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November 28, 2008Two years ago, a redshirt freshman quarterback named Riley Skinner led Wake Forest to a stunning ACC Championship Game victory in front of his hometown fans.
Now it may be time for a sequel.
Boston College redshirt freshman quarterback Dominique Davis came off the bench and overcame two huge mistakes to rally his team to a 24-21 victory over Wake Forest last week. Davis is one win away from leading the Eagles into the ACC Championship Game at Tampa, Fla., about a half-hour drive from his hometown of Lakeland, Fla.
Just about the only guy not imagining the scenario is Davis himself.
"I'm not really thinking about that right now," Davis said. "I'm more focused on Saturday and trying to get ready for Maryland."
Davis insists he isn't getting distracted by friends and family members talking about his potential homecoming.
"They've been talking to me about Saturday," he said. "Everybody wants to come up here for Saturday's game. They haven't really said anything about Tampa."
If Davis does indeed lead Boston College to the ACC title, it might represent an even more unlikely scenario than Skinner's rise to glory.
Skinner at least replaced an injured Ben Mauk early in the season and had most of the year to settle into the offense. Davis came off the bench during Boston College's 11th game after fifth-year senior Chris Crane fractured his collarbone.
Shortly after entering the game, Davis almost single-handedly knocked his team out of ACC title contention. Davis fumbled twice. Both times, Wake Forest defenders picked up the ball and ran into the end zone.
Thanks in part to Davis' turnovers, Wake Forest owned a 21-16 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Davis blamed the fumbles on nerves and his choice of attire. He wore long sleeves that he said made the ball get slippery whenever he tried to tuck it away.
"I had on some long sleeves and the ball just popped out," Davis said. "It was like trying to hold soap. Every time I tried to run with it, it just popped out."
Once he cut off his sleeves and settled down, Davis looked like an entirely different player. His 1-yard touchdown sneak with 1:12 left capped a nine-play, 70-yard drive that put BC ahead for good. Davis was 5-of-6 passing for 72 yards during that final series.
"As you can imagine, when he had to come in somewhat unexpectedly, I thought early he was really nervous," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. "You could tell. By the end of the game, it looked like he'd settled down a little bit. He made a couple of great throws to win the football game for them."
Davis will have to make more than a couple of good throws Saturday. He benefited last week from a Boston College defense that held Wake Forest to 191 yards in total offense. Wake's only touchdowns last week came on the two fumble returns and after the Demon Deacons recovered a blocked punt at BC's 1.
As good as Boston College's defense is, the Eagles can't count on delivering that kind of dominant performance on that side of the ball in back-to-back weeks. Davis will have to make some plays in order to have a happy homecoming next week.
Davis savors the challenge.
"I've been in the film room more than I've ever been in my life, and that's getting me much more prepared," Davis said. "I don't know exactly how long, but I've been there in the morning, in the afternoon and the nighttime."
That's bad news for Maryland because Davis always has been a quick study. Although he's the half-brother of Chicago Bears tight end and former Wake Forest star Desmond Clark, Davis concentrated more on basketball his first couple of years at Kathleen High School in Lakeland. Former Kathleen coach Brian Armstrong remembers the first time he saw Davis, who was a spring-semester sophomore at the time.
"I didn't even know who he was," said Armstrong, now the offensive coordinator at Rocky Mountain College, an NAIA school in Billings, Mont. "I'd probably been at the school for a week when I walked into the gym one day and here's this guy dunking a basketball."
"Who's that guy? What position does he play?" Armstrong said he asked.
"He doesn't play football," someone replied.
"What?!?'' Armstrong responded.
Armstrong asked Davis to come out for football. Armstrong later got some players already on the team to make his pitch for him.
Davis finally agreed to come out for the team and initially played wide receiver. When Kathleen's starting quarterback got hurt ? does this sound familiar? ? Davis volunteered to take over. He went on to throw for 2,758 yards and 28 touchdowns his senior year while gradually earning the attention of Division I recruiters.
"He wasn't a finished product," Armstrong said. "He was kind of a diamond in the rough, but he could throw the ball very, very accurately no matter the situation and the route.
"I told everybody who recruited him, 'Obviously you guys get paid a lot more than I do to coach up quarterbacks, but this is a diamond in the rough.' His best football is definitely in front of him."
Davis' opportunity wasn't supposed to come until next season. Davis threw a total of 12 passes in mop-up duty against UCF and Rhode Island in September, but he hadn't played at all in six consecutive games until Crane was injured last week.
The Eagles now are resting their title hopes on Davis' right shoulder. If Crane returns to action this season, it wouldn't be until the bowl game. Davis' performance could determine whether the Eagles are playing in the Orange Bowl or a much less prestigious postseason contest.
Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski has enough faith in Davis that he isn't planning to make any major changes to the Eagles' offensive philosophy.
"We're going to do what we do," Jagodzinski said. "I thought that Dominique ended up settling down there at the end of [the Wake Forest] game and leading our team to a fourth-quarter comeback. That's a good sign. When he first got in there, I'm sure he was a little bit nervous, but he settled down and made some plays at the end of the game to help us win.
"I think he's a little bit more mobile than Chris. He just doesn't have a lot of experience. I think he'll be OK. We've surrounded him with a pretty good offensive line and some good receivers. We'll be OK."
Jagodzinski already showed his belief in Davis by taking a chance on the former two-star prospect. Davis made a similar leap of faith when he decided to play college football more than 1,000 miles away from home.
Davis liked Boston College's combination of athletic and academic excellence, though he had to learn to adjust to the northern weather.
"It was crazy," Davis said. "Every day I'd wake up and see snow. I've gotten used to it."
The weather report calls for a chilly Saturday at Boston College, with high temperatures in the 40s and lows in the 20s. No matter how cold it gets, don't expect Davis to wear long sleeves for the biggest game of his life.
He doesn't want to do anything that might cause Boston College's ACC title hopes to slip away.
"I've learned my lesson," Davis said.
Steve Megargee is a national college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.