In Boston College head football coach Jeff Hafley’s introductory press conference, he promised to bring “magical moments” back to the Heights, and he delivered. With his hire came a one-point overtime win over Pitt in 2020, the Eagles’ first home win over an SEC opponent since 1987, and a near-upset of Clemson two seasons in a row.
But in his two years at the helm, Hafley has yet to crack the six-win mark that haunted former head coach Steve Addazio during the regular season in his tenure at BC. With a loss to No. 21 Wake Forest on Saturday, the Eagles finished the regular season with six wins for the second time in Hafley’s two years.
After a promising start to the season at 4–0, the Eagles (6–6, 2–6) began to slide, and by the final regular season game of the year, the wheels had completely fallen off. A promising start and a lackluster finish was not just the story of the season, however, but the story of BC’s 41–10 loss to the Demon Deacons (10–2, 7–1).
“I felt like we played the whole game on our side of the 50 on defense,” Hafley said in his postgame press conference. “To beat that team, you need to make them drive the length of the field. We failed to do that as a team.”
Hafley stressed that BC’s struggles originated from all three phases, rather than one particular player or position group. Still, offense seemed to be where the Eagles struggled to gain momentum the most.
Quarterback Phil Jurkovec completed just three passes all game long on 11 attempts. He totaled 19 yards through the air, 15 of which came on a singular pass. Jurkovec tossed two interceptions and was sacked twice, plus he fumbled the ball in the backfield to turn it over to the Demon Deacons. Emmett Morehead came in briefly in relief, attempting one pass which fell incomplete and taking a sack as well.
Where Jurkovec succeeded, however, was on the ground. The 6-foot-5 signal caller out of Pennsylvania has made his ground presence known over the Eagles’ last four games, and against Wake, he led the Eagles with a net of 66 yards on the ground.
Wake Forest quickly caught on to Jurkovec’s mobility, shutting him down after a few big carries in the first half. But without a pass game or much momentum on the ground, BC’s hopes of a Senior Day win began to slip away. BC hung within one touchdown until the final 12 seconds of the first half, but after the Demon Deacons went up 24–10 heading into the locker room, they never looked back.
Without Jurkovec factoring into the run game, BC’s offense began to stall, and Connor Lytton’s field goal halfway through the second quarter marked the closest the Eagles would get to the end zone for the remainder of the game.
Well, unless you count what appeared to be a 73-yard scoring run for Zay Flowers, eventually called back due to a blindside block against Jurkovec. Flowers took the ball to the right into traffic, cut it back all the way to the opposite hash, and dashed to the end zone aided by a couple of well-timed blocks. But instead of putting BC within one score to open the second half, the Eagles took a 15-yard hit, eventually resulting in a punt.
“You’re talking about a seven-point game with momentum on our side, and it is a totally, totally different football game,” Hafley said of if Flowers’ run hadn’t been called back. “Not even close to what just happened.”
For BC’s seniors, the nature of the Eagles’ loss was all too familiar. BC doesn’t lack talent, depth, or high-quality coaches, as has been the case over more than just the last four years, but the Eagles have never quite put it together to take the next step forward. The Eagles have lost 23 straight games to AP-ranked opponents, and this season marks the 12th straight season without eight or more wins.
Disappointing finishes aside, Hafley said that BC’s seniors have been integral in creating the culture of BC football.
“As much as I like to say I like to help change people’s lives, that group has changed my life, and I will never, ever forget that,” Hafley said of the seniors. “That’s one of the reasons I wanted to come back to college football.”With a bowl game on the horizon, the Eagles have one more chance to finish the season above .500.
But after a high-flying start, followed by four straight losses, and wrapped up with an evenly split last four games, the 2021 regular season embodied the rollercoaster cliche so often thrown around in sports.
“It’s hard to put that into words right now—feels like almost three different seasons that we played,” Hafley said. “And at the end of the day, we’ll look back. And, you know, we’ve still got a game to play, right?”
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor