BC Run Game Clicks in Blowout Win Over Georgia Tech
On Boston College’s second play from scrimmage during Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech, running back David Bailey appeared to lose a fumble. It looked like a bad omen, especially after the Eagles coughed up the ball five times in a 26-point loss to then-No. 23 Virginia Tech last weekend.
But the officials determined that Bailey’s knee was down before the ball popped out, and the ruling was overturned. What followed was 42 additional rushing yards and the first of BC’s six touchdowns on the day. The 10-play, 71-yard scoring drive was the real precursor of what was to come: a turnover-free, breakthrough rushing performance from the Eagles.
BC, which entered the game with the third-worst ground attack in all of college football, surpassed its rushing average (66.2 yards per game) in the first quarter and ended up quadrupling that mark. The Eagles clocked out with 264 rushing yards—174 more than their previous season high—scored 21 points off Yellow Jacket turnovers, cleaned up their tackling issues, and got back into the win column with a resounding 48-27 victory.
Second-year GT (2-4, 2-3 Atlantic Coast) head coach Geoff Collins coached aggressively right from the get-go. It started with a fake punt on the game’s opening drive. On 4th-and-13 from the Eagles’ 29-yard line, Pressley Harvin III uncorked a pass to the end zone for wide receiver Josh Blancato. The athletic, 255-pound punter put the ball on the money, but BC was all over it.
The Eagles (4-2, 3-2) turned around and methodically moved the ball downfield, with offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. calling seven run plays and just three passes. Phil Jurkovec completed all of them, eventually finding CJ Lewis for a seven-yard touchdown in the back corner of the end zone.
Lewis didn’t stop there. After Marcus Valdez recovered a dropped Jeff Sims snap outside the GT red zone, Lewis reeled in two critical receptions. The redshirt junior, who finished with four catches and 58 yards, bailed out a scrambling Jurkovec and gained 16 yards on a pitch and catch before leaping for a five-yard touchdown reception two plays later.
"CJ just keeps getting better,” Jeff Hafley said. “Shows up every game now. He’s a big target, and he goes up and gets the ball. And he blocks down the field, just like we see in practice. Phil trusts him, and he continued to get him the ball tonight, which was awesome.”
Jurkovec completed his first five passes of the game and used his legs to extend the Eagles’ lead early in the third quarter. First, he seized a sea of green, scampering up the middle for 28 yards. Then, shortly thereafter, he moved out of the pocket and located Lewis on the run for a 30-yard pickup. The chunk play set the stage for a 41-yard Aaron Boumerhi field goal.
BC continued to flip last week's script on the next Yellow Jackets drive, creating another takeaway. GT running back Jordan Mason fought for extra yardage past the sticks. Forward progress wasn't called, and the ball squirted out of the pile. Mike Palmer scooped it up and sprinted 34 yards to the end zone for a touchdown to put BC up, 24-0.
"I was just kind of running to the pile, and it happened to just kind of come right out to my feet," Palmer said. "In practice, we talk about 'greedy scoops' and scooping everything up, because you never know. So, it came to me, I scooped it up, and just started running."
Three different Eagles were flagged for excessive celebration after the touchdown. The 15-yard penalty gave the Yellow Jackets a short field, and a controversial Josh DeBerry targeting call also made things easier for Sims. The true freshman dual-threat capitalized on the opportunity, dialing up a 33-yard touchdown pass to Ahmarean Brown.
Just when it looked like GT was starting to build a semblance of momentum, the Eagles answered back — that proved to be the case throughout the evening. Cignetti used pre-snap motion to get Zay Flowers the ball twice on BC's ensuing series. A throwback screen went for 11 yards and a 22-yard jet sweep was a one-way ticket to the end zone. The scoring play was Flowers' first rushing touchdown of the season.
GT quickly cut its deficit back to 17, thanks to a pair of big plays in the passing game. Sims dumped off a throw to Mason for a 37-yard gain. Then, the young gunslinger pump-faked and launched a 31-yard touchdown pass to Peje' Harris.
BC, which didn't punt once during the first half, wrapped up the second quarter with a 27-yard field goal to push its lead to 34-14. Even though the Eagles only got three points on the drive, they chewed up 6:43 of clock in the process, further establishing their run game. Hafley's team picked up right where it left off after intermission. Following a pair of 13-yard runs by Jurkovec, Bailey burst through the trenches for a 34-yard score. It was his longest run of the year and his first rushing touchdown since the season opener.
GT scored on its first possession of the second half, too—only it took the Yellow Jackets seven minutes and change to do so, plus a roughing the passer penalty. Palmer nearly had his second takeaway of the game with a tip-drill interception in the end zone, but the infraction nullified the pick and the safety’s 40+ yard return. It also turned a 4th-and-19 into a fresh set of downs.
Sims, who was sacked twice on the drive, made the Eagles pay at the goal line with a quarterback sneak touchdown. It’d be his third and final score of the game, because on the very first play of the Yellow Jackets’ next series, he threw his 10th pick of the season to safety Jahmin Muse. Moments later, Bailey, a game ball recipient, punched the rock into the end zone from four yards out to make it a 48-21 game. Down 27 points, Collins decided to sit his young starter.
Sims rounded out the day 12-of-18 for 171 yards through the air to go along with 47 rushing yards on 12 carries. Redshirt sophomore James Graham replaced him and led a four-minute touchdown drive at the start of the fourth quarter. A 4th-and-Goal pass interference penalty on Brandon Sebastian gifted GT with four more scoring tries. All it took was one: Brown took a jet sweep to the outside for a two-yard touchdown.
Gavin Stewart missed the extra point, but fellow freshman kicker Jude Kelley converted the subsequent onside kick, allowing the Yellow Jackets to maintain possession. GT got back to the red zone, but that’s when the comeback attempt unraveled. The Yellow Jackets turned the ball over on downs, and the Eagles started to run out the clock.
Even without running back Pat Garwo, four Eagles ball carriers logged 35 or more yards on the ground, including Jurkovec (94 rushing yards) and Flowers (36 rushing yards).
The past few weeks, Hafley has talked about how BC’s rushing attack was inches away from hitting the ground running. It finally popped off on Saturday evening.
“I thought it was coming,” he said postgame. “I thought it was coming last week, I saw it in practice. I saw the work they’ve done. Like I kept telling everybody, I would tell you the truth if I was worried about it—but I wasn’t.”
BC followed up its worst loss of the season with its most complete and decisive victory of the year. The Eagles won the turnover battle, controlled the clock, and scored on each of their five trips to the red zone.
“We have a lot of confidence,” Lewis said. “As long as we’re not shooting ourselves in the foot during game day, I feel like we control our destiny at the end of the day.”