After last week’s narrow three-point win over Holy Cross, Boston College football head coach Jeff Hafley delivered an intense and emotional press conference, proclaiming BC would clean up its act on penalties, especially personal fouls.
“Two weeks in a row, we kept teams in the game,” Hafley said regarding the Eagles’ penalties in Week Two. “It’s not going to work like that. It’s not.”
While the Eagles didn’t have as many blatant personal fouls on Saturday against No. 3 Florida State, BC set a program record with 18 total penalties for 132 lost yards. Despite the self-inflicted wounds, the Eagles (1–2, 0–1 Atlantic Coast) put up a fight for the ages against the Seminoles (3–0, 1–0 Atlantic Coast) in the 10th annual Red Bandanna Game, storming back from a 21-point deficit to have a chance to win the game with possession of the ball. BC couldn’t finish the job in the late stages of the fourth quarter, falling to FSU 31–29.
“We didn’t come in this game to be close with them,” Hafley said. “We came to win the game.”
But on 3rd-and-7 with 1:08 left in regulation, needing a stop to get the ball back, John Pupel received a facemask penalty that handed the Seminoles a first down and the victory.
“Today was a little different, it wasn’t the post-snap personal fouls that got me really hot,” Hafley said. “But it’s too many. We gotta clean that up.”
The Eagles also failed to convert two points after touchdown (PATs) in the loss. Hafley said he won’t pin the loss on any one instance, player, or coach, however. He thought his plan—utilizing time of possession to hand around with the Seminoles—was sufficient and well-executed.
“This isn’t on one player,” Hafley said. “This isn’t on a missed extra point. We’re not going to go down that road.”
Two quick FSU touchdowns in the third quarter, one coming off a Thomas Castellanos interception, put BC down 31–10. As some Eagles fans trickled out of Alumni Stadium, BC refused to give in, eventually climbing back to within two points.
It started with a 14-play, 80-yard drive, highlighted by Dino Tomlin’s 52-yard catch and run. Kye Robichaux finished off the job with a 1-yard jog into the endzone, but Liam Connor missed the extra point to make it 31–16 less than two minutes into the final quarter.
A bold squib kick decision gave BC the ball right back on FSU’s 26-yard line. Robichaux, however, was stuffed on fourth down on the 5-yard line for a turnover on downs. The Seminoles couldn’t do themselves any favors, either, as Elijah Jones ripped the football out of Lawrance Toafili’s hands in the backfield. Khari Johnson scooped the ball and scored, sending Chestnut Hill into a frenzy.
Down by nine points, BC elected to go for the two-point conversion. Castellanos found Tomlin, who pinned the ball high in the air, but he was out of bounds. The Eagles stayed down two possessions, 31–22.
“We fought back,” Hafley said. “I mean, man, we fought all the way back.”
BC managed a massive defensive stand, forcing the Seminoles to punt, and secured the ball back after just five Seminole plays. Castellanos subsequently put on a masterclass, finding Lewis Bond for 42 yards and Ryan O’Keefe for 25 yards to catapult the Eagles down the field. The sophomore transfer used his feet with a one-two move to the outside and found the endzone for a 7-yard rushing touchdown to bring BC within two points at 31–29.
“I knew those guys were going to be coming,” Castellanos said of FSU’s front line. “Just sitting there, being patient and waiting for holes to open the passing game. I just use that to my advantage.”
The Seminoles went three-and-out on their next offensive drive, but BC couldn’t muster any more magic on offense. A Castellanos sack forced BC to punt the ball away. Because of the facemask penalty, it never saw the ball again.
“We were inches away from knocking off the number three team in the country,” Hafley said.
Although Hafley played aggressively, converting four of five fourth downs, one instance in which he chose to be conservative was when BC held a 10–3 lead and possessed the ball on FSU’s 3-yard line. Hafley elected to kick a field goal on fourth down instead of taking the chance to go up by two touchdowns. The decision flipped into a 16-play, 72-yard drive—where BC had already gone for it on fourth down twice and converted each time—that ended with a mere three points.
“There’s being aggressive and then there’s being reckless,” Hafley said. “I think it was calculated early in the game. … I go with my gut on those.”
The Seminoles responded with a swift six-play, 75-yard drive that quarterback Jordan Travis capped off with a 19-yard pass to a cutting Toafili. Neto Okpala and George Rooks each committed a disconcerting act penalty, meaning they mimicked the opposing team’s quarterback’s cadence, causing confusion on the offensive side of the ball.
From that point on, Florida State didn’t miss a beat, scoring 21 more points to go up 31–10. But that would be all the points BC’s defense allowed.
“Our defense stepped up at the end,” Hafley said. “When we could have buckled, and they could have run away with this game.”
Ultimately, though, the Eagles ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
“I’m hurt and I’m upset for the guys, but I’m really proud of this,” Hafley said. “I’m proud of this group right now.”