Boston College junior defensive lineman Brian Mihalik has bided his time. The former Avon Lake standout only played in a handful of games during his freshman and sophomore seasons. Meanwhile, under former head coach Frank Spaziani, the Eagles struggled to 4-8 and 2-10 records during that span.
This season, with former Temple head coach Steve Addazio taking over and with a Heisman Trophy candidate — running back Andre Williams — leading the nation in rushing yards, the Eagles rebounded to go 7-5 and earn a bowl bid for the first time since 2010. They will meet Arizona in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, which will be held today in Shreveport, La., at 12:30 p.m.
Mihalik played in all 12 games and started four this year. He doesn’t know if he will start at defensive end today, but he knows he’ll be playing.
“It’s really exciting,” said Mihalik, speaking by phone last week as he waited in the airport for his flight to Louisiana. “We’ve got a good matchup on ESPN with a good Arizona team, so it’s going to be exciting. I’ve spilt reps with a senior on our team, so I’m not sure what’s going to happen yet. But I’m preparing as if I’ll be seeing a lot of playing time.
“My first two years, we did not go to bowl games, so this is my first one. It’s always exciting to get the chance to play on national TV where you know all your family and friends will get the chance to see you. I still have a lot of friends and family back in Ohio and they don’t get that big of a chance to see me play that often. But it was great to hear from everyone how excited they were about the bowl game and about seeing me play in it while I was home for the holidays.”
Mihalik had 25 tackles (16 solo), two sacks for 11 yards and six tackles for a loss. He also forced two fumbles and had one pass defensed.
His best game was his most recent. Against Syracuse on Nov. 30, Mihalik had a career-high seven tackles (five solo), tied a career-high with 1.5 tackles for a loss and forced a fumble. He had set his career-high in tackles for a loss Sept. 6 against Wake Forest, which included one of his two sacks. His other sack came at Maryland on Nov. 23.
“I played a little bit as a freshman and more as a sophomore, but this has been the most playing time I’ve received by far,” Mihalik said. “I think the more you play, the more comfortable you are. We’ve got a new coaching staff here, but the more comfortable you are with the system and more you digest the playbook, the more comfortable you get when you play.”
As a sophomore, Mihalik played in nine games and started twice — against Miami and Clemson early in the season — before missing three games due to injury.
The Clemson game, prior to this year’s game against Syracuse, had been Mihalik’s finest performance as a collegian. He played 82 snaps, recorded four tackles (three solo), a forced fumble, two pass breakups and his first career sack. The sack of Tajh Boyd resulted in a 16-yard loss, and he forced a Boyd fumble in the fourth quarter.
Mihalik downplayed accomplishing the feat against one of the top quarterbacks in college football.
“It doesn’t really make it more special,” he said. “Playing in ACC, you play in high-level games and against high-level players every week. Once you get into a rhythm out there, it doesn’t make that big of a difference which opponent you do well against.”
A marketing major, Mihalik is enjoying his time at Boston College. His father, John, is a BC alum and played fullback for the Eagles from 1983-86.
“It’s been a lot like I thought it would be, thanks to this being a high academic school,” Mihalik said. “The players have been great, and it’s just been a great experience overall. We’re excited to be back in a bowl game and we’re hoping to bring home a win.”
Mihalik said you can expect the Eagles to rely on their powerful ground game, led by Doak Walker Award recipient Williams and his 2,102 yards, and their attacking defense.
“We play a really physical style of football on offense,” Mihalik said. “On defense, we play an aggressive style that tries to cause havoc. Mostly, we just want to make sure everyone executes their fundamentals, and if we do that, we’ll do OK.
“Arizona is a lot similar to us. They run a bit of a different style offense under Coach (Rich) Rodriguez with the spread. But they do like to run the ball first and establish the run from that formation. It should be a fun week and a fun game.”
At Avon Lake, Mihalik earned Division II All-Ohio second-team honors and All-Northeast Lakes district first-team honors as a senior defensive lineman. He also gained All-Lorain County and All-Southwestern Conference first-team accolades.
As a senior in 2010, he registered 13 sacks and scored two touchdowns, returning an interception for a score and recovering a fumble and racing 46 yards for a touchdown.
He also played in the 66th annual Ohio North-South Classic in Ohio Stadium.