Well, that was eventful.
On a day when Boston College was favored to roll over a UMass team that scored just 10 points on offense in four games last year, things… did not go smoothly.
True freshman quarterback Brady Olson grew stronger as the game went on for UMass, racking up 214 yards through the air and 3 touchdown passes, as the Minutemen kept pushing BC and never quite let them get comfortable.
In the end, the Eagles were too much for the Minutemen, and they were able to pull away late to pick up the 45-28 win to improve to 2-0 on the young season. But it wasn’t without drama and heartburn.
Much more alarmingly for BC than the score, the Eagles saw two of their superstars go down with injuries in Phil Jurkovec and Zay Flowers.
Flowers thankfully returned after getting briefly knocked out of the game after a big hit, coming back to make a big catch late in the fourth quarter. But Jurkovec only played one drive before being lifted with a wrist issue, and did not return.
The good news is that Jurkovec was listed as “questionable” to return, and not out – so hopefully his removal was a precaution, with bigger games yet to come. We will post updates as they become available.
Running back Pat Garwo was the star on offense for BC, running 15 times for 160 yards, including a number of chunk plays.
It was the running game that did most of the heavy lifting for the Eagles, with Travis Levy and Alex Sinkfield rushing for touchdowns; Grosel also had a rushing touchdown of his own.
Grosel finished the game 11-for-14 for 199 yards and a touchdown, performing serviceably in relief of Jurkovec.
The worrying thing for BC was their struggles on defense in the second half. The Eagles ultimately gave up 335 yards (214 through the air) and 28 points to a team that scored just 7 points against Pitt last week, and struggled to move the ball at all last season.
While you have to give credit to Olson – who looked poised, and like a kid with a lot of potential to grow into a quality starter for UMass – giving up three touchdowns on four drives at one point during the second half was deeply concerning.
Early in the game, BC seemed to mostly be on cruise control, even if things weren’t quite electric; they grounded and pounded UMass and had a 14-0 lead, without the Minutemen threatening much in the first quarter. The second quarter sped by, highlighted by a BC goal line stand, and the Eagles took the 14-0 score into the locker room.
The third quarter is when things started to get weird.
BC looked ready to bust UMass open, with Pat Garwo breaking the first play from scrimmage of the second half for a 42 yard run.
But shortly thereafter, Zay Flowers was rocked on a running play, temporarily knocking him out of the game – and knocking the ball lose, with UMass there to pounce.
That was the game’s first of many momentum shifts. Brady Olson led UMass right down the field, and hit Rico Arnold for a touchdown to cut BC’s lead to a nervy 14-7 — a particularly worrisome stretch with Flowers off the field, too.
Grosel calmed the nerves for BC a bit, connecting with Trae Barry on a 17 yard pickup on the ensuing drive, and marching the Eagles down the field. Travis Levy capped off the drive by ripping through the middle of the defensive line to score a touchdown.
BC stretched it out to 28-7 midway through the third, when Grosel hit Trae Barry on a long bomb, and at that point it looked like the expected blowout was starting to take shape.
BC forced a punt on the next UMass drive, only for Levy to fumble the punt inside his own 8 yard line – letting UMass take over the ball on the doorstep of the end zone. Kay’ron Adams ran it in for a score, taking the gift BC gave them and cutting the lead to 28-14.
Thankfully, UMass gave BC a gift right back, fumbling a punt return of their own, which Jailen Woodbey was able to pick up and run back for a score.
On the following UMass possession, BC committed a series of penalties, including a pass interference that allowed UMass to get inside the BC red zone without a single positive-yardage offensive play. Olson then found Eric Collins for a touchdown to cut the lead to 35-21 late in the third quarter.
After a Longman field goal that stretched BC’s lead to 17, Olson found Ellis Merriweather for another passing touchdown, making it just 38-28.
Travis Levy ended the drama on the kickoff after the UMass touchdown, as he ran it back for a 96-yard touchdown to finally let BC exhale.
It was a long grind of a game, and BC fans (and Jeff Hafley) have plenty they’ll want to see cleaned up moving forward – not only giving up four touchdowns to UMass, but also committing 11 penalties for 99 yards. BC committed four offsides penalties, and some key pass interference penalties that helped UMass move down the field.
Immediately after the game, Jeff Hafley said he felt it was good for his team to face some adversity – and they certainly did today. That’s the optimistic take, as the Eagles will have plenty to work on this week leading up to the Temple game.
The biggest thing we’ll be watching out for, though, is any news about Jurkovec.
For now, the Eagles are 2-0, and have a week to get healthy and work out the kinks before traveling to Philadelphia for another road game at Temple.