After losing three straight games to ACC opponents, Boston College football needed a change. In the second quarter of BC’s Saturday game against Syracuse, change arrived. Dennis Grosel found his seat on the bench as true freshman Emmett Morehead took his first career snaps as an Eagle.
Grosel wouldn’t be exiled to the bench for long, as he was reinserted into the game multiple times in what became a rotating quarterback situation for the Eagles.
The highly anticipated quarterback change did not cause an offensive renaissance for BC (4–4, 0–4 Atlantic Coast). Instead, it was the defense that kept them in the game against Syracuse (5–4, 2–3 Atlantic Coast) through three quarters. No amount of defense, however, could make up for the mere six points scored by the Eagles in what became a 21–6 loss.
Grosel started Saturday’s game looking promising, converting on two short passes to receiver Zay Flowers and Jaden Williams. BC marched downfield with three straight first downs, and the first score of the game looked imminent. After an 8-yard run by Grosel put the Eagles within field goal range on the 28-yard line, Hafley made the decision to go for it on fourth down. Grosel could not find an open receiver on 4th-and-4, and the BC offense jogged off the field without a score. That turnover on downs was the first of a theme throughout the game, as BC repeatedly failed to take advantage of scoring opportunities.
BC was, however, able to make plays on the defensive side of the ball. With Syracuse in scoring position at BC’s 3-yard line, quarterback Garrett Shrader was hit by defensive end Marcus Valdez as he threw. He fumbled the ball, and linebacker Vinny DePalma scooped it up, returning it for 21 yards.
“It was one of those plays where you don’t know if it’s an incomplete pass or a fumble,” DePalma said. “We drill it all the time in practice, just pick it up no matter what and let the rest get sorted out.”
Syracuse could not get anything going offensively, struggling to utilize its dual-threat weapons of Shrader and running back Sean Tucker. Both teams were scoreless after the first quarter when Morehead took the field at the start of the second.
“He’s been practicing really well over the last two weeks. … We felt last week he was almost ready but not quite there yet,” BC head coach Jeff Hafley said about Morehead. “We thought he’d give us the spark with some of the things we saw—him throwing the ball in practice and hitting some of those deep balls, which he did early in the game. So we thought we could take advantage of how he’s been practicing.”
Morehead showed off his arm talent almost immediately, hitting Flowers for a 44-yard completion after just missing him the play before. After a successful trip downfield, the Eagles struggled to convert in the red zone yet again, resulting in a Connor Lytton 31-yard field goal to put the Eagles up 3–0.
BC’s defense continued its dominance, giving the ball back to Morehead with many chances to score before the half. Nerves looked to have affected the freshman, as he overthrew Flowers on another deep shot. After taking a big hit that may have resulted in a helmet malfunction for Morehead, Grosel checked back into the game with just over a minute to play in the half. These were not Grosel’s last snaps, as he also took the helm to start the third quarter.
“No, I don’t think it impacted the flow at all,” Hafley said of the quarterback rotation. “It was what we had planned and the team was excited about it.”
The Eagles found themselves with a chance to score in the red zone once again after Grosel connected with Flowers for a 40-yard completion. The offensive line couldn’t hold up, however, as an Alec Sinkfield run resulted in a loss of four yards followed by a sack of Grosel. Lytton once again lined up for the field goal attempt, giving BC a 6–0 lead early in the third quarter.
BC made it a full half without allowing a Syracuse score, but the Orange captured the momentum in the third quarter. Tucker, who leads the NCAA in rushing yards, would not be silenced any longer, as he exploded for a 51-yard touchdown to give Syracuse the lead about two minutes after the Eagles’ field goal.
A quick three-and-out saw Grosel throw two incompletions and give Syracuse the ball back. This time, it wasn’t Tucker with the statement run, but Shrader, who broke free for a 48-yard touchdown after being held in check on the ground all game. The Eagles suddenly found themselves down 14–6 with the game quickly getting away from them.
Morehead returned to the game with a chance to break up Syracuse’s momentum but was instead sacked for a loss of seven yards. The deficit kept getting worse for the Eagles, as a low punt resulted in Syracuse’s Courtney Jackson returning it for a 64-yard touchdown to make the score 21–6.
As the game ticked away, BC found itself with a chance to finally reach the endzone after a 33-yard punt return by Jaelen Gill. With the ball on Syracuse’s 19-yard line and five minutes remaining in the game, Hafley decided to trust Grosel instead of Morehead with the game-deciding drive. Grosel threw two complete passes to Flowers and Spencer Witter for 10 and eight yards respectively, but the Eagles couldn’t find the endzone after getting stuffed at the goal line on 4th down.
When asked about the decision to go with Grosel over Morehead on the drive, Hafley cited Grosel’s experience.
“That was something he’d experienced before—two-minute situations,” Hafley said. “[Morehead] hasn’t played football since his junior year in high school. … The best bet was to go with Dennis.”
Overall, BC could not convert when given the opportunity to do so. The chances were there, as the time of possession from each team was almost identical, but the Eagles came up short repeatedly. With Grosel and Morehead both struggling to connect with receivers Saturday, the quarterback position remains a question going into the second-half of the season.
“When you’re losing four in a row and you start struggling to make plays and score points, whether it’s me or [Morehead], I don’t really care,” Grosel said. “Let’s just go on and get a win and win calm. We’re going to figure it out and send the best guys on the field.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Joshua Bessex / AP Photo