Sports, Football

Notebook: Quarterback Change Not Enough to Revitalize BC’s Offense

A perfect 4–0 start has all but gone by the wayside for Boston College football, as the Eagles are winless through their first four games of ACC competition. Without Phil Jurkovec in the backfield, the Eagles are floundering and looking for answers. A rotating quarterback system, a struggling offensive line, and struggle in execution led to a loss to Syracuse—BC’s first against the Orange in the teams’ last three meetings. Here are four takeaways from the Eagles’ 21–6 loss in the Carrier Dome: 

Airing Out Dirty Laundry

After three losses to open the Eagles’ ACC run, it was time for a change. The passing game had struggled in ACC play entering BC’s game against Syracuse, and though Dennis Grosel got the start, BC head coach Jeff Hafley and offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. opted to rotate in Emmett Morehead at quarterback. Change, however, does not always mean progress. A rotating quarterback scheme was not the solution to the Eagles’ woes through the air, as the quarterback duo combined for just 180 passing yards and no touchdowns. Without consistency in the backfield, the Eagles floundered on offense, and Morehead and Grosel both struggled to hit receivers downfield, repeatedly overthrowing a speedy Zay Flowers and an acrobatic Jaelen Gill. Grosel threw for 93 yards on 9-of-17 passing, while Morehead tossed 87 yards on 6-of-15 passing. It’s a far cry from the 303 yards that Jurkovec threw for against Colgate to open the season.

Drawing the Line

BC’s highly touted offensive line has struggled in ACC play, and those struggles are only compounded by a lingering injury to Tyler Vrabel. After being day-to-day in practice this week, according to Hafley, Vrabel continued to struggle against Syracuse, as the veteran made an early exit. Jack Conley and Ozzy Trapilo came in in relief, but the two young players struggled to match Vrabel’s four years of experience. Even with Vrabel, the offensive line struggled against a potent Syracuse front seven. The Eagles allowed five sacks against their rotating quarterbacks, three of which came from defensive end Kingsley Jonathan, for a total of 25 yards lost on Jonathan’s efforts alone. With a true freshman quarterback playing in his first collegiate game–and his first game since his junior year of high school—the offensive line needed to create time in the pocket, allowing Morehead more leeway in decision making, but the Orange penetrated the pocket just moments after nearly every snap. Hafley said in his press conference on Sunday that he will be making changes—either personnel or scheme—to the unit this week.

Hit the Wall Running

The offensive line’s performance also hindered the Eagles’ run game, which, with a lack of passing offense and a brand new quarterback, needed to be in top form for the Eagles to have a chance. Syracuse’s front seven filled the gaps seemingly with ease, and BC only managed 71 net yards on the ground: 136 gained and 65 lost. Of those 65 yards lost, nearly half of them were a result of sacks against Morehead, resulting in 32 lost yards for the true freshman quarterback. BC’s 71 yards on the ground marks its second-lowest total this season, with the only lower total coming against Clemson, when the Eagles struggled to register 46 yards on the ground. Still, as he has been all season, Pat Garwo III was a bright spot in the backfield against Syracuse, grinding out 84 yards on the ground despite a struggling run-blocking system.

Giving Up Explosives 

All three of Syracuse’s touchdowns came on runs 48 yards or longer, as running back Sean Tucker opened the Orange’s scoring with a 51-yard dash in the third quarter, and evasive quarterback Garrett Shrader dashed for a 48-yard house call up the middle. Syracuse’s third and final score came on a 64-yard punt return to the house, putting the final nail in BC’s coffin. On all three of those scoring plays, missed tackles plagued the Eagles in the early phases, leading to a field of green in front of each runner and next to no challengers from behind. In practically every press conference, Hafley emphasizes the importance of “execution,” which includes making routine tackles near the line of scrimmage to prevent big-gain plays. 

Featured Image courtesy of Joshua Bessex / AP Photo

October 31, 2021