On Senior Day, the final game of the 2020 season in Alumni Stadium, Boston College football largely continued the patterns it has displayed all year long. Quarterback Phil Jurkovec was solid under center, the run game began to emerge—David Bailey notched two touchdowns—and the run defense gave up a few big holes. But when the linchpin of BC’s offense went down with an injury, the Eagles had to adjust and fend off a fervent late comeback attempt from Louisville to secure their sixth win of the season.
Here are four takeaways from BC’s 34-27 win over the visiting Cardinals:
Grosel Shines in Backup Role
Jurkovec has been the star of the year for the Eagles. The transfer quarterback has logged the ninth-most passing yards of any signal caller in the NCAA, and the second most in the ACC behind only Sam Howell of UNC. But when Jurkovec went down with a knee injury in the third quarter of Saturday’s game, Dennis Grosel had to step in under familiar circumstances.
Last year against Louisville, then-starting quarterback Anthony Brown went down with a knee injury, and Grosel also had to take over. This time, instead of a heartbreaking 39-41 loss, Grosel finished off the Cardinals with a 34-27 win. His two touchdown passes and 49 yards on the ground helped the Eagles fend off a feverish Louisville comeback attempt. The biggest play Grosel can add to his highlight reel is a 44-yard run on third-and-1 from BC’s 25-yard line.
Eagles Struggle to Contain Mobile Quarterback
There has been a pattern all season long of BC’s defense struggling to contain mobile quarterbacks. First came Virginia Tech’s Hendon Hooker, who threw for just 111 yards but ran for a game-high 166 and three touchdowns. Then came Notre Dame’s Ian Book, who threw for 283 yards and ran for 85 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Now, Louisville’s Malik Cunningham gets to add his name to the list of quarterbacks who successfully evaded BC’s defense.
Cunningham was the Cardinals’ leading rusher with 135 yards on the ground, the second-most yards BC has allowed to a quarterback on the ground this season. His longest rush of the day was a 23-yard gain on third-and-5 late in the third quarter.
But that drive ended in a punt for the Cardinals, so his most crucial gain was a rush that went for 20 yards in the second quarter that set up Louisville’s first touchdown of the day, tying the game at 10 apiece. On that drive, Cunningham rushed three times, for 19, 18, and 20 yards, giving the Cardinals first-and-goal from the 2-yard line.
Special Teams are Key, But Eagles Need to Finish in Red Zone
BC’s yearly kicking struggles are no secret. Last year, Aaron Boumerhi made 12 of his 18 field goal attempts, and the year before that, Danny Longman and Colton Lichtenberg combined for a total of six field goals on nine attempts. Kicking hasn’t been a focus for the Eagles in recent years, but this year, special teams has become the true third phase for BC. Even in this shortened season, Boumerhi and Longman have combined for 17 field goals on 21 attempts—crucial points considering four of the Eagles’ 10 games have been decided by less than a touchdown.
Boumerhi was perfect again last night, as he made both of his attempted field goals. The problem is, however, that BC had two clear red zone opportunities and had to settle for three points instead of six each time. In the second quarter, BC marched down the field all the way to third-and-goal at Louisville’s 6-yard line, but Jurkovec threw an incompletion, and Boumerhi came out for a chip shot.
Had BC found the end zone on those two trips to the red zone, the game wouldn’t have hung in the balance in the final minutes.
Hafley Notches Five ACC Wins for First Time Since Before Addazio
Former BC head coach Steve Addazio went 41-41 in his time at BC. Over those 82 games in seven seasons, never once did Addazio’s team win five games in the ACC. In fact, from 2017 to 2019, the Eagles won just four ACC games, and in 2016, they won a measly two conference contests. In 2015, BC didn’t record a single ACC win all season long.
But in head coach Jeff Hafley’s first year at the helm, BC just won its fifth ACC game of the season. Granted, the Eagles are playing 10 conference games this year rather than the typical eight, but the Eagles have also faced some of the top teams in the ACC. Louisville falls near the bottom of the conference standings, but over the years, the Cardinals have been BC’s kryptonite, and the win is a landmark one for the Eagles regardless.
Featured Image by Owen Fahy / Heights Editor