Sports, Football, Top Story, Fall

Eagles Squeak by UConn 21–14 With 211 More Yards of Total Offense

Nothing—not even a new leg wrap—prevented Boston College football quarterback Thomas Castellanos from carrying the Eagles to a two-score cushion in their matchup against Connecticut on Saturday. 

Castellanos was not on the field for BC’s opening drive in the second half, as he emerged from the tunnel sporting an elastic leg wrap covered in a black sleeve while backup Emmett Morehead took over. Up by just seven points despite leading in total offense by over 200 yards, that margin clearly didn’t sit well with the nation’s top non–running back rusher. 

On the Eagles’ second offensive possession of the third quarter, Castellanos commanded an eight-play, 70-yard scoring drive with his new leg garment, which didn’t slow him down one bit. On the eighth play of the drive, Castellanos scanned the field and fired a dot to tight end Charlie Gordinier for a 30-yard pickup. Kye Robichaux trampled through a gaping hole for his second rushing touchdown of the game one play later. 

With just over three minutes remaining in the game, Castellanos converted a crucial 4th-and-5 with a gain of nine yards, essentially icing the game. BC (5–3, 2–2 Atlantic Coast) carried out its 21–14 win over the Huskies (1–7), and its fourth straight victory, leading in total yards of offense 433–222. 

“I just told the team that we’ve won four in a row and it’s not easy to do,” BC head coach Jeff Hafley said. “It’s not easy to win a game. … It’s a game we should win when we play [UConn]. We kept UConn in that game.”

The Eagles converted their first fourth-down situation of the game to get over the 50-yard line on a short gain. Offensive coordinator Steve Shimko staged a run-fake, and Castellanos carried the ball to the flat with a bludgeoning effort from the offensive line less than two minutes into the first quarter. 

Three plays later, however, Castellanos let go of the ball while switching into his throwing motion, and UConn recovered the ball on the 49-yard line. 

The Huskies converted on two third downs en route to a nine-play, 51-yard scoring drive. Defensive tackle Jelani Stafford subbed into the backfield and stuffed his way over the goal line to gain a 7–0 advantage for UConn. 

“I think he’s got six or seven touchdowns this year,” linebacker Vinny DePalma said of Stafford. “It’s almost like talking about the NFL stuff with the Eagles’ sneak.”

BC displayed a swift response time on its next offensive drive, and Castellanos would not let the game get out of reach. Another fourth-down conversion from inches away led to a 5-yard rushing touchdown from Robichaux—his fifth of the year. 

“The biggest key I’d say was the O-line,” Robichaux said. “Our O-line does an amazing job, they make everything easy for me. So all I really gotta do is go through my reads and execute.”

With the help of a pass interference call against UConn on a Lewis Bond slant, BC danced into the red zone with 10 minutes remaining in the first half. From the 16-yard line, Castellanos drew a facemask penalty on the Huskies after a zig-zagging scramble, losing his helmet in the process to set up first and goal. 

On 3rd-and-goal from six yards out, Castellanos shoveled a rainbow-arching pass to an unmanned Alex Broome by the short-right pylon to seal a 14–7 advantage. 

“They brought a blitz and didn’t take me,” Broome said.

BC brought the house on a pass rush, which resulted in a batted-down pass, to force another UConn punt, and the Eagles got right back into a steady offensive rhythm on the back of freshman receiver Jaedn Skeete. Skeete made a one-handed snag for 34 yards on third down, but the Eagles couldn’t convert for a turnover on downs.

After getting the ball back with under a minute to go in the half, the Eagles approached scoring territory again. But a careless throw into double coverage resulted in a Castellanos interception to send BC ahead 14–7 into halftime.

“I grabbed him right after the play—that’s situational awareness, you can’t do that, you can’t throw the ball up,” Hafley said. “We’re in field goal range, it’s the red zone, we have one timeout. Throw it out of bounds or run it. He can’t throw a pick down there, it’s inexcusable. At the same time, he’s a sophomore, and hasn’t been in a lot of situations like that.”

Castellanos didn’t step onto the field for BC’s opening drive in the second half, and Liam Connor couldn’t drill a 44-yard field goal to hand UConn the ball back at its 26-yard line.

While Robichaux capped off BC’s third scoring drive of the game with his longest rushing touchdown of the season for 13 yards, handing the Eagles a 21–7 lead in the waning minutes of the third quarter, the Huskies soon responded. A 30-yard Cam Edwards run a minute into the fourth quarter brought the deficit back to seven points. 

Trading back-to-back penalties on third down with eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter handed UConn a first down on BC’s 39-yard line. Another holding call on the Huskies, though, backed them up to the 49-yard line for 2nd-and-20.

The Eagles prevented UConn from gaining the first down, and kicker Noe Ruelas came up way short on the 54-yard field goal attempt. Castellanos’ clutch fourth-down conversion from five yards out paved the way to the Eagles’ fourth straight victory. 

“We’ve been harping on going 1–0 each week, treating each game as [a] one-game season,” Broome said. “You have to put your all into that, into this one game, get this one opportunity. When you get that chance, you go out there and make that play.”

October 28, 2023