There were four minutes left in the second quarter of Boston College’s game against Duke, but the door seemed to have closed on the Eagles’ game and, to a greater extent, their season. Duke quarterback Riley Leonard had completed a quick four-play, 51-yard drive by throwing an eight-yard touchdown pass to Sahmir Hagans, and BC, with his 10 plays made in the previous three offensive drives, looked completely cooked by a team seeking its first bowl offer in four years.
The game teetered on the brink of a blowout, but while the Eagles were unable to complete a comeback against the Blue Devils, they showed progress leaving their hearts and pride on the grill as a trying season escaped them.
“Our guys fought hard,” said the head coach Jeff Hafley. “I told them I was proud of them. Obviously a loss is disappointing, but they didn’t give up. They kept coming and Duke didn’t give up. [or] Drop it. But I was proud of how hard we played.”
The picture of the playoffs in college football is very different from 40, 30, or even 20 years ago. The sheer increase in game volume means more than half of all bowl subdivision teams qualify for a game, and there’s a valid argument that reaching a postseason game with a record .500 waters down the requirements for switching to one of the neutral sites. Where teams in the past have missed bowl games with eight or even nine wins, the need to fill slots over the past five to seven years has led to several five-win teams earning invites based on their rates. of academic progress.
That led to legitimate criticism, but achieving six wins remained a challenge to rebuilding teams in power conferences where eight or nine games are against league opponents. Their schedules almost always include national championship contenders, and as additional demands have forced them to play non-conference games against other power conferences, the challenge associated with hitting .500 has taken away the ability of some teams. to juke their records with deliberately timed matches against beatable. Group of five opponents.
To some extent, that’s what happened at Boston College this year when the Eagles started dancing through a glove program. They started the year with high internal expectations, but weren’t given the space to grow. The loss to Rutgers revealed those holes somewhat, but expectations for the season quickly crumbled after conference games against Virginia Tech and Florida State.
Any other year, the Hokies and Seminoles expect to contend for conference championships, and FSU at the time was reclaiming the national glory it had long sought to rediscover. Even though BC had beaten Rutgers, who they arguably never should have lost in that last practice, they were two inevitable championship games that both took place on the road.
None of that is an excuse in the BC locker room, but given the added injury concerns, the Eagles just didn’t have the power to keep up with those early steamrollers, which in turn put the team behind the proverbial eight-ball with games. remaining against teams with a slightly better stride. Saturday offered complete proof of that when Duke, a team with an experienced offensive line, tossed quarterback Riley Leonard for a 60-yard touchdown on the first practice after scrimmage.
“We’re talking about starting fast,” the linebacker said. Vinny DePalma“and it looks like we’ve taken the trouble to settle in. It’s up to us as players. We have to go out and we have to roll. I feel like the last few weeks have been [about] tackle, so it’s up to us to execute our goals and put the guys on the ground.”
Falling behind early shed light on the replacement quarterback Emmett Morehead make his first career start in relief of an injured starter Phil Jurkovec, and Duke, smelling a bit of blood, used the first two quarters to build a two-possession lead as the redshirted rookie settled into his role. Midway through the second quarter, a 17-7, 24-14 lead kept the Blue Devils, who entered the game looking for a sixth win, poised to break through against BC, who were reviving their offensive line. for the eighth time. this season.
“We didn’t tackle well and we were a bit tired up front,” Hafley said. “We [gave up] a few explosive races earlier. We were just in the hole a few touchdowns. »
The difference on Saturday was BC’s response. The Eagles didn’t look hungry against Connecticut a week earlier, but they downed Duke in the second half on Saturday as the offense finally began to fight back. The offensive line has gelled and Morehead has found a groove with receivers he knows and trusts. Zay Flowers did the things that will make him a highly touted NFL draft pick, but Morehead created and used roles for Joe Griffin and Dino Tomlintwo players he trains with more regularly during weekday second team rehearsals.
Griffin mostly had a breakout with five catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns, and Tomlin’s 31-yard catch showed the potential he showed on his transfer from Maryland. Pat Garwo also caught five balls and Flowers, the team’s primary target, led all receivers with six grabs for 65 yards and two scores.
Morehead himself was remarkably effective with a 27-for-45 day worth 330 yards, and his four touchdowns made him the first BC quarterback on record since the Doug Flutie era in 1981 to throw so many points in his first start. Along with Jurkovec and Mark Hartsell, he also became the third Eagle with 300 yards on his debut as a starter.
Griffin, meanwhile, was the first true freshman in BC history to record a 100-yard game, and Flowers passed Rich Gunnell for third on the all-time receiving list. time as he continued to stalk Alex Amidon for career leading catches and yards.
“We knew they were going to get really soft defensively in the secondary,” Morehead said, “and just getting the checks and getting those completions helps the whole offense. It feels like there’s momentum , moving the ball quickly and getting the ball out I think that helped a lot to line up Duke is a good team with a really good [defensive] line and a group of veterans, so I was really happy with how [the offensive line] protected. We ran the ball well for the first time in a long time. So there’s a lot of good to look at.”
“[Emmett] was loose,” Griffin said. “He puts a ton of time out of fieldwork, extra work that no one sees. He’s on the pitch throwing after every practice, just working on his craft.”
Saturday was almost Shakespearean in that regard. An offense battling an unimaginable and difficult injury report found an escape with young players who will form a future core, but BC lost for the seventh time and made the season ineligible for a game of bowl unless the rest of the season offers a very specific set of circumstances.
BC never thought their season would end like this, but disappointment doesn’t equal desperation. Even in a seven-game losing season, even now without a bowl season to sustain the development cycle, Saturday showed the light of day to a team fully prepared to work through their hardships to achieve the success they know exists on the other hand. end of the tunnel.
“It’s obviously disappointing to lose the game,” Hafley said, “but before [anything], I appreciate the students. It probably means more than they even understand to us. The student section was full, and they support during the Eagle Walk. They stick together throughout the game. It’s really appreciated, especially [during] a moment like this speaks volumes about British Columbia. I appreciate that.”