With 33 seconds remaining in the first half of Boston College football’s Week Four matchup against Louisville, running back Jawhar Jordan took a handoff and backpedaled apathetically. Jordan exhibited very few signs of exploding forward.
Up 35–14 and executing nearly perfectly in the offensive realm, the Cardinals didn’t need to make a huge play. Louisville would receive the kickoff in the second half, so there was no reason to risk losing the ball with a potential turnover. But, spotting a lapse in BC’s defensive back and linebacker containment, Jordan sunk forward with his head down and turned on the jets.
Stunned by the fake kneel, the Eagles let Jordan streak 42 yards down the left sideline to leave just enough time for Louisville to pile onto its 21-point lead. Quarterback Jack Plummer didn’t let 14 seconds on the clock stop him from unleashing a 42-yard projectile, which Jamari Thrash snagged in the back of the endzone to complete the scoring drive.
Despite BC head coach Jeff Hafley’s extensive background coaching defensive backs, BC’s struggles in the secondary were exposed all game long on Saturday. Mixed-up coverage, failure to track basic assignments, and a general lack of pursuit on tackles tormented the Eagles (1–3, 0–2 Atlantic Coast) in their 56–28 road loss to the Cardinals (4–0, 2–0). Plummer passed for 388 yards and five touchdowns, and Louisville scored seven consecutive touchdowns on its first seven offensive drives.
“They weren’t blown coverages,” Hafley said. “We just lost our one on ones. Blown coverage is if a guy drops his man or doesn’t cover his zone. Our players got beat one on one by their players. … Situational awareness, really disappointed on that.”
On Louiville’s first offensive drive, Neto Okpala recorded BC’s first sack of the game and third sack of the season, wrapping up Plummer six yards behind the line of scrimmage. Khari Johnson picked up a personal foul on 3rd and 18, however, pushing the Cardinals 15 yards up the field. One play later, that penalty haunted BC as Jordan notched a 33-yard rushing touchdown to put Louisville up 7–0.
The Eagles went three and out on their next offensive possession, and another painstakingly long drive resulted in a Louisville touchdown. The Cardinals brought in some extra muscle with a two–tight end look on 3rd and goal, and Nate Kurisky grabbed a 1-yard reception.
Louisville’s defensive line continued to cause havoc for BC quarterback Thomas Castellanos, racking up a deceiving, blind-side sack as BC punted once again.
But the Cardinals didn’t slow down on the offensive side of the ball. It took just two plays into the second quarter for Plummer to locate a missed assignment in BC’s secondary and fire a 45-yard strike to Ahmari Huggins-Bruce for a 21–0 lead.
“I thought we got off a little bit slow to be honest,” Hafley said of the offense. “Part of that is we couldn’t get them the ball back fast enough to gain any momentum. The one thing I love is [Castellanos’] leadership. He spoke to the team at halftime. He’s going around the guys at the end of the day-to-day. It gives us a chance to score points. But it’s a team game.”
Up by three scores, Plummer didn’t think twice about commanding the offense through the air, anticipating the defensive coverage like it was second nature and consistently finding the open man.
After pump-faking twice on 2nd and 9 at the 8:45 mark in the second quarter, Plummer took it himself on a quarterback sneak, reaching the end zone with a forward-diving leap. Just a week ago, BC held then-No. 3 Florida State to 31 points and Jordan Travis to 212 passing yards. By the last five minutes of the first half on Saturday, Plummer had nearly reached that mark with 153 passing yards and two passing touchdowns on an 83.3 completion percentage.
“He’s thrown for over 3,000 yards at two different places,” Hafley said of Plummer. “He’s played a lot of football. They attacked us downfield one on one and their receivers and him, they connected. You’re probably looking for a bigger answer than that but there’s really not.”
The swiss-army-knife athleticism that Castellanos displayed against the Seminoles finally paid off as he strolled into the end zone to put the Eagles on the scoreboard. Castellanos’ vision in the backfield led to a 39-yard scramble which no Louisville defender could catch up with. It didn’t matter, though, as a 48-yard Plummer bomb led to another rushing score for Jordan to make it 35–7.
Thanks to Castellanos’ ability to extend plays, the sophomore signal caller bought some time as he escaped the pocket and drilled Ryan O’Keefe for a 30-yard passing touchdown with 41 seconds remaining in the first half.
“Me and Tommy [Castellanos], we was close at [Central Florida] and just seeing him come in here, start these past few games, I really feel like he’s coming into his own,” O’Keefe said. “I’m really excited to see how the rest of the season goes, and I’ll always be there for him.”
Just when BC broke through, however, the Cardinals stormed back. After the fake kneel resulted in a 42-yard gain on the ground for Jordan, Thrash hauled in a 42-yard looper from Plummer to put the Eagles down by 28 going into the second half.
Both sides traded shots in a fireworks-esque beginning of the third quarter. Following a 75-yard house call for Jordan on the very first play of the second half, Castellanos manufactured a scoring drive of his own, roping a 22-yard pass to Lewis Bond.
But Plummer, who had been on the money all day, tightened the choke hold with his fifth passing touchdown of the day. At the 10:11 mark of the third quarter, Plummer dropped a 55-yard dime over Huggins-Bruce’s shoulder. BC played some of its practice squad for the remainder of its 56–28 loss.
“I wish I had an answer,” Hafley said. “Clearly I gotta find it.”