Boston College football ended its regular season on Saturday with a 43-32 loss to Virginia, but the score tells a different story than the game itself. With their starting quarterback in street clothes on the sideline due to injury, the Eagles had to adjust to a different signal caller. BC’s defense adjusted to a number of missing starters as well, and the win for UVA was by no means a rollover victory. Here are five takeaways from a loss that doesn’t quite feel like a loss:
Grosel Can Sling It
At the beginning of the season, head coach Jeff Hafley didn’t announce who won the starting quarterback job until pretty much the minute the Eagles came out of the tunnel for their first game of the season. Phil Jurkovec won the starting job, but when he went down with an injury against Louisville one week ago, Dennis Grosel stepped in to finish the game, and he remained the starter for BC’s last game against UVA. After Saturday’s performance, it’s no wonder that the quarterback competition was up in the air, as Grosel put up some stunning numbers.
The Willoughby, Ohio native is no stranger to filling in for a hurt quarterback, but before Saturday, he had only taken a handful of snaps in Hafley’s new offense. In seven games as BC’s starter last year, Grosel threw for just 860 yards. But in his first game as the Eagles’ starter this year, Grosel threw for 520 yards on 32-of-46 passing, tying the BC record for single-game passing yards set by BC legend Doug Flutie back in 1982. Hafley said in his postgame press conference that he thought that the Eagles even left about 200 more yards through the air out on the field.
Big Play Zay
Grosel couldn’t have been as dominant through the air without the help of his receivers, especially Zay Flowers. All season long, Flowers has been the Eagles’ go-to guy for big plays, and Saturday was no different. The sophomore receiver caught eight passes for a team-high 180 yards through the air. His longest? A 50-yard bomb from Grosel that took the Eagles from deep in their own territory all the way to the red zone.
Flowers had two touchdowns on the night, including a 15-yard catch late in the game and a 45-yard house call to open the Eagles’ scoring in the first quarter. His 10 touchdowns this season tied Kelvin Martin for the most touchdowns in a single season at BC.
Depth at Safety Can Only Go So Far
BC has 19 players listed as defensive backs on its roster, more than any other position group. Five of them, however, were listed as unavailable for BC’s game against UVA, including starter Mike Palmer, the recipient of this year’s Jay McGillis Memorial Scholarship. After Deon Jones, another starter, got hurt midway through the game, true freshman Kam Arnold filled in, but he got called for targeting late in the game and was ejected.
BC’s depleted secondary struggled to come up with stops after posting two in the red zone the first quarter. The first mark on the BC secondary’s transcript was a 47-yard touchdown pass from UVA quarterback Brennan Armstrong to Ra’Shaun Henry. Then, in the third quarter, Armstrong found a lane and tucked the ball for a 60-yard score on the ground, slicing right through the Eagles’ last line of defense.
For the most part, the secondary did its job, allowing just 287 yards through the air. But UVA came up with a number of explosive plays, exploiting a less experienced BC pass defense after the loss of so many players.
Boumerhi’s Near-Perfect Year
With all the ups and downs that have accompanied this season, placekicker Aaron Boumerhi has been the Eagles’ unwavering green light. Boumerhi made 16 of his 20 field goals this season. His 80 percent mark on the season is good for the best showing since Nate Freese went 20 for 20 in 2013. By making all three of his extra point attempts against UVA, Boumerhi also finished the season without missing a single PAT.
A Rare Special Teams Struggle
Although Boumerhi played a flawless game against UVA, the rest of BC’s special teams unit struggled. The Eagles’ most egregious error in the third phase was allowing the Cavaliers a 73-yard kickoff return in the first quarter. Shane Simpson pinballed off of a number of BC defenders and carried it all the way to the Eagles’ 22-yard line before Tate Haynes made a shoestring tackle.
Grant Carlson was consistent in his punting—as he has been all year—averaging 41.4 yards per punt against Virginia. The issue with the punting unit, however, was the penalties that BC incurred during and after the kick. On Carlson’s first punt—a result of BC’s unsuccessful first drive—officials flagged CJ Lewis for kick catch interference, handing the Cavaliers an extra 15 yards. UVA started four of its drives in BC territory as a result of the struggling special teams.
Featured Image by Erin Edgerton Courtesy of The Daily Progress via AP Photo