Sports, Football, Fall

Notebook: Play Calling and O-Line Struggles Plague BC in Opening Day Loss to Rutgers

For the first time in five years, Boston College football lost its season opener. What was supposed to be a strong start to the season for the Eagles in front of 35,048 fans at Alumni Stadium was instead a shocking and eye-opening loss to Rutgers. 

Though head coach Jeff Hafley said the loss isn’t “doomsday,” the 22–21 loss to the Scarlet Knights was a shock to many in Chestnut Hill. Here are four takeaways from BC’s to Rutgers.

Questionable Play Calling

Continued coaching mishaps resulted in plays that could have put BC in a much better position to win the game. 

The run game clearly wasn’t working from the start. Pat Garwo III couldn’t get anything going, as Rutgers’ front four buried him. The Eagles tallied only 29 net rushing yards all game. 

BC’s six drives in the second half resulted in a fumble, interception, and three punts, plus one touchdown drive. During those drives, Garwo consistently took the handoff even after he only tallied 25 rushing yards in the first half. Nothing changed in the second half, as BC’s coaching staff called five more running plays for Garwo, resulting in only 13 yards.

Coaching with a lead can sometimes be a trap, and that’s exactly what happened to the Eagles. Instead of putting the game away, BC allowed Rutgers to hang around all 60 minutes. Conservative play calling played a big part in allowing Rutgers to get back in it. 

Up 20–12 after BC’s third touchdown of the game, Hafley decided to kick the extra point and make it a nine-point game. If the Eagles had converted a 2-point try instead, it would have been a 10-point game, and the Scarlet Knights would not have won outright with just a touchdown and field goal—which is exactly what they did.

Punting on fourth-and-25 on their own 10-yard line with under two minutes left was the nail in the coffin for the Eagles, especially since they burned one of their three timeouts while deciding whether or not to punt. 

BC’s two remaining timeouts wouldn’t have stopped the clock long enough to give the Eagles a chance to score if they had gotten the ball back—which they didn’t, due to a running into the kicker penalty. 

Penalties were also a recurring issue for the Eagles all game long, especially with BC’s three ineligible downfield receiver penalties that proved costly. In his press conference, Hafley blamed the penalties on miscommunication, coaching, and players not doing their job.

(Nicole Wei / Heights Staff)

O-Line Troubles

It’s clear that BC’s offensive line is inexperienced this season, having returned zero starters from 2021. The offensive line against Rutgers consisted of Ozzy Trapilo, Jack Conley, Finn Dirstine, Drew Kendall, and Kevin Cline, a group with a combined four career starts and played with each other in a game for the first time on Saturday. 

That inexperience showed. Not only was quarterback Phil Jurkovec sacked four times, but he was constantly under pressure—especially in the second half—resulting in inaccurate throws and minimal time to get the ball into the receiver’s hands. 

The Eagles lost 48 yards on the ground, mostly from sacks and Rutgers filling the gaps within BC’s run game. A key mistake came from center Kendall, whose low snap to Jurkovec resulted in a fumble and a Rutgers recovery on BC’s 6-yard line. Rutgers capitalized with a touchdown to cut BC’s lead to 14–12. In the biggest moments of the game, the O-line crumbled, giving up back-to-back sacks on second and third down late in the fourth quarter, resulting in BC punting the game away. 

Can’t Stop the Run

The Eagles gave up 212 rushing yards as the Scarlet Knights ran the ball 42 times and used a combination of running backs Kyle Monangai and Al-Shadee Salaam and quarterbacks Gavin Wimsatt and Evan Simon to create a dynamic offense that BC couldn’t match. 

On Rutgers’ game-winning drive, the Scarlet Knights rushed the ball on 11 of 12 plays, while BC looked helpless in trying to stop the Knights from moving the chains. The Eagles continued to blow tackles and miss the gaps, giving up between four and eight yards on every play on that drive. The Scarlet Knights marched 96 yards down the field to hand BC one of its most disappointing losses in recent memory. 

(Nicole Wei / Heights Staff)

The Zay Show

One of the few bright spots from the game was wide receiver Zay Flowers, who displayed the quickness and elusiveness that have made him a star in Chestnut Hill. Flowers totaled 10 catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns in a near-perfect individual game.

When the Eagles’ offense was stalling, Flowers was the bail-out option for Jurkovec. After two incomplete passes resulted in a third-and-10 on Rutgers’ 26-yard line, Jurkovec dropped back and found Flowers cutting across the middle, and the receiver got around two defenders for the score to give BC momentum heading into halftime. Flowers had 15 targets and two carries. He was easily the Eagles’ most consistent player on the field—a trait BC lacked as a whole.

September 4, 2022