Sports, Football, Top Story

BC’s Hard Work Pays Off in Dismantling of Georgia Tech

One week is not a lot of time. It’s nothing more than a flash in the pan that is the college football season, even in a shortened season this year. 

And yet, one week was all Boston College football needed to go from its lowest low—a 40-14 loss to then-No. 23 Virginia Tech—to its highest high: a 48-27 clobbering of Georgia Tech. In just one short week, the Eagles (4-2, 3-2 Atlantic Coast) went from looking like a shaky-at-best, middle-of-the-road team to a dominant, Clemson-rivaling powerhouse that steamrolled the Yellow Jackets (2-4, 2-3). 

To head coach Jeff Hafley, though, one short week wasn’t the reason for the change. It was the culmination of a season’s worth of hard work, week after week after week. 

“The misconception in football is that you have one week of practice and how you practice that week is how you’re going to play,” Hafley said in his postgame press conference. “It’s a cumulation of all the work these guys have put in. … These kids—we’ve been in here since June—have not stopped working. It’s a cumulation of all those days in all that work.”

From the very first time Phil Jurkovec touched the ball, BC just couldn’t stop scoring. The Eagles’ offense had the ball five times in the first half and came away with points every single time. BC’s offense scored points on just two of its drives in the second half, but it looked no less dominant.

BC was so dominant, in fact, that even when Jurkovec didn’t have the ball, BC still found its way into the end zone. With 12:12 left in the first half, defensive back Mike Palmer grabbed a stripped ball at Georgia Tech’s 33-yard line and rumbled all the way to the house. 

The Eagles were so fired up about the score that three players—Jason Maitre, Max Richardson, and Brandon Barlow—all drew unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for their excessive celebrations in the end zone. 

“The [penalties] that I get mad about are the selfish ones, like the ones we had in the end zone,” Hafley said. “That’s totally unacceptable.”

Although Hafley was unhappy about the penalties, the Eagles had plenty more chances to celebrate all game long. Forty-eight points is the most in a game for the Eagles all season by a long shot, and it’s the third most BC has scored against an ACC team since it joined the conference in 2005. Though it’s been slow going on the ground for most of the year, BC racked up 264 rushing yards, including 94 from Jurkovec. And the list of accomplishments goes on.

BC led by as much as 27 at one point in the third quarter, but for a few brief moments, the game didn’t look like it would finish as a runaway. With 10 minutes left on the game clock, Georgia Tech collected an onside kick—its second attempt of the game—at the 48-yard line in the fourth quarter. Down by 21, the Yellow Jackets looked poised to score with a short field.

Georgia Tech drove down the field on the ground for the first series, but a holding call on Dontae Smith halted the offensive momentum. Just seconds later, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Brandon Sebastian had the Yellow Jackets knocking on the door once again. But thanks to some tight coverage by BC and a couple errant passes by backup quarterback James Graham, BC effectively locked up the win with 7:30 still flashing red on the game clock.

From last week to this week, BC more than doubled its rushing yards thanks in large part to phenomenal efforts by the offensive line. The work up front paved the way for Jurkovec’s stellar rushing performance and that of running backs David Bailey and Travis Levy, who lit it up for a combined 137 yards on the ground.

According to Hafley, Bailey has been waiting patiently for his time to come, and on Saturday, he finally got the looks he had been waiting for. Against a pass defense ranked No. 70 in the country, Hafley opted for a run-heavy offense instead of the air-raid style we’ve seen in weeks past, and it paid off. 

“If we can run the ball like that, that’s so hard to defend,” Hafley said. “They really did an excellent job. I expected it today, I expected it last week, and I expect it again next week.”

Palmer’s fumble recovery wasn’t the only defensive highlight of the night, and it almost seemed like a competition between BC’s offense and its defense to see whose big-time plays could outshine the other’s. After BC punted for the first time all game late in the third quarter, Jahmin Muse went up for an interception at GT’s 12-yard line. With it, the Eagles had recovered three turnovers, all three which led to touchdowns. 

Muse’s grab set up a quick drive for the Eagles, capped off by a 4-yard touchdown run by David Bailey, his second of the night. On the first drive of the second half, Bailey found a hole and carried it for 34 yards to put the Eagles up 41-14. 

CJ Lewis also notched two scores on the night, including the opening tally: a 7-yard grab late in the first quarter. His second score came just three minutes later after Marcus Valdez jumped on a fumbled Georgia Tech snap at the 22-yard line. Lewis’ second touchdown was from just 5 yards out and put the Eagles up by 14. 

“We have a lot of confidence,” Lewis said. “I feel like it’s just hard to stop us, because there’s a lot of people that can make big plays on the field at any moment. As long as we’re not shooting ourselves in the foot during game day, I feel like we control our destiny.”

Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor

October 24, 2020