Sports, Football

Notebook: Run Game Flourishes as Eagles Struggle Defensively

AMHERST — Boston College football took the field Saturday in Amherst coming off a 51–0 win over Colgate. The Eagles won that game with their starting quarterback, only two interceptions, and without a run game. Saturday’s game, however, was a different story, as the Eagles beat UMass Amherst 45–28 in a tumultuous showing. 

Big Game Gros 

When BC took the field for its second drive of the game, Phil Jurkovec was nowhere to be found. In his place stood Dennis Grosel, who picked up where Jurkovec had left off. He quickly completed a 14-yard pass to Jaden Williams, setting up Pat Garwo III for a 36-yard run on the next play. Grosel seamlessly entered the game without slowing down BC’s offense, so much so that when he rushed into the endzone for BC’s second score of the game, the commentators announced a touchdown for Jurkovec without realizing that he had left the stadium for the locker room with medical personnel before the first play of the drive. 

Around halftime, Jurkovec was declared questionable to return to the game with a right wrist injury, dispelling any ideas that his absence might be related to the separated shoulder that sidelined him for two games last season. 

The severity of his wrist injury is still unknown, but at least for now, Grosel has fully assumed the responsibilities of the quarterback position, as Jurkovec did not return from the locker room. 

Although the majority of BC’s offensive production came at the hands of its ground attack, Grosel performed about as well as he could have Saturday, which has become the expectation for the backup after his successful stint filling in for an injured Jurkovec last season. He threw no interceptions on Saturday while completing 11 passes for 199 yards. He added one touchdown through the air and one that he ran two yards into the endzone himself. 

Special Teams Tornado

Most of the time, special teams are an afterthought. Nobody notices when things are working as planned, and the only time they get any attention is when something either great or terrible happens. To BC’s pleasure and dismay, Saturday was full of both. 

The Eagles’ special teams whirlwind started with a UMass punt in the third quarter. Travis Levy was set as the return man when UMass punter George Georgopoulos sent the ball sailing over his head. Levy ran back a few steps and fell back as the ball slipped through his hands. It bounced toward UMass’ Javon Batten who recovered the ball before being brought down at the one-yard line. BC managed to stop the Minutemen twice, but a third-and-goal run brought UMass its second touchdown of the day. 

Just over a minute later, the special teams tide turned in BC’s favor. This time, it was the Eagles lined up for a punt. Grant Carlson sent the ball 37 yards downfield, where it was recovered and momentarily returned. As UMass return man Eric Collins struggled to weave through BC personnel, Vinny DePalma came flying downfield straight at Collins. Seconds later, Collins lay flat on the turf with the football now in the hands of Jaiden Woodbey, who ran 41 yards into the UMass endzone for his first collegiate touchdown. 

Once the ball was rolling, it never stopped. With 8:49 left in the game, Levy started his revenge tour. It lasted a total of 96 yards, as he took a UMass kickoff from one end of the field to the other. Levy caught the kick at the four-yard line before weaving through the entire Minuteman kickoff team and finding an opening. The play ended with Levy spinning off a UMass defender and into the endzone for the final score of the game. 

Defense Wins Championships Sometimes

Last season, BC’s defense had its ups and downs. There was room for improvement over the offseason, and after BC shut Colgate out last weekend it looked like the Eagles had made major defensive progress. 

At halftime, the scoreboard read 14–0 BC. The scoreboard suggested defensive perfection, but the reality was slightly less glamorous. Zero points is zero points, but BC only managed that feat thanks to a stop at the goal line and a BC interception. 

Whatever halftime adjustments UMass made seemed to have worked, however, as the Minutemen’s third quarter total equaled that of BC’s first half. The Eagles maintained their lead by going blow for blow with the Minutemen, but the 21-point quarter was nonetheless troubling for the defense. BC allowed seven more points in the fourth, getting away with just 28 on the afternoon thanks to the success of the first quarter. 

BC allowed 20 total UMass first downs and 335 total yards throughout the game. Of those, 214 came through the air and 121 on the ground. The defense also struggled with penalties, jumping offsides three times and tallying a pass interference and a face mask.

Gar-woah

After a disappointing outing against Colgate last weekend, BC’s run game came alive Saturday. Led by Garwo, BC rushed for a total of 250 yards on the afternoon. The Eagles relied on their run even when Jurkovec was still at the helm, with 97 yards on the ground coming in the first quarter alone. Three of BC’s six touchdowns came on the ground, the first of which was a six-yard run by Alec Sinkfield. 

Saturday was Sinkfield’s first-ever start as an Eagle, and he promptly made his presence known, rushing for 32 yards and eventually scoring on the first BC drive of the game. Sinkfield finished the game with 45 total yards, as his workload was more evenly distributed after the first quarter. Levy also put on a show with 43 total rushing yards, but the real mainstay of BC’s ground attack came in the form of Garwo.

Last year, Garwo totaled 33 rushes for 122 yards. Garwo’s breakout started when he rushed for 29 yards against Colgate, but he might have established himself as BC’s lead back with Saturday’s performance. In 15 attempts, the redshirt sophomore ran for 160 yards averaging over 10 per carry. BC’s running game struggled week one but seems to have found new life with Garwo at the helm. 

Jumping the Gun

Last week, BC committed only two penalties for a total of 22 yards. The Eagles tied that number in the first quarter with two offsides called on its defense. By the end of the game, the Eagles had tallied 11 total penalties for 99 yards. 

Part of BC’s penalty trouble came as a result of UMass’ reliance on the hard count, but offsides calls were not the only penalties that plagued the Eagles. General sloppy play led to a slew of penalties including a pass interference, an out-of-bounds kickoff, a personal foul, a face mask, and more.

On one drive in the third quarter, UMass only had to rush for five yards before scoring on a 15-yard pass. The rest of its yardage came at the hands of BC penalties. The Eagles kicked off from the 20-yard line thanks to a personal foul called on the play before. The kick went out of bounds, drawing another flag and giving the Minutemen the ball at midfield to start their drive. From there, a BC face mask on second and 10 gave UMass 15 free yards before a pass interference on the next play granted the Minutemen another 15. From there, a five-yard rush and a 15-yard pass were all it took for a UMass touchdown drive.

Featured Image by Michael Dwyer / AP Photo

September 12, 2021
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