And though their initial reactions to finding out their Boston College football team was playing Iowa in Wednesday’s Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium varied, by late last week all parties involved were looking forward to a chance to end their season with a win against a formidable foe.
“New York is an unbelievable place to be over the holiday season, so it’ll be great for us,” Callinan, BC’s fifth-year senior wide receiver and a graduate of St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, said last week on a conference call. “In terms of the game, we’re real excited, real jacked up. It’s going to be a good head-to-head matchup.”
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Callinan hails from Westfield, N.J., but he was born in Cleveland, so the Yankees play second fiddle in his baseball fandom to the Indians. Still, he grew up going to games in The Bronx and is looking forward to a return trip.
It will be a chance at redemption for Callinan and his upperclassmen teammates who fell to Penn State in heartbreaking fashion, 31-30 in overtime in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl. They will return to the scene of the crime, marking their second trip to a park built for baseball this year after beating Connecticut at Fenway Park last month.
“Who else can say that they played in two of the most famous ballparks in the same year?” Callinan asked.
The answer? The last FBS team to play at the home of the Yankees and Red Sox in one fall was NYU in 1948.
“But to play [at Yankee Stadium] again is going to be something real special,” Callinan said, “especially to close out my college football career there and hopefully get a win.”
For Reid, the game will serve as a reunion of sorts. Before becoming BC’s defensive coordinator in 2016, he was Iowa’s linebackers coach from 2013-15.
“I’m just going to be really honest with you. I never thought that this would ever happen,” Reid said. “What are the chances of that happening? In one way, I was happy because I’d be able to see them. In another way, I just felt kind of sick that we’d have to compete against guys that I have great admiration for. I love those guys.”
But Reid has come around on the idea, and he will get a firsthand look at the Hawkeyes’ stud linebacker corps, led by Josey Jewell — which Reid called “the heart and soul” of Iowa’s defense and which he helped develop.
Jewell, who leads the Big Ten and is ranked third nationally with 11.4 tackles per game, also has a team-high 13.5 tackles for loss. He had a team-high nine tackles, five solo, in the Hawkeyes’ 55-24 win over Ohio State on Nov. 4 in the loss that ultimately knocked the Buckeyes from the College Football Playoff.
Jewell, whose Hawkeyes have lost five straight bowl games, will try to wreak havoc on a young Eagles offense, which is on its second quarterback, Darius Wade, after its original starter, Anthony Brown, suffered a season-ending knee injury in November. The Eagles also feature a freshman running back, AJ Dillon.
“[Reid was] really focused on the details,” Jewell said. “He was a guy that liked to print out a lot of paper, kind of old school stuff. He probably killed a couple trees a day for our notes, which is kind of funny.”
Reid chuckled at the memory, but neither coordinator on either team was laughing about the challenge on their hands.
“They remind us a lot of a Big Ten opponent,” Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said of BC.
The initial emotions may come flooding back, but once the action begins, there won’t be much time to think about them.
“You look on paper, it’s two very similar teams that both believe in playing hard, physical football, playing disciplined football,” BC offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. “The game will come down to four or five plays.”