CHESTNUT HILL — The speculation can officially stop. Anthony Brown is healthy, and so is the Boston College passing attack.
The sophomore quarterback, who tore his ACL toward the end of last season, lit up a UMass secondary that left wide-open Eagles receivers all over the field. Combined with an expected dominant effort on the ground, BC rolled to a 55-21 win in its opener Saturday at Alumni Stadium.
UMass drops to 1-1, as its hopes of an upset were dashed early.
Even though running back AJ Dillon has justified Heisman Trophy buzz, it was Brown who stole the show. He completed 15-of-21 passes for 279 yards and a career-high four touchdown passes, all in the first half, as the Eagles built up a 48-7 lead at the break. All told, the Eagles piled up 622 yards of total offense.
And, even coming off the injury, Brown said he was not nervous coming into the game.
"That was really exciting," Brown said. "I was like an 8-year old playing football again. No, there weren't any jitters at all. We prepared for this. I put a lot of time into this so my teammates could be ready and I could be ready. There were no jitters. There was no nervousness. There was none of that, and we were ready to go."
"(Brown) was not phased in any way by (his lack of contact in camp)," BC coach Steve Addazio said. "I thought that was great. . . . As he looked more comfortable, we took more shots."
Dillon certainly did his part, as his 98 yards rushing on 20 carries aided Brown's play-action game, but the quarterback was on target throughout, even when the Minutemen provided solid coverage.
But, for the most part, Brown had easy pickings, as the Minutemen consistently bit on play-fakes, and the quarterback's bootlegs had multiple options downfield.
"If anybody's going to stack the box, your quarterback's got to step up," Brown said.
After some bruising Dillon runs on the first drive, Brown found Dillon for a 15-yard catch and run over the right pylon. It was Dillon's first career reception as an Eagle.
"That's one," Brown said. "That was great to see him because everybody was harping on him all summer about him being able to run, he can't catch, stuff like that. It was very exciting to see him open up the game with a receiving touchdown. It was fun to watch."
UMass found its brief hope when Ross Comis hit Andy Isabella for a 49-yard gain deep into BC territory to set up a 3-yard Marquis Young touchdown, but that was basically it when it came to good news for the Minutemen.
Brown hit Kobay White with back-to-back throws down the UMass sideline, the second a 34-yarder with no one near the receiver, to help push the lead to 14-7 after one quarter.
"I think they were starting to load the box real, real heavy," Addazio said of UMass. "We started throwing the ball. There was one play we ran (the 34-yard touchdown to White) where everybody was open. He hit Kobay by the boundary, but (tight end) Tommy Sweeney was 20 yards open. They were all open."
In the second 15 minutes, everything fell apart for UMass, as Brown picked the Minutemen apart. Shortly after a 21-yard jet sweep by Jeff Smith, Brown found tight end Ray Marten for a 29-yard gain to set up a 1-yard score by Davon Jones.
UMass coach Mark Whipple then rolled the dice and went for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 45, but the Eagles stuffed it. Jones waltzed in from 2 yards out moments later and the Eagles increased their lead to 28-7.
The teams traded punts before Brown hit a wide-open Marten for a 33-yard touchdown, and it was officially a laugher at 34-7.
Brown put the cherry on top of his performance with a gorgeous, 27-yard floater into the hands of White by the back of the end zone with 3:03 left in the half.
"When we're focused and we're executing, it's very hard to stop us," Brown said. "We've just got to keep preparing like we did this week and stay on top of it."
Safety Lukas Denis then added the exclamation point with a 59-yard pick-six off a deflection from Brandon Sebastian to send his team into the break with a 48-7 lead.
True freshman David Bailey punched in an 8-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for the Eagles. Comis found Jordan Fredericks for a 16-yard scoring toss, and UMass third-string quarterback Michael Curtis added a 2-yard touchdown run as the backups got some late work.
But it was over early thanks to the contributions of players like Brown, who looked perfectly healthy from the get-go.
"Coming back, Game 1, we were real careful with him in preseason camp: how many reps he took, nobody touching him," Addazio said. "There was no signs there was going to be an issue, but my experience tells me that it can be. But it's over now, in terms of hesitation, in terms of not being confident. So that was perfect. It worked out perfect."
Addazio might as well have been speaking about the entire game with that last sentence.