eagles were ranked No. 2 in the country after rallying to beat Virginia Tech in late October. But they ended the regular season losing three of five, including a rematch with the Hokies in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game in Jacksonville, and ended up in the Champs Sports Bowl.
With 17 fifth-year seniors playing their final game in a return trip to Florida, motivation came easy. Not surprising, two seniors led the way.
Ryan completed 22 of 47 passes for 249 yards. All-America safety Jamie Silva had two interceptions, including one in the end zone, and was the game’s most valuable player.
“I wish both of these guys were back next year,” Jagodzinski said. “I’ve got the best quarterback in the country sitting to my right and the best safety sitting to my left. There’s a reason these guys have gotten all these awards — because of their play.”
The Eagles sealed the win with their fourth interception of the game. Paul Anderson picked off Brian Hoyer’s pass and returned it to the Michigan State 29 with 2:29 remaining.
Hoyer finished with five turnovers — four interceptions and a fumble — for the Spartans (7-6).
“Obviously I’m disappointed in myself,” Hoyer said. “It’s kind of a bad day to go out there and have the worst game of your career.”
Michigan State, in its first bowl in four years, played without four academically ineligible players, including defensive end Jonal Saint-Dic, one of the best pass rushers in the Big Ten.
Coach Mark Dantonio also suspended senior linebacker SirDarean Adams for violating an unspecified team rule.
The Spartans refused to use the absences or Hoyer’s mistakes as an excuse.
“We’re not going to second-guess anything that happens out there in terms of what if and if he hadn’t and should he have,” Dantonio said. “He’s in control out there and I believe in him totally and he’s our quarterback.”
It also was a tough day for freshman defensive back Chris Rucker, who was playing for the first time since having three medical procedures in the last two months to correct a detached retina. Rucker gave up both of Ryan’s long TD passes to Rich Gunnell (29 and 68 yards).
“We wanted to take some chances deep against their corners,” Ryan said. “They were bringing pressure all night and had a bunch of guys up in the box, so we wanted to take advantage of the one-on-one coverage. We felt it was a good matchup for us.”
The game was close — not surprising since Michigan State has played so many tight ones this season — thanks mostly to Ryan’s fumble.
Leading 24-13 in the fourth, Ryan fumbled as he was sacked by Greg Jones. Oren Wilson recovered at the Boston College 37.
Hoyer took advantage of the good field position, rolling right, releasing the ball just before he stepped out of bounds and finding Deon Curry open in the back of the end zone. The Spartans also made the 2-point conversion, cutting the lead to 24-21 with 6:04 remaining.
State got the ball back twice in the closing minutes, but couldn’t get anything going.
A few minutes later, Ryan and Silva were enjoying the moment.
“You go into a season hoping never to lose,” Silva said. “We did start out 8-0, which was great, but then we went on a little bad streak. No one wanted to do that. But this shows a little bit about our team, coming back and winning this game.”