With minutes left in the first half, Texas State had made its way deep into Boston College football’s territory. The Bobcats were driving with a full head of steam, and play after play, making gains toward BC’s end zone.
Enter: Josh DeBerry.
As Bobcat quarterback Brady McBride dropped back in the pocket, he fired a downfield shot outside of the left hash. DeBerry found his way between the ball and McBride’s intended receiver, and he took a hop as it hit him squarely in the hands. But as DeBerry returned to the turf, the ball jostled out of his grip, and it fell at his feet as an incompletion.
Such a play was the story of the night for the Eagles (2-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast), as every time they had a shot to reverse the course of the game, something—the ground, a penalty, or a missed tackle—got in their way. The Eagles spent the majority of the game trailing behind the Bobcats (1-3), but after all was said and done, BC came away with an untarnished record. It was a messy win for the Eagles, as head coach Jeff Hafley and his squad took down Texas State 24-21 in their only non-conference matchup of the year.
Not only did the Eagles face an unusual opponent—the two teams had never met before Saturday night—but they also faced some unusual circumstances. It was BC’s first home game in Alumni Stadium without any fans, except for the cardboard cutouts in the back of each end zone. Crowd noise was minimal, as any cheering came from the speakers around the stadium. Other than “Mr. Brightside” playing after the third quarter, the gameday experience was entirely different than usual.
One thing that was familiar, however, was the nail biting finish that Eagles fans are used to. The game came down to one final drive with 47 seconds on the clock. After tying it up at 21 just 30 seconds earlier, BC’s defense forced a three-and-out, and Texas State punted it away. BC strung together five consecutive completions down the field, and a timely roughing the passer penalty brought the Eagles within firing range. With seven seconds on the clock, Aaron Boumerhi and the kicking unit came in, sealing the victory with a 36-yard field goal.
“When it comes to the fourth quarter, whether we’re down two or up two, that’s when we have to win the game,” Hafley said in his postgame press conference.
But victory wasn’t always so sure for BC.
Texas State opened the day’s scoring with a one-yard run under 12 minutes into the game. After the Bobcats blocked Boumerhi’s opening field goal try, they marched down the field in six minutes, setting up Calvin Hill’s short scoring run.
It was slow going for the BC offense for the rest of the quarter, until defensive back Mike Palmer swung the momentum back to the Eagles’ side. McBride fired a shot to Brock Sturges at the Eagles’ 35-yard line, and DeBerry tipped it up to Palmer, who ran it back for 70 yards to end the quarter.
“We have to take the ball away on defense,” Hafley said in his postgame press conference. “And hopefully we’ll continue to do that.”
BC capitalized just minutes later as quarterback Phil Jurkovec dove across the goal line for his first of two rushing touchdowns of the day. Jurkovec finished the game with 210 passing yards on 26-for-38 passing. He also led the team in rushing with 37 yards.
All game long, BC struggled on the ground on both sides of the ball. The Eagles failed to get much going on offense, as they combined for 87 total yards: 37 for Jurkovec, 33 for David Bailey, 13 for Travis Levy, and just four for Zay Flowers.
Meanwhile, Texas State exploited the ground game on both the perimeter and up the middle. The Bobcats rushed for 128 yards, led by Hill with 49.
As the second quarter wore on, Texas State regained its lead on a short pass to Marcell Barbee, who finished the game with six targets for 45 yards, including a 22-yard one-handed grab for a first down early in the fourth quarter.
BC struggled to respond, going three-and-out to open the second half. Texas State capitalized, expanding its lead to 21-7 midway through the third quarter.
After a nearly 30-minute scoring drought, BC clawed its way back within one score on a 12-play, 72 yard drive. BC took back-to-back five-yard losses on an illegal procedure penalty and a tackle for loss before Spencer Witter opened up the drive.
Witter, who had previously never made a catch in his collegiate career, caught a 22-yard pass from Jurkovec, good enough for a first down and more. An 11-yard completion to Long brought the Eagles within striking range, and Jurkovec snuck it in for his second rushing touchdown of the day, cutting the deficit to 21-14.
Trailing by seven going into the final 15 minutes of play, the Eagles all rallied around each other at the 50-yard line.
“In the fourth, our team all comes together and they clap it up,” Hafley said about the fourth-down tradition. “We don’t just stand there and hold up four fingers. Our team comes together, and that’s what we talk about.”
That score held until Texas State handed BC a blessing. Neither team had much action on offense to open the fourth quarter, but with 3:15 to go on the game clock, the Bobcats punted it away. Levy was hit as he received it, and officials called Jarron Morris for targeting. BC then opened its penultimate drive of regulation with a short field.
After the punt, the Eagles found themselves on Texas State’s 47-yard line, and an efficient drive led to Phil Jurkovec’s 5-yard pass to Long in the back of the end zone. Tied at 21, the game came down to BC forcing a three-and-out for the Bobcats, followed by the drive that gave Boumerhi his shining moment.
The Eagles scored 10 points in the last 70 seconds of the game, which was the result of a do-or-die mentality, according to Hafley.
“Regardless of the score, we’re going to win it in the fourth,” Hafley said after the game. “And until they blow the whistle, I’m confident we’re going to do that, and that’s going to have to be our mentality all year.”
Featured Image by Barry Chin Courtesy of The Boston Globe