Fall, Football, Sports

Notebook: BC’s Offense Overcomes Underdog Odds En Route To 34–33 Victory

Ever since Boston College football lost to Virginia Tech in Week Two, the team has had one constant: being the underdog. In two of its following three matchups, BC faced Florida State on the road and came home for Family Weekend to face Louisville. In both contests, BC’s opponents were the favorite. ESPN projected that Florida State had a 94.5 percent chance to win, and Louisville had an 82.8 percent chance to win. 

BC showed few bright spots in last week’s game, as the Eagles trudged through the mud in a 30-point loss in Tallahassee. But the loss had an impact that analytics can’t show.

Blocking out the noise is a major part of the college football experience, especially in the era of advanced statistics and metrics. The Cardinals were a 13.5-point favorite to win BC’s homestand against Louisville. But in its 34–33 upset win over Louisville, BC did just that—block out the noise—and capture a victory. 

Here are four observations from the win. 

Home-Field Advantage

In front of a rowdy crowd of 38,517 at Alumni Stadium, the anticipation for game time was building well before players had even made their way out onto the field. Crowds were gullied end-to-end between the Mod and Maloney parking lots, tailgating away. When fans did eventually trickle through the iron gates at Alumni Stadium, BC’s players were welcomed with a grand ovation of applause and cheers.

The Eagles fought a hard three quarters, and the home crowd showed especially strong support from students and families. After three quarters, though, the Eagles were trailing 33–28, which kept BC alumni, students, and parents on the edge of their seats. 

And then the Eagles came from behind, a feeling that never gets old. 

On its final three offensive drives, Louisville punted once and turned the ball over on downs twice. On its last drive, in which the Cardinals went four-and-out, BC’s secondary stepped up. With backup quarterback Brock Domann in the game for an injured Malik Cunningham, cornerback Elijah Jones broke up two passes, and Jaiden Woodbey’s pressure from the edge was enough to seal the game for the Eagles. Domann went 0-for-4 on the series of downs.  

The Eagles’ defense’s fourth quarter was enough to send the home crowd over the edge, literally. With a handful of fans rushing the field, it was a spectacle reminiscent of last Family Weekend, when BC topped Missouri on Brandon Sebastian’s game-sealing interception in overtime. 

Working in Tandem 

On quarterback Phil Jurkovec’s two longest throws of the season—both of which came on Saturday—the 6-foot-5 signal caller identified his best target, wide receiver Zay Flowers. The pair connected for two scores.  

In the first half, Jurkovec uncorked a 57-yard pinpoint strike to Flowers that had Randy Moss written all over it. As Jurkovec shuffled to the right side of the pocket and let it fly, Flowers tracked the ball exquisitely and leapt over the deep safety in coverage, grabbing the ball over the defender’s head in mid air.

Jurkovec and Flowers topped their longest pass connection of the season—the 57-yarder—with eight minutes left in the third quarter on a 69-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass on a double move from Flowers. It was the first touchdown pass of 60 yards or more by an Eagle since the duo connected for 77 yards against Pittsburgh in 2020

Flowers finished the day with 151 receiving yards that included two touchdowns on five receptions. His performance moves him up to second all-time in receiving yards at BC with 2,460. Jurkovec, meanwhile, showcased a poise that he hadn’t yet this season. 

Jurkovec trusted his reads and looked as though he had regained some of his strength on the ground. Part of what capped the game for BC was his 33-yard rush on the first play of BC’s penultimate drive that set up a Connor Lytton field goal to win the game. 

While he was responsible for a questionable turnover—a misguided backward lateral that resulted in a fumble—early in the game and still took a little too much time in the pocket, Jurkovec flashed the same talent that had been put on display in his first year on the Heights. Jurkovec completed 18 of 21 passes for 304 passing yards and three touchdowns in the air to earn his first ACC win of the season. He even recorded a block that led BC to score its first touchdown of the game.

Kicking Wins Games

Two made field goals and 100 percent accuracy on extra points arguably won BC the game. Before going on a tear in the fourth quarter,  Lytton converted all of his extra point attempts while Louisville’s kicker James Turner missed one as a result of a Chibueze Onwuka block. 

After Cunningham ran into the endzone for a 6-yard score with six minutes left in the second quarter, Turner lined up for the extra point. But BC’s goal-line special teams broke through the line of defense and blocked the point after, leaving the score at 16–14. As the clock ran out in the fourth quarter, Turner’s missed attempt proved costly as the Cardinals lost by just one point. 

Despite Jurkovec and Flowers’ showy first-half performance, the Eagles needed two of Lytton’s field goals to pick up the win. Lytton nailed a 37-yarder early in the fourth quarter and booted a 26-yarder to take the 34–33 lead.

Containing Cunningham

While BC’s secondary demonstrated sticky coverage on a routine basis and kept Cunningham from breaking 200 yards in the air, its linebackers looked much improved in the run game despite allowing three touchdowns. 

Cunningham scored three times on the ground while only rushing for 62 yards on 15 carries, around 30 yards fewer than he’s averaging this season. Apart from Cunningham’s contributions, the rest of Louisville’s run offense—split among Tiyon Evans, Jawhar Jordan, and Trevion Cooley—combined for 85 yards on the ground on 24 attempts. 

Linebacker Vinny DePalma matched his career high in tackles for the second week in a row with 11. DePalma was everywhere on the field, sprawling to make diving trip-ups and attack the flats in zone reads. Additionally, Jones recorded five solo tackles, the sole sack of the game, and two pass break-ups—the second of which forced a turnover on downs that set up the Eagles’ game-winning drive.

October 2, 2022