Sports, Football, Fall

Notebook: Dynamic Defense, Historic Night From Flowers Propel BC to Stunning Win

Amid a season that has fallen well short of expectations, Boston College football shocked the college football landscape Saturday night, capturing a 21–20 win over No. 17 NC State. The victory snapped BC’s four-game losing streak and the Eagles’ streak of 25 consecutive losses to AP-ranked teams. 

Backup quarterback Emmett Morehead, who in two games already has half as many wins as starter Phil Jurkovec this season, led BC to victory, throwing for 330 yards for the second straight week while tallying three touchdowns and two interceptions. Morehead was not as perfect on Saturday as he was against Duke in Week 10, but he made the necessary plays when it mattered most, including engineering BCs 12-play, 69-yard game-winning drive. 

Here are three observations from the win.

More From Morehead and Flowers

The Eagles may have found their quarterback of the future in Morehead. But the question of whether or not head coach Jeff Hafley regrets not pulling Jurkovec earlier in the season remains. And while Hafley remains adamant that Jurkovec is the starter if healthy, he may have no choice but to ride with Morehead after his last two outings. 

Morehead became the only BC quarterback on record since 1981 with seven touchdowns or 600 yards in his first two starts. The previous record for touchdowns was five, set by Shawn Halloran in 1985, Matt Hasselbeck in 1995–96, and Matt Ryan in 2004–05. The previous yards record was 510, which Jurkovec set in 2020. Morehead has 660 yards in his two starts.

Morehead’s ability to quickly get the ball out of his hands—he has a quicker release than Jurkovec—fits well in BC’s fast style of play. With an often-injured offensive line that has had to use nine different combinations heading into Week 11, his quick release has helped prevent BC from getting pummeled by its opponent’s defense. Even though he was sacked five times Saturday, Morehead’s quick release kept the Eagles’ offense afloat.

Nine different players recorded catches on Saturday. His 330 yards in back-to-back games is more than Jurkovec has thrown for in any game this season. 

Star receiver Zay Flowers has been playing his best football in BC’s last two games after a dud against UConn in Week Nine.

Flowers tallied seven catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday. Flowers’ elusiveness was in full effect against NC State, including when he turned what looked to be a solid 6-yard first down into a 35-yard touchdown by zig-zagging through the Wolfpack’s defense.

Flowers totaled 65 yards after the catch and averaged 18.6 yards per catch Saturday. On his second catch of the day, he became BC’s all-time receiving yards leader, surpassing Alex Amidon.

Flowers finished the game with 130 yards, bringing his career total to 2,900.

“I put [Flowers] up against any wide receiver in the country right now,” Hafley said. “To be honest, there’s not another wide receiver I’d want on my team. Any wide receiver, he’s the one I’m picking.”

Defense Stepping Up

After NC State scored a touchdown on its first drive, it looked as if it was going to be another long game for the Eagles’ defense, which has now allowed touchdowns on opponents’ first drives in three straight games. 

But after NC State’s second touchdown, which came with just over five minutes left in the first quarter, BC did not allow another touchdown the entire game. 

Perhaps the biggest play of the night came with 6:21 left in the second quarter when Neto Okpala and Vinny DePalma stuffed quarterback MJ Morris on a fourth-and-goal try from the 1-yard line. That stop ended a seven-play, 65-yard drive from the Wolfpack, giving BC the ball back and keeping NC State out of the end zone.

Most impressive, though, was the Eagles’ ability to continually prevent the Wolfpack from scoring amid BC’s struggles on offense. After Flowers’ 35-yard touchdown in the third quarter, BC’s next five defensive drives ended in an interception, a punt, a turnover on downs, a punt, and another punt. Each time NC State got the ball back, BC’s defense stood strong.

The Eagles forced three Wolfpack fumbles in the second half—Marcus Valdez forced one and recovered one—on two separate plays. Valdez totaled six tackles with a career-high two sacks along with three tackles for loss. His two sacks were BC’s only sacks of the night.

Elijah Jones also intercepted quarterback Morris in the second half, during which BC only allowed three points.

The Eagles’ stingy defense allowed 11 total passing yards in the second half and only 61 total yards over 34 offensive plays from NC State. In the fourth quarter, BC held the Wolfpack to negative 2 passing yards and just 12 rushing yards.

BC’s four turnovers and two sacks all came in the second half while limiting the Wolfpack to just one-of-seven on third down conversions in the half. It was BC’s defense’s best showing all season, and the defensive play put the offense in a position to win the game in the final seconds.

Nonexistent Run Game

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the Eagles. BC’s rushing attack continued to be the worst  statistically in college football. Entering Week 11, BC was averaging just 2.29 yards per carry and 68.3 rushing yards per game with five rushing touchdowns. 

On Saturday, the struggle continued. Pat Garwo III’s downward spiral took a nose dive against the Wolfpack, as on four carries, he totaled negative 6 yards. That’s an average loss of 1.5 yards per carry.

BC totaled negative 1 rushing yards on 23 carries as a team, with Morehead’s 19-yard rush at the end of the second quarter marking the Eagles’ longest run.

On seven different first downs when the Eagles called for a run play, the run resulted in a rush of three yards or fewer.

November 13, 2022