Sports, Football

Notebook: Explosive Plays, Second-Half Shift Sting Georgia Tech

Despite the largely ugly nature of Boston College football’s win against Virginia Tech last week, quarterback Phil Jurkovec connected on a couple of deep balls that gave BC fans a renewed taste of the dynamism that made BC a preseason media darling. Against Georgia Tech, that glimpse turned into a full showcase as the Eagles cruised on offense and struggled enough on defense and special teams to win 41–30. Here are three takeaways from the win: 

Second-Half Step

Defensive struggles were a constant theme for the Eagles during their four-game losing streak. After hanging with NC State during the first two quarters and going into halftime down just 10–7, the Wolfpack ripped off three unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter as BC looked ragged and uninterested on defense. The same trend continued against Syracuse, with the Orange running all over BC for 21 points in the third quarter after the Eagles did a good job bottling up Garrett Shrader in the first half.

The Eagles had the opposite problem against Georgia Tech. Despite its offensive success, BC looked completely unprepared to play defense in the first half. Yellow Jacket receivers were running free throughout the secondary, and Jahmyr Gibbs was picking up chunk gains on nearly every rush in the first quarter. BC struggled to set the edge, looked lost in tackling, and had nowhere enough speed on the second level. 

Instead of the third-quarter struggles that have hamstrung BC throughout the season, the Eagles put on a dominant performance in the second half. Georgia Tech continued to have success on the ground, but Georgia Tech quarterback Jordan Yates could not get comfortable in the pocket as BC’s defensive staff did a great job scheming pressure. The defensive line had success running stunts, and the linebackers did a great job applying pressure up the middle. 

Big Plays

After struggling to drive the ball down the field under Dennis Grosel, it almost felt like BC was proving a point against the Yellow Jackets as the Eagles racked up big play after big play. Against Virginia Tech, BC showed some return to the big play ability that was its calling card last year, and BC fully came into its own and then some on Saturday.

Grosel completed four passes that traveled more than 20 yards in the air across the nearly five full games he played this season. Jurkovec beat that total just in the first half against the Yellow Jackets. Short completions be damned, BC took advantage of its speedy wide receivers and a porous Georgia Tech defense and built an offense out of hucking it deep. Jurkovec’s passer efficiency rating of 228 was the highest of his BC career. 

Trae Barry notched two long catches, a welcome return to form for the Eagles’ tight end after missing the Virginia Tech due to injury. Zay Flowers only caught two balls, but they both went for long touchdowns. 

BC’s explosiveness on offense is not just a testament to BC’s wide receivers and Jurkovec’s quick return to form, but also an offensive line group that gave Jurkovec plenty of time in the pocket. It was a showcase performance for a unit that, despite its struggles at times this year, is still ranked by PFF as the second-best line in the nation thanks to dominant play from Zion Johnson, Ben Petrula, and Christian Mahogany. 

Losing Consistency

Connor Lytton hit both field goals he attempted and continued to show that the Eagles finally have a long-term solution at kicker. Lytton’s success, however, was BC’s lone bright spot on special teams. BC has been solid on punt and kickoff coverage all season but fell asleep on the Yellow Jackets’ first kickoff return as Gibbs went 98 yards with barely any resistance. 

With ample evidence of Gibbs’ threat as a returner and runner, the Eagles switched to kicking it short to keep it out of his hands. BC switched for backup kicker Stephen Ruiz for the short kicks, but his attempts at squibs looked more like a poorly executed surprise onside kicks, as the ball never made it past the Yellow Jackets’ first row. Both miskicks were officially recorded as onside attempts and went 13 and 24 yards respectively. Hafley said after the game that BC had never intended to kick to Gibbs at all, even on the first kick, and that Ruiz had no orders for onside tries. 

Even when Danny Longman took the kickoff responsibilities back over in the second half and hit a series of decent chips away from Gibbs, BC’s coverage stayed poor, and Georgia Tech got good field position. 

Featured Image by Danny Karnik / AP Photo

November 14, 2021

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