Sports, Football, Fall

Notebook: Castellanos’ Ground Dominance, Additional Run Game Fuel BC in Win Over Army

For the second straight week, Boston College football appeared dead in the water with the game slipping away. 

But for the second straight week, the Eagles showed brilliant resilience, enough to overcome late leads and pull out much-needed victories. 

Week Six featured BC making the trip down to West Point, N.Y. to take on Army’s run-heavy offense. But in rainy conditions, the Eagles also turned to a run-first approach, rushing 61 total times—a season high. While BC held a 13–3 halftime lead, Army stormed back, scoring three touchdowns on three straight second half drives to go ahead 24–20 with 11:43 remaining in the game. 

Michie Stadium went berserk, and it seemed as if BC had lost all the momentum it possessed in the first half. 

“At that point, I’m telling you, the stadium, the cadets—our guys could have just tapped it in,” BC head coach Jeff Hafley said. 

Instead, Thomas Castellanos orchestrated a 12-play, 62-yard drive that he capped off with his fourth rushing touchdown of the game to pull BC ahead 27–24 and bring the Eagles to .500 for the first time this year. 

Here are three observations from the victory.

Generational Talent?

It may not be an overreaction to call Castellanos a once-in-a-few-decades type of player. He has become the biggest reason the Eagles have their three wins this season, and on Saturday, he was the best player on both sides of the ball for either squad. The quarterback put on a clinic, rushing for 142 yards on a season-high 31 carries, accounting for all four of BC’s touchdowns. 

He also became the first BC quarterback to rush for four touchdowns in a game and the leading rusher for all quarterbacks in the nation. 

Allowing Castellanos to run every single play—as crazy as it sounds—wouldn’t have been a terrible idea. He is that special. 

The rain-soaked conditions proved to be perfect for Castellanos, who used his pro-level mobility to steer around defenders and constantly find holes. His second touchdown of the game finished off a 17-play, 75-yard drive late in the second quarter to put BC ahead by 10 points. Castellanos’ poise and playmaking allowed BC to stay on the field for long periods of time, as that drive took eight minutes and 44 seconds, BC’s longest touchdown drive of the season. 

When the Eagles needed Castellanos most—down by four points in the fourth quarter—he delivered. After getting stopped on fourth down with 7:19 left in the game on a designed run, BC went right back to Castellanos on the following drive, requiring a touchdown to win.

Running back Kye Robichaux got stopped twice on the goal line with less than 90 seconds left, but on third down, Castellanos took it himself and bullied his way into the end zone to seal the victory for BC with 25 seconds left. 

While Castellanos did have a head-scratching interception early in the second quarter, his historic night and tough conditions made up for it. 

Running Backs, Too

Not only was Castellanos perfect on the ground, but so were the Eagles’ running backs. Having a quarterback who is always the threat to run, as well as a significantly improved offensive line, opens up a lot of options and holes, and that proved true against Army.

Pat Garwo III looks like a reinvented player after his disastrous 2022 campaign. The fifth-year back tallied 111 yards on the ground on 14 carries. Saturday marked the fifth time Garwo has notched 100 rushing yards in a game, and it was also his first 100-yard game since Nov. 13, 2021, against Georgia Tech

Garwo’s 50-yard breakaway run in the third quarter set up Castellanos’ 10-yard run a play later to put BC up 20–10. 

But Nate Johnson, Alex Broome, and Robichaux also proved they can step up when needed, totaling 14 carries for 46 yards. Robichaux was only expected to play if Garwo got injured. According to Hafley, Garwo was banged up in the second quarter, forcing Robichaux to be on the field during BC’s game-winning drive. 

The Eagles, in total, rushed for a season-high 299 yards, just a week after rushing for 203 yards. A large part of that is BC’s more stable offensive line. Even without Ozzy Trapilo, who missed Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury, Christian Mahogany, Logan Taylor, Kyle Hergel, Drew Kendall, and Jack Conley did more than enough to create gaps for Castellanos, Garwo, and co. 

“Last year was really hard for us, obviously,” Kendall said, referencing BC’s depleted 2022 O-line. “But I think that’s gotten us to where we are now.” 

Need More Consistency 

In Week Four and Five, BC got off to slow starts before kicking their offense into gear in the second half of games. On Saturday, it was the complete opposite, as BC started off strong only to allow Army to get back within reach in the second half.

Army’s triple-option offense became a problem for BC in the second half, as the Eagles failed to anticipate which direction the Black Knights were going or if they were going to throw the ball. BC linebacker Vinny DePalma related Army’s type of play style to a boxer who lulls and lulls until a sharp jab is taken. Eye discipline and staying sound on every play is requisite to defend this type of offense, according to DePalma.

Army rushed for 161 yards, but its throwing plays made BC bite in the second half. Quarterback Bryson Daily hit wide receiver Tyson Riley for a 9-yard touchdown to take the lead on a wide-open pass. The Eagles were simply not prepared for Army’s pass plays, allowing the Black Knights to outscore BC 21–14 in the second half. 

October 9, 2023