Prior to Boston College football’s matchup at UConn, Eagles’ head coach Jeff Hafley said he wouldn’t take his opponent lightly. BC wouldn’t treat UConn as the 3–5, American Athletic Conference, little-brother opponent that the Eagles had beaten in all 14 previous matchups. BC wouldn’t treat UConn as the team that hadn’t won back-to-back games since 2017.
“Our guys are approaching this like they approach Clemson, Wake, Florida State, everyone we play—we have a ton of respect for them,” Hafley said Tuesday.
And just like Clemson, Wake Forest, and Florida State, UConn delivered a fatal blow to the Eagles, beating BC 13–3 for the Huskies’ first win in series history Saturday afternoon.
BC scored three points for the second time in three games amid a season going off the rails.
Here are three observations from the loss.
Missed Opportunities Abounded
Two words sum up BC football’s season thus far: missed opportunities. Multiple times Saturday, the Eagles shot themselves in the foot when they could have capitalized, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Quarterback Phil Jurkovec had one of the worst games of his BC career Saturday, completing 12 passes on 19 attempts for 155 yards and two interceptions. Before the second interception, BC had been driving down the field late in the second quarter. The Eagles were on UConn’s 12-yard line with a chance to tie the game up 10–10. A well-protected Jurkovec lobbed up a pass to Jaelen Gill, but the wide receiver was surrounded by three Huskies. The pass was out of Gill’s reach, and UConn’s Durante Jones snagged the interception with ease.
Backup quarterback Emmett Morehead replaced Jurkovec at the eight-minute mark of the third quarter after BC’s starter left the game following a gruesome collision with UConn’s Malik Dixon-Williams. Morehead almost provided a spark for BC with a strike to a darting Zay Flowers, but Flowers—uncharacteristically—didn’t come up with the ball. After the ball slipped through Flowers’ hands, the receiver hung his head.
Flowers, who leads the ACC in receiving yards with 726 on the season, finished with just two receptions for 35 yards Saturday. On the downfield throw from Morehead, Flowers had his defender beat and would have almost certainly scored.
BC’s special teams unit was at its worst. With just over five minutes left in the game and the Eagles trailing 13–3, UConn’s George Caratan punted 36 yards down the field to Flowers. Flowers, one of college football’s most explosive weapons with running room, muffed the punt, allowing the Huskies to recover the ball and gain possession.
Placekicker Connor Lytton’s dry spell continued as well, as he missed a 43-yard field goal with 16 seconds left in the game, making him 7-of-13 on the season. At the very least, a field goal would have given BC a Hail Mary chance of winning pending on an onside kick recovery followed by a touchdown. Lytton’s shank, however, sealed BC’s fate.
Hafley Failed to “Execute”
BC’s three combined interceptions between Jurkovec and Morehead is the most the Eagles have given up in a single game this season. All three of the interceptions were clear quarterback malfunctions, as Jurkovec threw his first pick too far above his receiver, and Morehead’s sole interception went straight into the hands of Jackson Mitchell with no BC receiver in sight.
The Eagles converted just three of their 13 third down plays, resulting in a handful of short-lived drives. The Huskies were not much better, though, finishing the game 3-of-15 on third downs.
The Eagles’ three interceptions to UConn’s none that proved costly. But that wasn’t all that went wrong.
With BC down 10–0 in the first quarter, punter Danny Longman mishit a punt that traveled 17 yards, handing UConn the ball at BC’s 45-yard line. A set of false starts on the next set of downs sent the Huskies backward, forcing them to punt back to the Eagles.
BC struggled on the ground again on Saturday. For the second straight week, a non-running back led the Eagles in rushing yards. Against UConn, it was Jurkovec, who ran 14 times for 29 yards. Out of BC’s 30 total rushing attempts, 19 came from the quarterbacks. Running backs Alex Broome, Pat Garwo III, and Xavier Coleman combined for 10 carries and 38 total yards, and Coleman exited the game on crutches.
The Eagles currently rank last in the ACC for rushing yards, sitting at 540. Florida State, which sits atop the conference, has rushed for 1,677 yards.
Preparation Was Below Par
Most offensive scenarios are scripted well before a game even begins. Teams project in-game scenarios during the week with plays they will run on game days, and especially on the game’s first few drives.
BC’s opponents have outscored the Eagles by 37 points in the first quarter this season. BC’s opponents have also scored first in six out of the Eagles’ eight games this season.
Neither BC’s offense nor its defense has put the Eagles in a position to either start out ahead or come from behind to win. With the run game struggling, defenses can drop back and expect the pass. That’s been a challenge for BC all season.
Missed tackles continued to plague BC against the Huskies. UConn exploited this weakness off the bat, scoring on a 62-yard touchdown pass to tight end Justin Joly in the first quarter. Elijah Jones and Jason Maitre blew two routine tackles on the catch-and-run play, allowing the Huskies to go up 7–0.
Jeremiah Franklin fumbled on a crucial drive in the fourth quarter, giving the Huskies possession on BC’s 35-yard line. UConn scored on a 43-yard field goal that put the Eagles down by two possessions. The deficit was too big for BC to overcome.