Football, Sports

Notebook: BC Hampered by Injury, Defensive Struggles

On Saturday afternoon, Boston College football quarterback Anthony Brown was on pace for a career performance against Louisville, as he completed six of his first seven passes for 193 yards and a touchdown. But, on one ill-fated 14-yard scramble, he went down with a left knee injury. And, on a day where the Eagles needed all the offense they could muster, backup Dennis Grosel tried to will his team to victory but the Cardinals came away with a 41-39 victory, thanks to a 41-yard field goal from Blanton Creque with 1:02 remaining.

Here are five observations from the loss, which featured a combined 1,227 yards of offense and dropped BC (3-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) to .500.

1) Defensive Struggles

The Eagles, quite simply, couldn’t find any answers on defense against Louisville (3-2, 1-1) for much of the game. They were gashed for 236 yards on the ground and 428 through the air—and it didn’t matter if it was starter Micale Cunningham or backup Evan Conley throwing the ball. Cunningham was 13-of-18 for a career-high 288 yards, while Conley came in and closed out the game by going 10-of-16 for 140 yards. 

BC surrendered a plethora of big plays to the Cardinals, who were nothing short of explosive. On Louisville’s first drive of the game, Cunningham found Dez Fitzpatrick for a 23-yard reception and then Javian Hawkins broke free for a 47-yard run. It was a pattern that would only repeat, just with different names. Seth Dawkins hauled in a 59-yard touchdown and another 77-yard reception while Hawkins had runs of 32 and 21 yards—and that was in the first half alone. It didn’t seem to matter what BC did on defense. Despite forcing five punts, it allowed a whopping 664 yards of offense, the highest total allowed in program history.

2) Disappointment for Brown

It’s always tough to see someone go down with an injury, but the loss of Brown on Saturday was especially heart-wrenching. The third-year starter has yet to play a full season—he went down with a right knee injury against North Carolina State in 2017 and missed practically all of the Clemson game last year after suffering an upper body injury on the first possession—but seemed to have established a rhythm the past few weeks and clearly emerged as the team’s leader from the outset of the 2019 campaign.

After completing just 31-of-61 (50.8 percent) combined passes against Kansas and Rutgers, Brown hit his stride last week against Wake Forest. While he threw two interceptions, he completed a season-high 72.4 percent of his passes and came 10 yards shy of a season-best with 265 yards. That surge carried over in Kentucky, as he nearly reached 200 yards on just seven passes. So, it was especially disheartening to see him go down on his first scramble of the game, as the redshirt junior had worked so hard to get back for 2018 and was playing at his highest level yet thus far this season.

3) Grosel in Relief

It was a mixed bag for Grosel, Brown’s replacement, but the redshirt sophomore did perform admirably in relief. Grosel entered just three minutes into the second quarter with his team trailing by a touchdown. After a handoff, he found Korab Idrizi for a 10-yard touchdown that tied the game at 14 points apiece. He misfired on his next three passes, though, setting the tone for what would be an up-and-down performance.

He responded by engineering a touchdown drive in the final two minutes of the half, completing 5-of-7 passes to guide the Eagles on a nine-play, 70-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a 13-yard score from Kobay White. Not only that, but he also rolled out after a botched snap on the extra point attempt and connected with Hunter Long for the two-point conversion. That was easily his best drive, though, as 75 of his 111 passing yards came in the second quarter. From then on, he went 3-of-13 for 36 yards, and while that included another touchdown pass to Idrizi, he also had an interception, and the Eagles had to turn to more of a running game.

4) Clutch Kicking

Both team’s kickers stepped up when they needed too, which isn’t always the case in college football. First, BC’s Aaron Boumerhi drilled a 45-yard field goal with 3:32 remaining, capping off a 13-play, four-minute drive for the Eagles. It gave BC the lead, albeit briefly, for the first time since early in the third quarter. It was also bumped Boumerhi up to 5-of-7 on the year, a strong clip, and was a season-long that topped his 40-yarder against Kansas. It’s even more impressive when you consider that BC’s kicker for the last few years, Colton Lichtenberg, maxed out at 43 yards and was just 4-of-12 from 40 yards out during his BC career.

Then, it was Louisville’s Creque who got his chance. After hitting the left upright on an attempt before halftime, Creque, a redshirt junior, bounced back. He knocked in a 41-yard field goal in his second attempt with a little under seven minutes left in the third quarter, then came back and hit another from the same distance with 1:02 on the game clock. It was a strong display from the tenured placekicker, who twice handed the Cardinals a lead.

5) Streak Busters

Earlier in the season, BC suffered a brutal 48-24 defeat at the hands of Kansas, who at the time was mired in a 48-game road losing streak against Power Five opponents. With Louisville, the Eagles had a chance to hand Scott Satterfield’s side its 10th straight conference loss in a row—a streak dating back to Nov. 18, 2017, when Lamar Jackson was still the quarterback. Instead, the Cardinals bounced back after a loss to Florida State, leaving last season’s 0-8 ACC mark in the rear view mirror.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, opponents bucking trends has been a theme of their season. Even in the win over Rutgers, BC only left New Jersey with a 14-point win. The other Power Five opponents who’ve played the Scarlet Knights? They’ve only outscored Rutgers by 123 points in three games, racking up a decisive average margin victory of 38.7 points. 

Featured Image by Timothy D. Easley / AP Photo

October 6, 2019