Sports, Football, Fall

Notebook: Eagles Overcome Self-Inflicted Wounds to Get Past UConn and Notch Fourth Straight Win

After arguably earning its best win of the season last week against Georgia Tech, Boston College football seemed to have turned a corner. With a 1–6 Connecticut squad next on its schedule, many expected the Eagles to steamroll the Huskies at home on Saturday. 

While BC dominated the Huskies in the stat sheet, the game’s final score told a much different story. The Eagles held an advantage in first downs 30–10, total plays 83–43, total yards 433–222, time of possession 40:44–19:16. 

Yet the final score clocked in at 21–14. 

“We kept UConn in the game,” BC head coach Jeff Hafley said. “It’s as easy as that. … I say that with no disrespect [to UConn].”

Part of how the narrow victory unfolded was because Saturday may have been quarterback Thomas Castellanos’ first true dud as a starter. That isn’t saying much, considering the sophomore transfer still threw for 151 yards and a touchdown on 16-of-24 passing, along with picking up 45 rushing yards. 

Some crucial mistakes and self-inflicted wounds kept UConn in the game, a game that BC didn’t fully win until Castellanos rushed for nine yards on 4th-and-5 on UConn’s 32-yard line to seal the victory with 3:13 left in the game. 

Here are three observations from BC’s fourth straight win. 

Keeping UConn Within Reach

According to Hafley, a big emphasis after last week’s 38–23 win over Georgia Tech was BC’s ability to finally pull away in the fourth quarter and knee the ball with a large cushion. But the exact opposite was the case on Saturday, as BC went down early and kept UConn within distance for the entire game. 

BC didn’t waste any time with its offensive mistakes. The Eagles were marching down the field on their first drive of the game, reaching UConn’s 36-yard line, but Castellanos simply let go of the ball, appearing to lose his grip, which handed it back to the Huskies on their 49-yard line. 

UConn went on to score nine plays later to go up 7–0. 

Ahead 14–7 in the middle of the second quarter, the Eagles had a prime opportunity to extend their lead after forcing a UConn three-and-out. Castellanos orchestrated a 50-yard drive to reach UConn’s 31-yard line. But Castellanos’ 3rd-and-10 pass sailed through the hands of tight end Jeremiah Franklin, forcing a fourth down. 

Hafley clearly didn’t trust Liam Connor with a 48-yard field goal, as BC’s offense stayed on the field. Castellanos bought time and hauled a pass to a wide-open Joe Griffin Jr. in the end zone, but the pass was too deep. Griffin couldn’t catch the ball in bounds, resulting in a turnover on downs.  

BC’s rock-solid defense gave Castellanos and co. a chance at redemption after forcing another three-and-out to give BC possession on UConn’s 40-yard line with 1:07 remaining in the first half. Castellanos once again led a strong initial part of the drive, getting the Eagles to UConn’s 17-yard line with 17 seconds remaining. 

Castellanos, however, threw into double coverage, and UConn corner Malik Dixon-Williams easily intercepted his throw leaving BC without a touchdown or a short field goal heading into halftime. 

“I grabbed him right after the play—that’s situational awareness,” Hafley said. “You can’t throw the ball up. 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.”

BC left even more points on the board in the third quarter. Still ahead 14–7, backup Emmett Morehead led a 13-play drive to get BC on UConn’s 26-yard line as Castellanos nursed a leg injury. Connor, however, sailed his 44-yard field goal attempt wide and right for a BC turnover on downs. The miss marked the second straight week Connor has missed a field goal, as he missed a 47-yarder last week. 

New Receiver? 

It wouldn’t be a surprise if most BC fans hadn’t heard of freshman receiver Jaedn Skeete before Saturday’s game. It would be a surprise, though, if they didn’t know who he was after.  

The Hyde Park, Mass. native recorded the first four receptions of his career on Saturday, good for a team-high 61 yards. No reception was bigger than Skeete’s one-handed, 34-yard catch at the end of the second quarter. Skeete managed to bat the misplaced ball as he was running in the opposite direction, turned his body, and controlled the ball to blast down the field. 

“Skeete’s a guy that keeps showing up,” Hafley said. “I think he’s really, really talented. I’m glad he got his moment. I think he has some of the best hands on this team.”

Skeete’s presence was a welcoming sight to see considering BC’s other receivers were held in check throughout the game. Griffin had four catches for 45 yards, Dino Tomlin recorded three catches for 22 yards, and Jaden Williams recorded two catches for 20 yards. 

Lewis Bond, BC’s leading receiver with 437 receiving yards this season, was ineffective all game, totaling just two catches for nine yards. And while it should be noted that Castellanos only threw 24 times, limiting BC’s wideout potential, the Eagles’ dominance on the ground allowed them to win without big plays through the air. 

BC registered 246 rushing yards compared to UConn’s 92. The Eagles also had 433 yards of total offense, marking their fifth game of over 400 yards of offense this season. 

Even further, the Eagles are No. 1 in the ACC and No. 12 in the nation with 215.6 rushing yards per game, while Castellanos is third in the ACC with 84.1 rushing yards per game, and Kye Robichaux is fourth with 70.7 rushing yards per game.

Somehow, Someway, BC Has Four Straight Wins

After starting the season 1–3 with a season-opening loss to Northern Illinois and a near-loss to Holy Cross, not much looked promising for the Eagles. It’s possible that Hafley was on the hot seat, and a blowout loss to Louisville in Week Four didn’t make matters better. 

But, BC now finds itself 5–3 on the season, seventh in the ACC standings, just one win away from bowl game eligibility, and even still in contention to make the ACC Championship.  

Besides last week’s showing against Georgia Tech, BC’s other three wins during its streak have come by a margin of seven points or less. Just like on Saturday, there were opportunities for the Eagles to pull away and win comfortably, but there were also opportunities to roll over and lose. They did not.  

Last year’s squad would have likely given into the Huskies considering how many mistakes BC committed on Saturday. Last year’s squad did, in fact, lose to UConn for the first time in program history. But BC is a different program in 2023, one that can still squeak out wins when the result isn’t necessarily pretty. 

“The beauty of it is, for four straight weeks, our guys have found a way to win,” Hafley said. “I don’t care who you’re playing. This wasn’t going to be, because UConn beat us last year, a rollover, walk in the park. You’ve got to go beat teams.” 

October 29, 2023