Top Story, Fall, Football, Sports

BC’s Late Fumble Recovery Secures Three-Point Victory Over Holy Cross

If people attending Boston College football’s Week Two matchup against Holy Cross thought the Crusaders looked like the home team, they wouldn’t be totally incorrect. When severe weather suspended the game with 1:58 left in the fourth quarter, there was an unmistakable presence emerging from only one side of Alumni Stadium. It wasn’t BC’s. 

The Crusaders had just received the ball after the Eagles failed to convert a third-and-long situation and punted to Holy Cross’ 10-yard line. Officials then penalized Quintayvious Hutchins for unsportsmanlike conduct, adding 15 yards to the spot of the dead ball. 

As players exited the field, a sea of purple-adorning fans made it blatantly clear who wanted the win more. Four points away from Holy Cross’ first win over BC since 1978, students weren’t going to let a strong drizzle and lightning keep their energy down. As the Crusader faithful embraced the rain with open arms, tearing off shirts, screaming “Mr. Brightside,” and streaking across the turf, more and more Eagles fans walked away from the game. 

After a rain delay that lasted for two hours and 12 minutes, it took one play for Holy Cross (1–1) quarterback Matthew Sluka to take a designed run all the way to the Eagles’ 40-yard line. Three plays later, BC avoided disaster, as Sluka drifted out of the pocket to his right and fumbled the ball, which Vinny DePalma recovered, to give the Eagles (1–1) a 31–28 win. 

“I don’t care what it took, there’s a minute and 58 seconds left,” Hafley said of the Crusaders’ final drive. “Anything that happened in the game, throw it out, just go play and find a way to win the game and we did.”

BC utilized a run-heavy approach on its first offensive possession. Third-string running back Kye Robichaux danced through the goal line to complete a 14-play, 85-yard scoring drive. 

A Jordan Fuller 2-yard rush knotted the contest at seven apiece at the start of the second quarter, but there wasn’t any quit in the Eagles’ offensive mentality on their second drive of the game. 

Robichaux stomped over a huddle of Crusader defenders to push BC over the 50-yard line. On second down from the Crusaders’ 14-yard mark, Ryan O’Keefe received a handoff and pummeled through the flat, knocking over a Holy Cross linebacker for BC’s second touchdown at the 7:06 mark. 

“It’s two weeks in a row, we’re rushing for five, six yards at a time, and that’s what it needs to be,” Hafley said. “The holes were there, I thought Kye ran the ball really well. He’s a bright spot. He put his shoulder pads down and ran through tackles.”

Going into the game, BC starting quarterback Thomas Castellanos didn’t need to prove anything as a ball carrier, having notched a rushing touchdown and over 50 yards on the ground in Week One. There was, however, a question mark surrounding Castellanos’ passing abilities after he garnered a 46.2 completion percentage in the same outing. 

After completing a 47-yard heave to Jaden Williams, Castellanos dashed to his right on third and short, high-stepping below the line of scrimmage, and shoved a pass to an unmanned George Takacs in the endzone.

“That O-line up front, those receivers that I have, they took a step,” Castellanos said. “Up front, got good, veteran O-lineman [who] protect.”

An errant kickoff handed the ball right back to Holy Cross on the 50 yard-line, and Sluka notched an 8-yard rushing touchdown. But the Eagles’ response time was quick, as Liam Connor drilled a 37-yarder to keep BC’s advantage at 24–14. 

Containing the run, especially Sluka, proved to be the Eagles’ achilles heel in the first half. The start of the second didn’t fare much better in that respect. 

After Fuller recorded a gain of 45 yards at the 14-minute mark, Sluka took another quarterback sneak to the house, tacking on his second rushing touchdown of the game.

Mental mistakes added up for BC toward the end of the third quarter, as Castellanos received a taunting penalty after converting a long third-down rush. One drive later, though, Castellanos flicked a 5-yard touchdown to Jeremiah Franklin, who stumbled into the endzone over the near-left pylon. 

“I definitely regret it,” Castellanos said. “It kind of killed us there. I wasn’t even focused on the first down. It was an intense game. I was talking, he was talking. … There will be [consequences].”

An illegal hands to the face penalty on Neto Okpala gifted the Crusaders a first down after facing third and 21. Fuller then ripped into the endzone from 15 yards out, and Holy Cross cut the deficit to 31–28 with 7:26 left in regulation. 

BC turned the ball over on downs to allow the Crusaders one more chance to score, and just over two hours and a chorus of lightning strikes later, a Sluka run of 35 yards appeared to seal the deal. But, after officials reviewed the play, Sluka had stepped out of bounds on the 40-yard line. Okpala then forced Sluka to lose a grasp on the ball, which DePalma recovered to secure the victory.  

“At the end of the game, we get a personal foul that should’ve been at the 9-yard line,” Hafley said. “That’s not how I coach. … Guys who do that, they’re not playing, period. We’re not gonna have late hits out of bounds, we’re not gonna have personal fouls, we’re not gonna let people bait us into doing anything.”

September 9, 2023