Since 2009, Boston College football has never finished over .500 in conference play. It’s been more than a decade, and this year will be no different. One storyline that did change, however, is that BC had previously never lost to the Cavaliers, dating back to the teams’ first matchup in 1963. In the Eagles’ 2020 season finale, they showed promise early on despite Phil Jurkovec spending the game in street clothes on the sideline, but a fourth-quarter collapse handed BC a 43-32 defeat.
Backup-turned-starting quarterback Dennis Grosel had a career night for the Eagles (6-5, 5-5 Atlantic Coast), tying Doug Flutie’s single-game passing record with 520 yards.
“Credit to everything he’s all about,” BC head coach Jeff Hafley said about Grosel in his postgame press conference. “He’s a special kid.”
Even so, Brennan Armstrong and the Cavaliers (5-4, 4-4) expanded their win streak to four straight. At halftime, BC trailed by just three, but costly penalties, sacks, two missed onside kicks, one interception, and two other near-turnovers in the fourth quarter sent the Eagles packing.
It took a while for BC’s offense to get going, but while the Eagles warmed up under a new quarterback, their defense did its job. On UVA’s first drive of the game, the Cavaliers drove all the way down to BC’s 20-yard line, but the Eagles’ defense stood tall thanks to Luc Bequette and Jason Maitre delivering back-to-back sacks on UVA quarterback Brennan Armstrong on back-to-back plays. The Cavaliers had to settle for a field goal to open the night’s scoring.
Zay Flowers caught his signature touchdown pass to take the Eagles’ first lead of the game with 3:12 left in the first quarter. The sophomore receiver danced around a defender on play action from Grosel for a 45-yard touchdown, putting the Eagles up 7-3. Aaron Boumerhi was perfect on extra points throughout the night, finishing the regular season without missing a single one.
On the ensuing kickoff, BC’s special teams gave up a 73-yard kickoff return as Shane Simpson pinballed off of BC defender after BC defender all the way to the Eagles’ 23-yard line. Once again, BC’s defense held, and Brian Delaney came out for his second field goal of the night.
Pretty quickly, though, UVA began to dominate on both sides of the ball. After another long gain by Jaelen Gill, Grosel tried to escape a collapsing pocket and hucked a pass down the field off of his back foot right to the hands of UVA’s De’Vante Cross, who picked it off at the five-yard line. Ra’Shaun Henry grabbed a 47-yard touchdown. Three minutes later, one long pass from Armstrong set up Keytaon Thompson to run it in for the Cavaliers, giving UVA a 20-7 lead.
Just when it looked like the momentum was in UVA’s favor, BC began to chip away at the Cavaliers’ lead. Grosel showed some flashes of greatness, including a 17-yard dart to Gill for a crucial first down. The quarterback then hit a wide-open Hunter Long to bring the Eagles within one score.
“There was a lot more yards left out there,” Hafley said. “I thought our offensive staff did an incredible job. We had guys wide open all around the field. We probably had 200 more yards passing out there that we could have hit.”
On the second play of UVA’s ensuing drive, Jahmin Muse grabbed an interception with 31 seconds left in the half. The Eagles drove on four consecutive completions from Grosel, and Boumerhi came in to hit a 35-yard field goal as time expired. With it, the Eagles trailed by just three points going into halftime.
Out of the gate in the second half, the Eagles showed firepower. Thanks to strong play at the line of scrimmage from Chibueze Onwuka, the Eagles forced UVA to punt it away. On the ensuing drive, Grosel took a gutsy shot down field, but Nick Grant went up for the 50/50 ball at the goal line with Flowers, and Grant came down with the Cavaliers’ second interception of the night.
BC punted it away on its next drive, and UVA had the chance to expand its lead. Armstrong did just that on a 60-yard house call, and the Cavaliers led 27-17 with 9:44 to play in the third quarter. Armstrong’s rush was the longest of his career and from any Cavalier player this season.
UVA expanded its lead six minutes later on Delaney’s third field goal of the night, this time from 28 yards out, giving the Cavaliers a 30-17 edge.
Just two minutes into the final period, Lavel Davis Jr. appeared to haul a touchdown in from 19 yards out, but officials ruled it just short. On the play, freshman safety Kam Arnold was called for targeting and was ejected from the game. One play later, Wayne Taulapapa drove the touchdown in from inches out to give Virginia a 36-17 lead with 13:16 to play after a missed two-point conversion.
With around 12 minutes to go in the game, the wheels began to really fall off for the Eagles. With the ball deep in their own zone, the pocket collapsed around Grosel, who fumbled it, and BC scrambled to jump on it. One play later, Grosel got sacked—the second time of the drive—and Grant Carlson came in for his fifth punt of the night.
With 6:19 to go in the game, Flowers caught his second touchdown of the game, giving the Eagles a flash of hope. He also grabbed the 2-point conversion catch, putting the Eagles with 11. But UVA recovered the onside kick, taking away some of that hope for the Eagles. The Cavaliers answered with a 43-yard run from Thompson, sealing the Eagles’ fate with a little over four minutes to play.
Try as they might, the Eagles never clawed their way back in the game, leaving a bitter aftertaste for the Eagles to end the regular season. Even so, BC has a lot to take away from the loss.
“It’s a good lesson that Dennis [Grosel] provided for the whole team,” Hafley said. “Have you really prepared the best you can? Are you ready for when your number is called? Because in life, when you get an opportunity, you’ve got to make the most of it.”
8:38 p.m. on Dec. 9, 2020: This article was updated to reflect the accurate final score of the game.
Featured Image by Erin Edgerton Courtesy of The Daily Progress via ACC Media