Sports, Football, Top Story, Fall

Eagles Storm Back, Squeak Past Virginia for First FBS Win of Season

Down 14–0 to a winless Virginia squad, Boston College football needed a spark to get back into its Week Five matchup—and potentially save its season. Starting on his own 35-yard line, Thomas Castellanos did just that by leading a seven-play scoring drive. Lewis Bond snagged a 34-yard catch and run to set up an Eagles’ touchdown with just 47 seconds left in the first half, and Pat Garwo III capitalized with a 2-yard run into the end zone.  

Any BC momentum going into halftime, however, appeared crumbled, thrown out, and incinerated when Virginia quarterback Tony Muskett slung a 39-yard Hail Mary pass to Malachi Fields to put the Cavaliers ahead 21–7 as the second quarter expired.

But not according to BC head coach Jeff Hafley.  

“I don’t think we were deflated,” Hafley said. “I thought we had momentum going until the Hail Mary. I really did, I felt it on the sideline. Maybe I’m crazy, but I felt it.”

Hafley said there was no inspirational locker room speech, and BC didn’t let its inconceivable mistake control its fate. The Eagles (2–3, 1–2 Atlantic Coast) outscored Virginia (0–5, 0–2) 20–3 in the second half to catapult them to their first conference win and first FBS win of the season, defeating the Cavaliers 27–24. 

“What you say in [the locker room] to get them all fired up to run out of the tunnel, that doesn’t last,” Hafley said. “It’s who they are in here, and how resilient, and how much they trust and believe in their team. And yeah, we made some adjustments—we have to coach at halftime. And I thought we did that.”

Adjustments were certainly made, as BC dominated Virginia on the ground. The Eagles totaled 203 rushing yards and out-rushed the Cavaliers by 152 yards in the second half alone. 

Virginia started the game off firing, driving 75 yards to score on a 5-yard Muskett pass to Mike Hollins. The touchdown marked the second straight game BC has let up a touchdown on opening drives. 

Castellanos, one of the only bright spots for BC this season, looked uncharacteristically distressed early on. Forty-three seconds into the second quarter, the sophomore transfer threw his second interception of the game, placing the ball right into the hands of Virginia’s Josh Ahern and tying his season total up to that point. 

Virginia immediately took advantage, as Muskett orchestrated a five-play, 36-yard drive, capped off by an 18-yard completion from Malik Washington, who stood wide open in the right corner of the end zone, to put the Cavaliers ahead 14–0. 

“We’re a good offense,” Bond said. “We’re a good team. We just can’t start slow. We can’t get in our own way. … We got to be better not shooting ourselves in the foot.”

While BC managed to cut down the lead to seven points on Garwo’s 2-yard rush 47 seconds before halftime, Virginia pulled off the improbable Hail Mary to take a 21–7 lead at halftime. 

Trying to claw its way back into the game, BC fed the ball to Garwo to exploit the Cavaliers’ abysmal rushing defense. The fifth-year back bullied his way to Virginia’s 32-yard line on six rushing attempts, with the help of Castellanos and Ryan O’Keefe. But the Eagles were stopped on 3rd-and-4, forcing a 42-yard field goal which Liam Connor nailed to make it 21–10. 

BC’s defense woke up, preventing Virginia from converting on offense, and the Eagles’ offense finally did its part. Just four plays after the Cavaliers’ punt, Castellanos found Joseph Griffin Jr. for a 4-yard reception, bringing BC within four points at 21–17. The score marked Griffin’s first touchdown of the season. 

The Eagles’ secondary went right back to where it left off, as Elijah Jones dove and intercepted Muskett to give BC the ball right back. Bond came up huge with 1:04 left in the third quarter, recording a 33-yard touchdown off a wide-receiver screen to give BC its first lead of the game. 

O’Keefe, who finished with three receptions for 21 yards, went down with an injury alongside Virginia corner Malcolm Greene in a scary scene at the start of the fourth quarter. Medical staff surrounded each player, and O’Keefe was carted off, but not before giving a thumbs up to the cheering fans supporting him. 

“Certainly all of our prayers are with Ryan O’Keefe,” Hafley said. “I have no updates that I can give to you. And that’s kind of what I told our players. Ryan just wanted me to tell them to go finish and win the game.”

Back-to-back fumbles, one from Garwo and then Griffin, turned the ball over to Virginia twice more. 

“I just went up to those guys individually,” Hafley said. “Just let them know we need them, and they need to hold onto the ball.” 

But the Cavaliers only scored three points off those turnovers—a 44-yard field goal to tie the game at 24 apiece—giving BC the ball with 7:10 left in regulation. 

Eight Garwo rushes and an 18-yard reception for Bond was enough to put the Eagles in field-goal range, and Connor continued his perfect night with a 42-yard kick for the win, pushing BC past potential disaster. 

“That group right now, they also need to feel some success, because they’re getting beat up and punches thrown at them left and right from all over the place,” Hafley said. “And believe it or not, some of these kids probably have a tough time with that at times.”

September 30, 2023