Sports, Football, Top Story

Eagles Fall Short in Highly Anticipated Red Bandanna Game Against No. 2 Notre Dame

It all lined up: Phil Jurkovec’s chance for revenge against his former school, the Red Bandanna game, and the chance to repeat a miracle from 20 years ago. It was the perfect shot for Boston College football to let the echoes ring again. 

It all lined up. 

No. 2 Notre Dame took down then-No. 1 Clemson one week ago, and the Irish arrived at Alumni Stadium as huge favorites over unranked BC. The Eagles had the chance to repeat a miracle from 1993, in which the then-No. 12 Eagles won the so-called “Holy War” one week after Notre Dame had taken down then-No. 1 Florida State. 

The storylines all lined up. But the game didn’t. 

The Eagles struggled to find the end zone despite consistent scoring opportunities. BC gave up two turnovers, and the Eagles scored three touchdowns—but settled for three field goals—on seven trips to the red zone. Tack on the fact that Notre Dame (8-0, 7-0 Atlantic Coast) didn’t punt a single time, and it made for a 45-31 ravaging of the Eagles (5-4, 4-4) in their penultimate home game. 

Against his former team, Jurkovec threw for 272 yards on 18-of-40 passing, including two touchdowns and an interception. Though he didn’t exact revenge on the Irish, Jurkovec—who Hafley said had separated his shoulder against Clemson two weeks prior—mustered a solid performance, including absorbing a block on one of Travis Levy’s runs in the third quarter. 

“It shows you what this team is all about,” Hafley said of Jurkovec’s block despite not being at 100 percent. “It shows you how tough he is, what a good leader he is, and how good he’s going to be.”

Not only was Jurkovec recovering from an injury, but he came into the game with heightened emotions due to his ties to the Irish. Hafley said that he told the young quarterback that he had “nothing to prove” as the ACC’s leading passer, and Jurkovec settled in for some big plays. 

“It was a game circled on the schedule,” Jurkovec said in the postgame press conference. “To be able to play against all my former teammates, it was a special game. It’s very disappointing to lose it.”

But Ian Book, who Jurkovec had previously played backup to in his time with the Irish, was the star of the night. Book completed 20 of 27 passes for 283 yards and no interceptions. He also added 85 yards and a touchdown on the ground to become the Irish’s leading rusher.

Despite Book’s stellar performance and a lopsided final score, BC couldn’t be counted out at any point in the game, the first half especially.

BC earned its first lead of the game on its opening drive in response to Notre Dame’s first-drive field goal. The Eagles marched down the field, and with the help of a couple of timely penalties in their favor, found themselves on second and goal. Off balance, Jurkovec fired a pass behind Zay Flowers, who flipped his hips and made a diving grab in the back of the endzone to put BC up 7-3.

On the Irish’s first play of the ensuing drive, Chris Tyree fumbled the handoff, and Brandon Barlow jumped on it, setting up a short field for the Eagles. But presented with a prime opportunity in the red zone, Jurkovec threw two incompletions. Combine passing struggles with a blown-up sweep, and the Eagles had to settle for a field goal. 

So, despite a huge opportunity for BC, after 15 minutes of play, the score was knotted at 10. Notre Dame’s sole first-quarter touchdown came with just 11 seconds on the clock, as Ben Skowronek held on despite a defensive pass interference call, which the Irish sensibly declined.

Just minutes after the break, BC had another golden opportunity stripped as Hafley made the bold call to take a surprise onside kick. Josh DeBerry jumped on the loose ball, giving the Eagles another offensive shot after Aaron Boumerhi’s second field goal of the night, but officials ruled that Travis Levy had committed an illegal block, and BC had to re-kick. Notre Dame’s ensuing drive resulted in a 48-yard catch-and-run by Avery Davis, which set up C’Bo Flemister’s two-yard touchdown run. 

Flemister’s first score was one of Notre Dame’s four trips to the end zone in the first half, which the Irish followed up with two in the second. The Irish were efficient throughout the first half, coming away with points on all but two of their possessions. The other two were both fumbles, first from Tyree and then later when Chibueze Onwuka forced the ball out of Kyren Williams’ hands on the first play of a drive and Isaiah McDuffie recovered it. 

But once again, BC squandered a golden opportunity, and just a few plays later, Jurkovec fumbled it right back to the Irish. Notre Dame capitalized again, as Book hit Skowronek for the third time, putting the Irish up 31-16 heading into halftime. 

All game long, Notre Dame put on an offensive clinic. With six total touchdowns—three through the air and three on the ground—and 561 total yards, the Irish beat their season-high net yardage, previously set at 554 against Florida State back in October. Notre Dame’s punter never saw the field. 

The second half passed in a similar manner for the Eagles, as they went point-for-point with the Irish through the third and fourth quarter. Not to mention that turnovers quite literally went back and forth as well. First, DeBerry poked it out of Skowronek’s hands, and Max Richardson recovered it. Almost immediately after, Jack Kiser backed into Jaelen Gill’s route, and Jurkovec threw it straight to Kiser. 

That interception set Flemister up to have a huge catch-and-run for 33 yards, taking it down to the one-yard line. Flemister then carried it in for the Irish’s fifth trip to the house of the night. 

The offensive one-two punch that is Flemister and Davis was lethal for the Irish. While Williams is usually the big man to watch, Davis racked up 99 total yards, and Flemister added 80 of his own. Williams, on the other hand, though he was effective in fits and starts, only notched 74 total yards, compared to his 131-yard average so far this season.

“In the run game, it’s just a matter of executing,” Barlow said after the game. 

Gill was equally effective on the Eagles’ side, notching a team-high 105 receiving yards. Three of the Ohio State transfer’s catches went for huge gains: one for 40 yards, one for 34, and one for 16.

With 5:37 left in the game, BC, trailing by 22, put together a six-play, 70-yard, 1:28 drive capped off with an eight-yard touchdown reception by Hunter Long. The Eagles went for two, and Levy drove it in. Down by just 14, the Eagles had renewed hope. 

But it took just one play to dash that hope. In a desperate fourth-quarter move, the Eagles took and recovered the onside kick, and once again, penalties got in the way. A kick catch interference call on BC meant that Notre Dame got the ball—which Levy had originally recovered—at BC’s 31.

The called back onside kick was the nail in BC’s coffin, as Notre Dame simply had to run out the clock. 

Although a loss is a loss, with a bye week on the horizon and a chance to rest, Hafley said he has hope for the future of this Eagles team. 

“We’re going to come back and finish this season the right way,” Hafley said. 

Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor

November 14, 2020