Sports, Football, Fall

Notebook: Eagles’ Passing Anchors the Offense in BC’s First Win of Season

According to ESPN, Boston College football entered its Saturday night matchup against Maine with a win probability of 96.4 percent. Though the Eagles trailed 10–7 late into the first quarter, quarterback Phil Jurkovec showed off his robust arm, and BC pulled through, defeating Maine 38–17.

After getting sacked five times and throwing for just 135 yards at Lane Stadium last week, Jurkovec surpassed 300 yards for the first time this season, completing 25 of 37 passes for two touchdowns, helping secure the Eagles’ first win of the season. 

Here are four observations from the win.

George and Zay Showed up to Play

Tight end George Takacs and wide receiver Zay Flowers were everywhere on Saturday, darting across the field and making Jurkovec’s night resemble a game of touch football in the backyard. Flowers, who finished with eight catches for 89 yards and a touchdown, moved into fifth place all-time on BC’s receptions list. After surpassing 2,000 career receiving yards in Week One, Flowers continued his success in Week Three. He routinely made linebackers miss their assignments in the flat and floated by defensive backs for easy downfield shots.

With a guy who can gracefully slip over deep-zone coverage like Flowers can, all Jurkovec had to do was throw the ball up and say a prayer. Maine got the scoring going with 6:15 left in the opening quarter on a field goal, but the Eagles responded when Jurkovec found Flowers on a pin-point strike for a 51-yard touchdown. 

Flowers took the load off Takacs in the mid- to short-range offense, which maximized BC’s offensive success by sending Flowers into deep corners and letting Takacs pummel through the line of scrimmage in man-to-man coverage. Jurkovec identified Takacs in a variety of formations, but most of the time, you could find the 6-foot-6 tight end crashing into linebackers for pick-ups of five to 10 yards.

A+ Offensive Play Calling

After two weeks of sloppy play-calling and poor communication, BC’s offensive coordinator John McNulty stepped up on Saturday night. The Eagles totaled 431 yards of offense on a night where seemingly BC’s whole roster—from Flowers to true freshman running back Alex Broome—saw some action. 

In addition to the triumphant efforts of Flowers and Takacs, Jaden Williams caught a 53-yard pass—the longest of his career—which set up the Eagles’ second first-quarter touchdown. Running back Pat Garwo III accumulated 78 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Six BC players caught the ball at least twice in McNulty’s quick-play scheme. 

The most notable difference between Saturday’s game and BC’s two losses to open the season was McNulty’s utilization of bubble screens and whip routes to Flowers, Williams, and Jaelen Gill. 

The Sign of Three: Winning the Turnover Battle and Containing the Run 

In BC’s third game of the season, head coach Jeff Hafley showed off his defensive expertise as the Eagles won the turnover battle 3–0. BC was mostly proficient in a two-deep safety zone, with Jason Maitre hovering deep behind cornerbacks Elijah Jones and Josh DeBerry in tighter coverage. BC dominated the ground game on defense for the first time all season, holding Maine’s primary back, Tavion Banks, to just 34 rushing yards on six attempts.  

At the end of the first half, Maitre logged his third career interception—his first since Nov. 7, 2020 in a win at Syracuse—and linebacker Kam Arnold picked up his first career interception, adding a 49-yard return. Vinny DePalma forced a fumble that DeBerry recovered. It was the third forced fumble of DePalma’s career and the third fumble recovered in DeBerry’s career.

Stuck in the Pocket

Jurkovec has been known for two things in his college career: a rocket-launching arm and an ability to evade a collapsing pocket, scurry to open space, and attack the opponent’s defense with his legs. On Saturday night, his ground game was nowhere to be seen. Whether it was out of fear of injury or a shortfall of creativity, Jurkovec only lost yards on his feet, getting sacked three times for a net loss of 17 yards. 

Jurkovec was visibly upset when he couldn’t find a read downfield. Over all, Jurkovec put on a spectacle through the air, but a handful of overthrows plagued him, and he was disgruntled when a receiver came up empty. 

But the offensive line—which struggled mightily in the first two weeks—stood strong even without starters Ozzy Trapilo and Kevin Cline. The O-line gave Jurkovec plentiful pocket time, and instead of stepping up to make a quick dash, Jurkovec sailed the ball well over the heads of his receivers. 

September 18, 2022