Sports, Top Story, Football

Florida State Holds Off Eagles’ Comeback Bid

In the seven years that former head coach Steve Addazio led Boston College football, the Eagles only surpassed the six-win mark five times, and they never finished a season with more than seven wins. The last time BC reached the elusive eight-win mark came in 2009, when the Eagles finished the season 8–5. 

After clinching bowl eligibility with a win over Georgia Tech a week ago, that eight-win mark was closer on the horizon than it had been in almost a decade. The Eagles had two regular season games to go, plus a shot at a top-tier bowl. But whether it was the result of complacency on the part of BC or a fired-up Florida State squad, the Eagles began to see that goal slip away on Saturday. 

Down by more than three scores in the third quarter, the Eagles mounted a furious comeback, only to come up just short. A late interception on quarterback Phil Jurkovec all but sealed the Seminoles’ win, as Florida State ran out the clock to push an eight-win season further out of reach for BC. The Seminoles (5–6, 4–4) racked up 365 total yards in a 26–23 win over BC (6–5, 2–5).

“I felt like we were a little flat in the first half,” BC head coach Jeff Hafley said in his postgame press conference. “They hit us with a few things, and they really had us on the ropes.” 

Unlike BC’s last two games, in which the Eagles’ confidence in their newly returned quarterback drove the offense, BC stalled out on drive after drive. The Eagles finished the half with 95 yards—34 through the air and 61 on the ground. 

Florida State’s edge rush was the biggest factor in the Eagles’ offensive woes through 30 minutes. The Seminoles sacked Jurkovec three times and hurried him four times, and he took hit after hit as left guard Ozzy Trapilo and the offensive line struggled to adjust to the absence of starter Christian Mahogany. Standup defensive end Keir Thomas was responsible for one of the sacks and three of the QB hurries in the first half. He finished with two sacks, three tackles for loss, and five QB hurries.

“I think that was part of their game plan was to hit me early and try to throw off the quarterback’s rhythm,” Jurkovec said. “You just try to stay in rhythm as much as possible and stay in the pocket, which I could have done a better job [of].”

BC generated the majority of its first-half offense in the second quarter, including a nine-play, 39-yard drive that resulted in a 46-yard field goal for true freshman Connor Lytton. On the very next drive, BC appeared to have garnered some momentum, as three third-down conversions from Jurkovec—two short-gain keepers and one 16-yard dash—set BC up in the red zone. 

Once again, however, BC’s offense stalled out, and offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. opted not to give Jurkovec the ball on a keeper, resulting in a loss and a 4th-and-2 situation. The Eagles went for it on fourth down and came up short, handing their best scoring opportunity of the night straight to the Seminoles. 

Florida State’s offense, on the other hand, churned its way through the BC defense seemingly with ease. Jashaun Corbin led the Seminoles with 33 rushing yards in the first half, and Ontaria Wilson added 41 yards through the air, contributing to the Seminoles’ 231 total yards in the first half. Their individual numbers aren’t staggering, but Florida State systematically picked apart the BC defense with chunk pass plays of 22, 16, 20, 41, and 26 yards in the first half alone, all of which came with yards after the catch. 

“They got us out in space, they really spread us out, and their players made our players miss,” Hafley said. “I don’t think it was just pure fundamentals of tackling. We flat-out missed them. Their players made us miss and out-executed us.”

After dominating on both sides of the ball for 30 minutes, Florida State entered the locker room at halftime up 19–3. The Seminoles’ touchdowns both came on double-digit yardage passes from Jordan Travis, and Florida State added a safety on a misguided pass from Jurkovec out of his own endzone. 

BC’s second half mirrored its first, as Florida State shut down nearly every offensive opportunity and pressured Jurkovec snap after snap. After Florida State took a 26–3 lead on a touchdown pass to Malik McClain, Alec Sinkfield’s kickoff return to Florida State’s 40-yard line set up a short field for the Eagles. Nine plays and 40 yards later, Pat Garwo III ran it in from three yards out for BC’s first touchdown of the day. 

Garwo’s score was the catalyst BC needed. It marked the start of a 20–0 run for BC, which clawed its way back from a four-score deficit. Jurkovec capped off that stretch with a 36-yard touchdown to Zay Flowers—the pair’s second connection of the day, both of which went for 35 yards or more. Suddenly, BC had cut its deficit to a field goal, and the Eagles still had 10 minutes to play. 

BC’s defense forced a stop when it needed to, bringing Florida State punter Alex Mastromanno back out for his fifth punt of the night, and BC had the ball in its hands for a potential game-winning drive. But with the game on the line, Hafley and Cignetti opted for a conservative approach, taking it to ground on practically every snap. 

That conservatism brought up a 4th-and-2 situation, which, if BC didn’t convert, would have effectively ended the game. Instead, Cignetti opted for a quarterback draw, and Jurkovec kept the drive—and BC’s hopes of a comeback—alive. 

Five plays later, on 3rd-and-9, BC was just out of field goal range for Lytton. An incomplete pass set up a dire 4th-and-9, and with the team’s hopes in his right hand, Jurkovec threw an interception—the only turnover of the day. 

“We had a play called to the field to the two receivers and got held up a little bit,” Jurkovec said. “I tried to just throw it up to Zay [and] give him a chance at the end.”

With the football back in Florida State’s hands, all Travis had to do was run out the clock. BC’s comeback effort, unlike its comeback one week ago against Georgia Tech, fell short. 

“I’m proud to say that we didn’t go down and we fought back,” Hafley said. It does say a lot about our team. Trust me, I’m definitely still very angry about losing this game, but our guys fought back.”

Featured Image by Chris Ticas / Heights Staff

November 20, 2021