CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -Cullen Harper learned all he needed about Boston College's Matt Ryan in a 10-second span at Death Valley two seasons ago.
Former Clemson linebacker David Dunham had just delivered a crunching hit, striking Ryan square in the chest as the quarterback threw the ball, lifting him off the ground before he fell on his side and rolled onto all fours. Ryan's helmet flew off the moment Dunham struck, bouncing around near the passer.
There was a loud gasp from the Memorial Stadium crowd. Ryan was down, but far from out.
He returned a series later and led Boston College to a 16-13 overtime win, the school's first Atlantic Coast Conference victory.
``That's the hardest hit I've ever seen, in person or on TV,'' Clemson quarterback Harper marveled this week. ``I can't believe he got up and continued to play. That was unbelievable.''
Since that hit, the Boston College senior has become one of the country's top quarterbacks. He ranks sixth in the NCAA with 3,269 passing yards.
``I guess I got hit pretty hard last time,'' Ryan said. ``Hopefully, that doesn't happen again.''
Harper and Ryan square off Saturday night when No. 15 Clemson (8-2, 5-2) faces 18th-ranked Boston College (8-2, 4-2). The winner advances to the ACC's title game, and the winning quarterback likely moves to the front for the league's player of the year award.
Harper, who's thrown 26 touchdowns and four interceptions his first year as a starter, said he'd like some of the spotlight that's gone to Ryan and other ACC passers this year. He knows his chance comes this weekend.
``I guess you could say that,'' Harper said. ``But I really feel like with what I've done throughout the year, if I can just continue to do that, all the extra attention will come eventually.''
Ryan has had little trouble attracting attention, particularly with his play during BC's 8-0 start.
Behind Ryan, the Eagles rose to No. 2 in the country and the quarterback was among the front-runners for the Heisman Trophy. The capper looked like a furious fourth-quarter rally when Ryan threw two touchdown passes in the final 2:11 of Boston College's 14-10 win at Virginia Tech.
But the Eagles have lost their last two games, setting up Saturday's showdown.
``People know what's on the line,'' Ryan said.
Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning was as amazed as anyone with Ryan's recovery after Dunham's hit.
``He had his coming out party a couple of years ago,'' Koenning said. ``He got us then.''
In Koenning's view, Ryan has only grown more confident and polished. He compares Ryan to another Boston sports star, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.
``He looks like he's spent all offseason there with the Patriots because he looks like that cat they got in a lot of ways, a lot of mannerisms,'' Koenning said.
What Koenning's most impressed with is how well Ryan sees the field. ``I don't know how he sees some stuff,'' he said. ``We've got to be absolutely perfect'' on defense or Ryan will find some holes.
That's what Ryan did against the Hokies, leading a comeback that seemed to point to a special season on Chestnut Hill. Ryan spent much of the two TD drives scrambling from Virginia Tech defenders before finding an open receiver.
First-year Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski will stick with that game plan despite the two-game losing streak. ``I think you put your ball in your best player's hands and that's Matt,'' Jagodzinski said.
Ryan figures he won't get hit nearly as hard as did in 2005. He says his past success in one of the ACC's toughest venues will help the Eagles this time.
``We've been down there. We've won down there, so we know we're capable of doing it,'' Ryan said.
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