Sports, Football, Top Story, Fall

BC Cracks Under Pressure in Fourth, Falls to Rutgers in Season Opener

Boston College football’s season opener looked like multiple games in one. If you broke it down into a finer series of parts, it would look something like this: mistakes on the back end, a surplus of early penalties, hard hits in the secondary, and Zay Flowers. When the ball was in the hands of Flowers, quarterback Phil Jurkovec was doing something right. 

Flowers amassed 117 yards and two touchdowns on a career-high day on Saturday, eclipsing 2,000 receiving yards for his career. But while Flowers shifted the momentum with nifty bursts of speed and sticky catches in the flat, the offensive line couldn’t string together enough consistency to pull out a non-conference victory over Rutgers (1–0), and BC (0–1) fell to the Scarlet Knights 22–21. 

“We will get better,” BC head coach Jeff Hafley said in his postgame press conference. “I thought we made some nice plays in the passing game, but there were more out there and we missed them. Defensively, I thought those guys fought, but that last drive, not good enough.”

Rutgers’ game-winning, fourth-quarter drive went for 12 plays and 96 yards. A 22-yard sprint from Al-Shadee Salaam down the left sideline and into the end zone handed the Scarlet Knights the go-ahead lead, which they maintained for the final 2:43 of the game.

“I don’t know,” Hafley said when asked about how his team let up the final drive. “That’s probably the most disheartening part, that they were able to run the ball for 90 something yards and not throw the ball and score.”

The Scarlet Knights opted for a three-dimensional approach to their quarterback situation. Gavin Wimsatt and Evan Simon both took snaps at quarterback in a traditional formation, while Rutgers alternated in a wildcat formation to set up tight end Johnny Langan. 

“I didn’t know what we would get,” Hafley said. “I knew that the quarterback was hurt. Sometimes it’s hard because it’s like we get in a groove and watch to see who’s in and what they are going to run, but they had 110 pass yards. We knew they’d be in the wildcat.”

Rutgers ran the ball all game, finishing with 110 rushing yards on 42 carries. All three of its touchdowns came on the ground.

On BC’s first offensive drive of the game, there was a malfunction on the left side of the line that left Jurkovec unprotected on his blind side. Defensive tackle Robert Longerbeam nearly forced a fumble, striking a blow to Jurkovec, but the quarterback regained possession and started firing lights out from there.

Jurkovec slung a 19-yard shot to Jaelen Gill and then completed his first pass to Flowers for a 14-yard gain. On the next set of downs, Jurkovec took off, pummeling through the line of scrimmage for 13 yards on the ground, but the Eagles failed to convert and punted on fourth down.

It only took four plays on BC’s next set of downs to get a score on the board. On second down, tight end George Takacs made a 29-yard catch on a pass from Jurkovec. Jurkovec then scanned the field and chose his target in the far-right corner of the end zone: Flowers. 

Flowers caught Jurkovec’s 11-yard pass, reversing midair to make a play on the ball. A Connor Lytton extra point made it 7–0 in BC’s favor.

In the second quarter, Flowers caught a 26-yard pass from Jurkovec for his second touchdown of the day to put the Eagles up 14–6.

“If we put it all together, I still think we have one of the best offenses in the ACC,” Flowers said. 

The Eagles’ defense showed some bright spots. Linebackers Bryce Steele and Kam Arnold made big plays, and defensive back Elijah Jones recorded his first career pick.

Late in the second quarter, Wimsatt sailed a deep ball looking for a receiver on the sideline, but Jones stepped in and intercepted it, carrying it all the way back to the Eagles’ 47-yard line.

BC’s defensive efforts couldn’t overcome poor coaching decisions and a lack of scoring in the second half. With 2:43 to go in the fourth quarter, BC trailed by one and was in need of a touchdown after Rutgers’ 96-yard touchdown drive moments before.

But in three plays, Jurkovec threw an incomplete pass to Takacs once and was sacked twice.

“We had every chance to win and we didn’t, and that’s on me,” Hafley said. “I talked to the team in the locker room. Whether we won or lost today we’ve got to wake up and get better. Because even if we won that game, we didn’t play well enough to continue to win.” 

Correction (9/6/2022, 11:58 a.m.): This article previously incorrectly stated that Zay Flowers’ second touchdown put BC up 14–0 against Rutgers. It was corrected to state that Flowers’ touchdown caused the score to be 14–6 in BC’s favor.

September 3, 2022