Football, Sports

Flowers, Young Pass Catchers Star In Spring Game

For the first time in nearly two years, fans sat in the stands of Alumni Stadium. Though it was minimal in size, the fan section—made up of Boston College football family members spread out across the bleachers on the field’s west side—was a welcome return for BC’s annual Jay McGillis Memorial Spring Game. 

“It felt different. It was cool,” starting quarterback Phil Jurkovec said of playing for fans in Alumni Stadium for the first time. “There’s a couple hundred people there so it was just fun just to have our families, some extra people in the stadium to give it a little bit of life.”

Head coach Jeff Hafley split BC’s roster into Team Boston, led by Jurkovec, and Team Eagles, led by second stronger Dennis Grosel. As Hafley noted during last week’s media availability, the first half was a nearly game-like scenario, though the defense was limited to wrap-and-release tackles. The second half was similar, though it wasn’t split into quarters, and about the last five minutes were played red zone drill-style.

Team Boston pulled out a 20-16 win over Team Eagles.

As realistic as the game felt at times, with minimal quarterback pressure and takedown tackles, it’s hard to truly evaluate BC’s offensive production. Still, Jurkovec threw for 196 yards and two touchdowns, and Grosel finished with 128 yards through the air and 23 on the ground. 

Late in the second half, BC switched to a red zone drill-style game, as teams traded off starting at the 20-yard line for the remainder of the contest.

Hafley turned to the full depth of his extensive receiving corps. Zay Flowers, an All-ACC Second Team selection last year, recorded three catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns, but he wasn’t alone on the pass-catching front. New names such as Taji Johnson (seven receptions, 63 yards) and Charlie Gordinier (four catches, 56 yards) also made themselves known.

“We had Taji [Johnson] competing today, [and] we had Lewis Bond competing today, making great catches, and we just keep building on that as the season goes,” Flowers said.

In Thursday’s media availability, Grosel spoke about how the Eagles are working on getting running backs more involved in the passing game. Hafley said that he opted for a simple, base-level game plan on both sides of the ball but that expanding that versatility is a priority of his.

“We believe the backs that we have right now are versatile enough to line them up, bring them back in, throw the ball in the backfield, throwing the ball spread out—that’s going to be an important part,” Hafley said.

Special teams was the only phase in which Hafley and his staff didn’t attempt a game-like scenario. After no kickoff to start the game, punts featured only the punter, the long snapper, and the receiver on the field. Field goals and extra points went undefended, though the kicking team still dropped in protection.

The makeup of the game was unusual not only in that the defense wasn’t taking tackles to the ground, or that special teams plays were uncontested, but also in the players whose names most frequently came over Alumni Stadium’s speakers. Denzel Blackwell on defense and Bond on offense stood out in particular.

“It’s gotta be some jitters for those guys too, even though this isn’t really a game,” Hafley said. “It’s their first time in the stadium with people there, it’s on TV, so it’s just such a great opportunity for them to play in this environment in a situation like this, so I’m proud of those guys.”

Even Nick Bearup, the former BC club ultimate frisbee player–turned walk-on defensive back, made an appearance, though he was called for pass interference on the first play of the second quarter. He made up for it just a few plays later with a pass breakup at the goal line, forcing Team Boston to settle for a field goal, which went wide. 

In the second half, the sideline erupted when another new face, redshirt freshman Jacob Kraft, grandson of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, caught a first down pass from Matthew Rueve, in at quarterback for Team Boston.

All together, five different quarterbacks saw the field, including Jurkovec, Grosel, Rueve, true freshman Emmett Morehead, and redshirt sophomore Daelen Menard. 

Through the first quarter, the scoring all belonged to Team Eagles. Grosel got on the board to open the scoring with a 17-yard tuck and run to the end zone. Freshman placekicker Connor Lytton added a 25-yard field goal to make it 10-0 after one quarter. 

Jurkovec struggled to connect with even his veteran receivers until late in the second quarter. In typical Jurkovec-to-Flowers fashion, the quarterback found his favorite target on a stretch play to the back corner of the endzone. 

Team Boston then got the ball back when Jalen Williams intercepted a pass from Grosel and took it down to Team Eagles’ 28-yard line. The pick set up Jurkovec’s second score of the day, once again to Flowers on a toe-tap touchdown.

“That just gave us a little bit more confidence in what we could do like the late game stretch,” Flowers said of his two back-to-back scores. “It felt good, but everybody did it as a team.”

Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor

April 25, 2021