After last week’s heartbreaking loss against No. 1 Clemson down in Death Valley, Boston College football came into Saturday’s game against a struggling Syracuse team at the Carrier Dome as two-touchdown favorites. The Eagles (5-3, 4-3 Atlantic Coast) were looking to replicate their success against the Orange (1-7, 1-6) last season, in which they produced a whopping score of 58-27 almost exactly one year ago. Even though Saturday’s game was much different than last year’s tilt, the Eagles escaped the Carrier Dome with another win, edging the Orange by a score of 16-13. Here are some key takeaways from the Eagles’ fifth victory of the season:
Wheels Fall Off, but Eagles Prevail
Especially after their strong performance on both sides of the ball against the No. 1 team in the country last week, the Eagles had the chance to maintain their momentum and blow out the Orange, who were without starting quarterback Tommy DeVito. But even as huge underdogs, the Orange forced a nailbiter. Despite only winning by three points, head coach Jeff Hafley’s squad showed that it can pick up victories in a tight game even when its offense may not be on its A-game.
The offense seemed out of sync for most of the game and only got the ball in the end zone once. Even though he made three field goals on the day, kicker Aaron Boumerhi missed two others—one from 39 yards out and the other from 52. The Eagles also took some bad penalties, most notably an unsportsmanlike conduct call on receiver CJ Lewis in the fourth quarter only a few yards away from the end zone.
The defense also had to deal with injuries to key starters, including linebacker Isaiah McDuffie and safety Mike Palmer. Despite all the obstacles, the Eagles, led by their defense, held it down in the end.
In the fourth quarter, BC forced two turnovers: a Jason Maitre interception and a Luc Bequette fumble recovery following a sack. In his postgame press conference, Hafley made it clear that he was impressed with the way his defense finished the game, holding Syracuse to only 13 points, when the offense really needed help.
Despite the victory not being the walloping that the Eagles were projected to hand down, they fought through obstacles to pick up their fourth ACC win. Finding a way to win despite obstacles is the mark of a great team, but the Eagles have a lot to clean up before they take on the mighty Fighting Irish at home in Chestnut Hill next Saturday.
David Bailey and the Ground Game Excel at the Carrier Dome Yet Again
In last year’s blowout victory at the Carrier Dome, the Eagles dominated on the ground. Last year’s starting back AJ Dillon totaled 242 yards on the ground, and current starter David Bailey had 172 yards playing second fiddle.
Even though the run game has been inconsistent for the Eagles all year, Bailey and the Eagles’ running backs found success against the Orange defense again this year. The run game didn’t quite live up to last year’s performance, but BC’s offensive line provided big holes for the Eagles’ backs all day long, finishing over 200 yards on the ground. Bailey led the way with 127 rushing yards on 25 carries, with Travis Levy chipping in for 75 yards on 17 carries. Boston College will need to continue to perform well on the ground in order to have a fighting chance against the stout Notre Dame defense.
Zay Flowers Is Becoming a Household Name
As a freshman last season, wide receiver Zay Flowers showcased his talent right away, but he struggled to find a consistent place in the Eagles’ offense, frequently rotating in just for jet sweeps. With Hafley on the sideline and Phil Jurkovec in the pocket this year, Flowers’ sophomore campaign has been a completely different story. He has not only become one of Jurkovec’s favorite weapons, but his jaw-dropping plays every Saturday have made him one of the nation’s most popular players.
Flowers scored yet another highlight-reel touchdown on Saturday, hauling in a Jurkovec pass and tapping his toe in the corner of the end zone for the six points. The score—BC’s only trip to the end zone on Saturday—was Flowers’ sixth TD of the season, already doubling his total from last season in just eight games. Unlike last year, Flowers continues to make big play after big play for the Eagles in his new, more consistent role.
Phil Jurkovec Not Looking Like Himself
In his first season as the Eagles’ starting quarterback, Jurkovec has completely transformed the Eagles’ passing offense into one of the ACC’s best. Despite scoring 28 points in the first half against Clemson last week, Jurkovec has not looked as sharp since the break for halftime last week. The Eagles did not score in the entire second half against Clemson and were only able to put up 16 points on Saturday.
Jurkovec struggled all game long, overthrowing Flowers on a deep ball that would have been an easy touchdown as well as overthrowing tight end Hunter Long later on in the game. Jurkovec was able to connect with Flowers for the score later on, but he most likely could have finished with significantly more yards than the 208 he threw for on Saturday. Despite the errors, Jurkovec did not commit a single turnover in route to the victory. He will look to get past his midseason slump and improve before next week’s clash against his former team.
Featured Image by Dennis Nett / Syracuse Post-Standard via ACC Media