Sports, Football, Fall

Notebook: Nonexistent Defense and Execution Throttle Eagles in Loss to Louisville

Just a week ago, Boston College football took then-No. 3 Florida State to a neck-and-neck game that ended with the Seminoles squeaking out a two-point victory despite the Eagles’ resilient comeback effort. 

That resilience was nowhere to be found this Saturday at Louisville. 

BC allowed Louisville to score on seven straight offensive drives to open up the game, with the Eagles appearing like they didn’t belong in the same conference as Louisville. No player appeared ready to play for the 3:30 p.m. kickoff, and the Cardinals took that as an opportunity to toy with BC. 

BC head coach Jeff Hafley said he had no idea what went wrong.

“I did not see that coming,” Hafley said. “We had a great week. Upbeat, energetic, flying around. I thought we had a really good plan. Clearly I’m wrong.”

Hafley said this year’s roster is the most talented he’s coached in his four seasons in Chestnut Hill and that this year’s team won’t implode like last year’s did.

But if BC continues to have performances like this Saturday’s—and like it has had in Hafley’s last 24 games—that talent will all go to waste. If BC remains inept in building off strong performances like it had in Week Three against Florida State, the implosion will likely be even greater.

Hafley can only say so much about his players’ mistakes. First it was drops in Week One. Then it was penalties in Weeks Two and Three. Now, BC can’t tackle. Visible improvement is hard to notice week after week, and it begs the question: What is Hafley trying to do to make his squad compete, because oftentimes, he doesn’t have an answer for what has gone wrong?

“I just felt like we were flat,” Hafley said.

Here are three takeaways from the Eagles’ loss to Louisville.

Defensive-Minded Coach?

Hafley came to BC touted as a coach with a defensive background—he had previously coached defenses for 17 years, mostly as a defensive backs coach, before finally becoming a head coach for the first time on the Heights in 2020.

While Hafley produced above-average defenses in his first two seasons, that progress has been thrown out the window.

The Eagles simply could not keep up with Louisville’s playmakers, who were hardly ever touched on the Cardinals’ eight touchdowns. Jawhar Jordan started off the scoring with a 33-yard rushing touchdown, and Jack Plummer followed with a 1-yard pass to Nate Kurisky.

Both players were not touched by a single BC defender.

Yet no adjustments were made, and Louisville didn’t let up. Plummer found a wide open Ahmari Huggins-Bruce for a 45-yard touchdown to put BC down 21–0. Safety Cole Batson looked lost on an island on the play, providing zero help on the coverage en route to an open Cardinals score.

Perhaps the most demoralizing sequence of events occurred when Louisville sensed BC’s unpreparedness and decided to go for a fake kneel with 32 seconds left in the second quarter, leading to a 42-yard Jordan run.

“We had guys there,” Hafley said. “Our guys stood straight up. We need to make the tackle, get off blocks, and finish.”

Two plays later, Pummer immediately found Jamari Thrash for an easy 42-yard touchdown. While Hafley claims the safety wasn’t where he was supposed to be, his halftime adjustments he claims he made proved nonexistent, as Jordan took a screen pass 75 yards in the first play out of the break.

“We came into halftime and we had good conversations,” Hafley said.

It didn’t matter that BC’s offense showed life at times, because when your defense allows eight touchdowns, nothing you do will bring you back into the game.

Not in Sync

BC’s first drive of the game was promising at first. Kye Robichaux effectively ran the ball, helping push the Eagles to Louisville’s 42-yard line. Hafley took the chance to go for it on 4th and 2, but Robichaux came up just short. While Hafley challenged the call and it did appear to be extremely close, the wheels completely fell off the wagon for BC after the ruling on the field stood.

As Louisville continued to score drive after drive, BC showed no urgency to right the ship. No player stepped up at all, as if they were all content going down 28 points.

“It was kind of [like] we were all waiting for somebody else to make a play,” Hafley said. “The lack of execution and just loss of one on ones.”

Players who were expected to take strides for BC simply have not. Junior Jaden Williams looked lost, as he dropped a wide open pass from Thomas Castellanos that inexplicably bounced off his hands in stride. Captain and fifth-year player Pat Garwo III is nowhere to be found, and Alex Broome hasn’t made the leap many would have thought after a promising freshman campaign.

While Castellanos has been the lone bright spot for BC, even he has lapses in judgement. There are times where he hands the ball off on the wrong side, and there are times where he does his best Phil Jurkovec impression by throwing the ball behind him for the other team to recover. Luckily, Castellanos’ knee was down on Saturday when he made that backwards pass mistake, but the concern remained.

BC played more disciplined overall, totaling seven penalties for 61 lost yards, compared to last week’s 18 total penalties for 132 lost yards. But the frustrating, mind-numbing plays remained, such as Khari Johnson’s facemask penalty on a 3rd and 18 that led to a 7–0 Louisville lead and the avalanche that followed. The Eagles almost notched what would have been their first and only takeaway of the game when Alex Washington intercepted Plummer with 4:33 left in the third quarter. But defensive lineman George Rooks was offside on the play, negating the interception and any chance BC had of cutting into Louisville’s lead.

Castellanos Can Play

If there’s anything for Eagles’ fans to remain positive about after Week Four, it is that BC has found a legitimate quarterback. Castellanos continues to carry BC on his back with his eccentric, dazzling running ability and strong arm. He went 17 of 33 on Saturday, throwing for 265 yards and three touchdowns, and also scoring a touchdown on the ground, accounting for every single BC score.

The sophomore transfer now has 280 rushing yards on the season. His 39-yard blast into the end zone on Saturday cut Louisville’s lead to 21, proving how versatile he is.

Castellanos looks as if he will continue to impress, it is just up to the players around him to wake up and start helping him continue to make plays.

September 24, 2023