Sports, Football, Fall

Eagles Suffer First-Ever Loss To UConn, Jurkovec Makes Early Exit With Injury

Heading into Week Eight, Boston College football was one of six teams in the FBS that hadn’t scored a single point on any of its opening drives. In seven attempts, the Eagles had punted four times and threw an interception three times. 

Nothing changed against Connecticut. 

After UConn’s first drive resulted in a 62-yard touchdown pass from the Huskies’ true freshman quarterback Zion Turner, BC turned the ball over on downs on its first offensive drive of the game. 

A heap of players stopped Phil Jurkovec on fourth down from BC’s 34-yard line, but the whistle didn’t blow until he had been pushed all the way across the first-down mark. But officials reviewed the play and ruled that his forward progress had stopped short of the line to gain. 

The ball was in the hands of Turner once again. Riding its quick start to the game, UConn (4–5) scored 10 points in the first quarter and completed a 13–3 upset win over the Eagles (2–6, 1–4 Atlantic Coast). 

The loss marked the first time in 15 all-time matchups that BC fell to UConn. It was the Huskies’ first back-to-victory since 2017 and their first win against a Power Five opponent since 2016. 

“I felt like we were sleepwalking on the first drive,” head coach Jeff Hafley said. “It didn’t look like who we were normally, and I’m not sure why. And obviously I’ve got to figure that out. It’s just—we didn’t tackle well. We just missed tackles on that first drive. There was really nothing other than that.”

The Huskies played energetically from the start of the game. UConn accumulated 136 total offensive yards, including 81 passing yards, in the first quarter. Tight end Justin Joly made his way down the sideline while stiff-arming BC’s Jason Maitre in coverage, catching a 62-yard touchdown pass from Turner. UConn added to its early lead with a 31-yard field goal from Noe Ruelas just over three minutes into the game.

“As a defense, we came back to our balance,” linebacker Kam Arnold said. “We just had to take a deep breath, recuperate, play our game, use our fundamentals and technique, stick to the game plan, and it showed for itself as we got back in the second half. We got into our groove.”

With their eighth starting offensive line combination of the season on the field, the Eagles didn’t score until five minutes into the second quarter. 

Pushing BC into the red zone, Jurkovec completed a pass off his back foot to Spencer Witter for five yards from UConn’s 7-yard line, but Witter couldn’t punch it into the end zone. Hafley elected for the 19-yard field goal on fourth down, and Connor Lytton scored the Eagles’ first points of the game, making it 10–3. 

UConn won all of its matchups up front in the first half. Linebacker Jackson Mitchell, who entered Saturday’s game with 88 total tackles—good for third in the nation—found success off the edge and recorded four tackles by the end of the first half and 11 total on the game. Mitchell put the nail in the coffin for the Eagles with a game-sealing interception.

“I never felt like we got the run game going,” Hafley said. “I thought we hit some explosives, but then we turned the ball over too many times, which killed us. The turnovers in crucial situations obviously were very costly.”

Jurkovec faced pressure on many downfield plays, which resulted in some efficient scrambles, but he threw two poorly timed interceptions in the first half. On one play, he brought the Eagles all the way into scoring territory on a 71-yard drive just to throw into double coverage for an interception.

As the second half got underway, Jurkovec pummeled through a hole for a pickup of 10 yards on a first-down designed run. Offensive coordinator John McNulty’s implementation of designed quarterback runs was on display throughout the game, but it ended up being the Eagles’ demise. 

After a successful first designed run, Jurkovec tucked the ball into his forearm and looked upfield for a second time but went nowhere. On the next play, Mitchell forced his way through the interior to sack Jurkovec.

Then, the dangers of running his quarterback caught up with McNulty. On second-and-11, Jurkovec went through the same tuck-and-roll motion, only to be flipped in the air by UConn’s Malik Dixon-Williams.

Jurkovec took a massive shot to his lower body while airborne and exited the game, handing the reins over to backup Emmett Morehead. Jurkovec wore a knee brace on the sideline after the play. Hafley did not provide details of the injury. 

“Like any other backup, when the quarterback gets hurt, you have to be ready,” Hafley said. “Did Emmett [Morehead] get all the reps we’d have liked him to get? No. But I think that’s the life of a backup right now. It’s mostly mental reps, and then you get in, and hopefully you’re prepared and ready to roll.” 

Despite a number of early overthrows from Morehead, the redshirt freshman got into a groove in the fourth quarter, but a strip fumble and an interception overshadowed his efforts. 
For the second time this year—the first was in BC’s 31–3 loss to Clemson—the Eagles never scored a touchdown.

Correction (10/30/22, 11:59 a.m.): This article previously incorrectly stated that Frank Cignetti Jr. is BC football’s offensive coordinator. It was corrected to state that John McNulty is BC’s offensive coordinator.

October 29, 2022