Though Boston College football was favored by 44 points in its 2021 debut against Colgate, a win is never guaranteed. A host of Power Five opponents faced off against pay-for-play opponents in Week One, and not only did a good number of those teams fail to cover the spread, several of them even lost. Washington, No. 20 in the AP Preseason Top 25, fell to Montana 13–7. Georgia Tech lost to Northern Illinois in head coach Geoff Collins’ third year in Atlanta, one year after Northern Illinois failed to win a single game. Illinois lost to Texas San Antonio just a week after scoring an invigorating win over Nebraska.
The combined amount that those three Power Five teams doled out for those losses totaled to nearly three million dollars. Colgate, BC’s Week One opponent, is even a step below that trio of weak opponents. Northern Illinois and UTSA are FBS opponents, albeit lowly members of the division, and Montana is a top FCS program. In contrast, Colgate is a member of the Patriot League and played just two games last season—both sound defeats in conference play.
For the first quarter of BC’s game against Colgate, it seemed like the result was heading toward a modest victory and a large disappointment. The Eagles’ defense performed as expected against a weak opponent, but the rushing attac k struggled, and the passing game looked out of sync.
The Eagles righted themselves in the following three quarters, flashing the best elements of what BC displayed last year while showing the promise of a host of new faces. Here are four takeaways from the game:
Back in Stride
It did not take long for Zay Flowers to show that he has no plans to slow down after his game-breaking play last year, as he took a screen pass on the Eagles’ first play of the game and scampered 33 yards down the left sideline.
He showed off his explosiveness again just two plays later, dodging for 17 yards off a shovel pass. While most of the highlight plays from quarterback Phil Jurkovec and Flowers last season came on deep shots, Flowers’ big gains early on displayed the Eagles’ increased efforts to get him the ball as much as possible and use wide receivers to alleviate a struggling running game.
Quick passes aside, Flowers and Jurkovec also showed out on the deep connections that BC fans came to know so well last season, as Flowers elevated through triple coverage to come down with a 38-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter.
Although the Eagles took time to get the run game going, a few long shots to Flowers and a host of other chunk gains off play action prove that the lack of a running threat should not hinder BC’s play action threat.
Highs and Lows on the Offensive Line
While BC’s offensive line allowed 2.5 sacks per game last year, a middling mark nationally, a good amount of those sacks came from Jurkovec’s indecision in the pocket. Both the good and the bad from the 2020 O-line’s performance largely held true in the season opener, as the unit dominated in pass protection but struggled to create consistent holes for the run game.
Jurkovec’s end zone shot to Jaden Williams toward the end of the second quarter exemplified the line’s stellar blocking. As Jurkovec jittered around the pocket and motioned Williams toward the end zone, the offensive line kept him clean for nearly seven seconds.
As successful as the front proved against the pass rush, its efforts to get leverage on the ground continued to falter, and the Eagles particularly struggled to make blocks on the second level. Jacksonville State transfer Trae Barry showed that he can be a force as a receiver, but he did the line few favors when he was called in to run block.
All in all, BC’s running backs averaged 4.15 yards per attempt, a mark just better than how Fordham’s backs fared in the Rams’ 40–8 shellacking of Colgate last season. The majority of BC’s yards came on carries from Pat Garwo III in the fourth quarter when the game was already beyond doubt. Travis Levy found few holes on his carries in the first half.
New in Town
While the Eagles, like many teams in college football this season, returned the majority of their roster from a season ago, BC fans could be forgiven for not knowing a host of players who saw the field on Saturday.
Barry, a grad transfer, notched his first catch as an Eagle in style, as he found himself wide open on the sideline in the second quarter and hurdled his way to a 51-yard touchdown. Freshman receiver Williams also showed that he can be a new threat for the offense, racking up 24 yards and an impressive touchdown catch on a fade route.
The strong play from the new Eagles on defense was particularly promising given the struggles last season and the departure of several key defensive players in the front seven. With Marcus Valdez out to injury, Donovan Ezeiruaku started across from Shitta Sillah on the defensive line and flew unblocked into the backfield for a tackle for loss early on in the contest.
Isaiah Graham-Mobley was also effective in his first game on the Heights, notching six tackles. The Temple transfer gave BC fans a taste of the old guard mixing with the new, as he and Brandon Barlow met to crush Colgate back Max Hurleman in the backfield.
The strong play of the new Eagles in the front seven, combined with a dominant performance from Sillah, limited Colgate to just 3.5 yards per carry.
With most of the secondary returning, defending the passing game was not as much an area of need for the Eagles, but BC got an extra bonus with two pass breakups from freshman Shawn Asbury II.
Featured Image by Kristian Lamarre / Heights Staff