Phil Jurkovec is 2 inches taller than the average NFL quarterback. The 6-foot-5 signal caller lumbers down the field in a Boston College jersey, beating defenders with long strides. His size makes him elusive, but his friends back home in Pennsylvania don’t see it that way.
“Everybody was calling me fat last year—fat and slow—back home,” Jurkovec said in his postgame press conference on Saturday.
In the six weeks that Jurkovec was sidelined with a wrist injury, however, he worked closely with BC strength and conditioning coach Phil Matusz to stay fit, which included shedding a few pounds. He worked on speed and agility, Jurkovec said, and it showed in BC’s game against Georgia Tech on Saturday. The signal caller rushed for 71 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, leading BC (6–4, 2–4 Atlantic Coast) to a 41–30 win over the Yellow Jackets (3–7, 2–6).
“He [is] moving way faster than he was before,” receiver Zay Flowers said. “So it might have been a good thing to miss a little bit of time and gain a little bit of speed.”
Jurkovec took his seat for the postgame press conference donning a t-shirt that read “Bowl Bound,” as the Eagles’ sixth win of the season clinched a spot in a postseason bowl. The Eagles were bowl eligible one season ago but opted to sit it out to help the players’ mental and physical health. This year, though, BC head coach Jeff Hafley said it’s his and the team’s goal to get to the best bowl they can.
“Now that it’s there, what it means to me is more time with this team, more practice with this team, more practice time to get the young guys better,” Hafley said of clinching bowl eligibility. “And then a reward at the end of the season to go away together, enjoy each other, enjoy each other’s families, and get to play one more game.”
In addition to Jurkovec’s three-touchdown performance on the ground, his connection with Flowers on deep balls was reminiscent of the Eagles’ success through the air one season ago, a connection that has been missing for the last six weeks.
Flowers finished the game with two receptions, both of which went for touchdowns of 35 yards or more.
“I feel like we’re just getting the connection started back again,” Flowers said. “But it felt good having those two receptions go for that long and go for touchdowns because, you know, we’ve been struggling on the year. I just feel like to get those back, it just puts us in a good position.”
On the game’s opening drive, Flowers had about 3 yards of separation, and Jurkovec, taking a three-step drop, set his feet and let a 48-yard pass fly straight into the hands of Flowers, who walked untouched into the end zone. His second touchdown catch of the day went for 39 yards and also found the end zone early in the second quarter.
Flashy plays, however, were not limited to the Eagles. On the kickoff following Flowers’ first touchdown, Georgia Tech’s Jahmyr Gibbs took a return from the 2-yard line and exploited a wide-open lane on the left side for a 98-yard house call, tying the game at seven apiece with just over two minutes run off the clock.
Gibbs’ touchdown was the catalyst in a barrage of Georgia Tech offense to follow. Including Gibbs’ score, the Yellow Jackets tallied 21 unanswered points to take a commanding two-score lead. One of those touchdowns came on a dime pass from quarterback Jordan Yates to the back shoulder of Malachi Carter from 8 yards out.
As one of the most elusive backs in the ACC, Gibbs finished the day leading Georgia Tech in receiving yards with 29, as well as rushing yards with 96 and a touchdown, in addition to his special teams touchdown. BC struggled to contain Gibbs’ quick feet as the 5-foot-11, 200-pound back took handoff after handoff up the gut and to the outside.
Just as Georgia Tech started to gain momentum, and the wheels started to fall off for BC as the Eagles trailed by two scores, Flowers caught his second touchdown of the day. Suddenly, the Eagles were back on track.
“They never wavered,” Hafley said. “They never stopped believing. They didn’t point fingers, and we came all the way back and took it from there.”
The Eagles scored two more touchdowns, good for 21 unanswered points of their own, thanks to Jurkovec’s ground game. Suddenly, BC led 28–21 heading into halftime with momentum on its side set to receive the opening kickoff. Out of the half, though, the teams traded punts and field goals, and as the fourth quarter got underway, BC led 31–24 thanks to a field goal from Connor Lytton, who is 8-of-9 on the year.
Down by just one score in the fourth quarter, Georgia Tech showed signs of life, driving a six-play, 68-yard drive down the field in just under three minutes, capped off by a 4-yard rush from Gibbs for his second touchdown of the day.
Brent Cimaglia, previously 28-of-29 on extra points entering the game, lined up for the potential game-tying extra point, and as the ball rose through the air, it rang off the right goalpost and bounced out, preserving BC’s narrow one-point lead.
BC scored once more in the fourth to ice the win, and Lytton hit another field goal, but the remainder of the game was a defensive clinic for BC.
With just over a minute to go, the Yellow Jackets were down by one score with the ball in their hands. On 1st-and-10 from Georgia Tech’s 33-yard line, Kam Arnold batted down a pass from Yates. Four plays later, Joseph Sparacio came flying at Yates, sacking him for a loss of 4. Vinny DePalma broke up Yates’ next pass attempt, and Marcus Valdez sacked the redshirt freshman quarterback two plays later to force a turnover on downs.
“The whole thing with pressuring is … we just didn’t want to see the quarterback running around and giving him time,” Hafley said. “We want to be aggressive, and we were very aggressive … and the players executed. I mean, you could draw up a million great calls—our players executed them to end the game.”
Featured Image by Danny Karnik / AP Photo