BOSTON – Chase Rettig was well into his redshirt year when Boston College coach Frank Spaziani approached him in the weight room.
"We're going to give you an opportunity," Spaziani told the young quarterback.
That week, he was with the first team in practice. Six days later, he was on the field against Notre Dame.
"I was really excited," Rettig said. "It was all happening so fast. It was a crazy environment. We walked out and the whole stadium was going nuts and it was all filled up. The first couple of series everything was going real fast. And once we scored it slowed down, and then unfortunately I got hurt."
Rettig didn't get to finish that game because of a turned ankle that knocked him out in the second quarter. But he's hoping to finish the job Saturday night when the fourth-ranked and unbeaten Fighting Irish visit Chestnut Hill for another nationally televised game.
"It's a big game in that it's a huge opportunity for us to not really look at what's happened so far," he said this week. "If we can play as a team and come together, and play four quarters of football and maybe have a chance to win at the end of the game then it would definitely erase everything that's happened so far."
Notre Dame (9-0) still has an outside chance at a national championship, though it would probably need a loss by two other unbeaten teams that include Alabama, Kansas State and Oregon. Boston College (2-7) is already eliminated from bowl contention, but a victory in the "Holy War" against the only other Catholic school in the FBS would go a long way toward salvaging an otherwise forgettable season.
"I would rather knock Notre Dame out of the national championship than go to the Toilet Bowl," offensive lineman Emmett Cleary said. "They're not Alabama, but they're a very good team. They're winners and they've pulled out a lot of close games, so we've got our work cut out for us, for sure."
For Rettig, it's a chance to beat a team that welcomed him to NCAA football — and not all that politely.
After getting tabbed as the starter as a freshman six days before the biggest game of any Boston College season, Rettig went out and missed on his first five passes, going three-and-out on the Eagles' first three series as they fell behind 21-0. But he completed his next five, including a 58-yard touchdown pass to Bobby Swigert late in the first quarter.
Just as he seemed to be turning things around, though, he was blindsided in the pocket as he released the ball and he left the game, which Notre Dame won 31-13. Last year, Rettig was 18 for 38 for 170 yards and a touchdown in BC's 16-14 loss in South Bend, Ind.
Rettig said taking the field against Notre Dame as a freshman "was kind of surreal."
"I was just really excited and very thankful for the opportunity," he said.
A lot has changed since then.
BC has had four offensive coordinators, and the school ended a 12-year streak of bowl appearances. But Rettig has remained the starting quarterback, a rare example of stability on the BC roster.
And now, as he prepares to face the Irish again, he's better prepared.
"I'm probably the same kid with physical attributes," he said. "But I'm obviously just mentally (better prepared). Mental preparation and experience helps a lot, and what you need to do in parts of the game when you're in different situations."
Spaziani said he had little choice but to burn Rettig's redshirt year in 2010 after a shutout to Virginia Tech convinced him Dave Shinskie was not the answer.
"He took over under tremendously difficult circumstances," Spaziani said, adding that things only got more difficult with the injury and an offensive coordinator change. "With some stability over there now, he's the quarterback we thought he would be. He's always been the quarterback we thought he would be, but he's producing now like you would hope he would."
Alex Amidon, Rettig's top target, agreed.
"You can definitely tell he's grown over the past two years," he said. "It was a weird situation. It was kind of all over the place at that point. It was such a big stage to start a game on: a night game against Notre Dame, you kind of expect the start that he had."
But after the touchdown pass to Swigert, Amidon said, "I remember the atmosphere did kind of get pretty excited."
"We haven't had an opportunity to play a team like this this late in the season for a long time," he said. "It's something to take away from the season. If we can get them, we'll look back on the season and say, 'We did that.'"