Sports, Football

Hafley Prepares Eagles Both to Vote and to Take on Syracuse

Brandon Barlow grew up just two hours from the Carrier Dome, the site of Boston College football’s matchup with Syracuse this Saturday. Returning to the Dome will be a homecoming of sorts for the redshirt senior defensive lineman, as he hasn’t been back to New York since June, when the football team arrived back on campus. 

“This is always a fun one for me to be able to match up, and the fact that we can take a trip back to my home state, especially the times that we’re living in now,” Barlow said during Monday’s weekly press conference. “I haven’t been able to go back to New York since I’ve come to Boston, so it’ll be nice to breathe in some nice cold, brisk, New York air and go and attack these guys on Saturday.”

But before the team turns its focus to Syracuse, there is something more pressing at hand: Election Day. 

BC football will not practice on Tuesday in observance of Election Day, and the coaches have recently been encouraging the Eagles to perform their civic duty through research and registration initiatives. 

Barlow said he has already sent his absentee ballot in, and during Monday’s press conference, he discussed how he and the team are engaging in their civic duty by voting.

“It’s something that’s emphasized around here a lot, you know,” Barlow said. “Coach Hafley has said it multiple times today already: Take advantage of this opportunity to go vote and have an impact on having the change you want to see in this country. So that’s something that we all echo as leadership. We want to make sure guys take their opportunity to vote and represent what they want for this country.”

Hafley said that Director of Football Initiatives Josh Beekman has spearheaded the Eagles’ informal voter education program this year, which includes setting up transportation to take players to the polls on Tuesday. Beekman also hosted an optional Zoom call to educate the team about the candidates and discuss the process of voting itself, since many of the Eagles are first-time voters. 

After Tuesday’s hiatus from practice, the Eagles will return to the field for their normal game-week preparations leading up to facing Syracuse this weekend. After a heartbreaking loss to No. 1 Clemson—which is still holding court atop this week’s AP Poll—Hafley said the Eagles will look to build on the success they had and learn from their mistakes. 

“We’re going to try to lead the nation in effort,” Barlow said. “That’s something we pride ourselves on.”

Though Syracuse ranks near the bottom of the ACC, the Eagles are approaching the game no differently than they did the Clemson game, according to Hafley. The rivalry between BC and Syracuse is a historic one, dating back 96 years, which gives the matchup implications regardless of rankings. 

“The one thing about college football that I missed in the NFL was the tradition and things like that—whether you have a big rivalry or whether you come out and the band’s playing the fight song,” said Hafley, who coached in the NFL for seven years.

Both Hafley and Barlow said the atmosphere at Syracuse is unlike any other. Hafley said that in his days at Pittsburgh, back when the Panthers and the Orange were still in the Big East, he and the other coaches had to walk through the stands to get to the press box, and he said he remembered a student throwing him a beer as he walked up. 

Of course, this year will be different without fans in the Carrier Dome. 

Syracuse has faced its fair share of hardships this fall, with a number of players opting out, starting quarterback Tommy DeVito going down with an injury, and safety Andre Cisco and running back Sean Tucker getting hurt as well. 

But even with a host of starters out for the season, Hafley said Syracuse will still be a formidable competitor. But still, his game plan won’t change. 

“We watch what they do, we try to look at [the quarterback] the best we can, and we’ve just got to do our job,” Hafley said. “I know you probably think this is coach talk, but that’s all we talk about: It’s fundamentals, technique. … It’s all the same thing week in and week out.”

Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor

November 2, 2020