Inside the Breakout Game of ACC WR of the Week Zay Flowers
During Saturday’s postgame press conference, Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec was asked what it’s like to work with Zay Flowers.
Jurkovec shook his head while exhaling before answering confidently.
“He’s just going to be a problem for a lot of defenses,” the Notre Dame transfer said.
Flowers reeled in five passes for 162 yards and a score at Duke and, on Monday, became the first Eagle to earn ACC Wide Receiver of the Week honors since Alex Amidon in 2013. Flowers’ 162 receiving yards are the seventh-most by a BC player in a single game since 1996.
What’s more, no player in Eagles history has had more receiving yards in a single game with fewer catches than Flowers had on Saturday versus the Blue Devils.
“Once he gets loose, once that ball’s in his hands, you saw how he can make guys miss,” Jurkovec said. “He’s so elusive.”
Jurkovec added: “I missed him a few times. I need to get him the ball as much as possible.”
The redshirt sophomore found the speedy receiver on the first drive of the game. It was a 3rd-and-7, and Flowers motioned across the backfield prior to the snap. As soon as Jurkovec called “hike,” Flowers shot seven yards upfield before cutting inside. Jurkovec hit him at the edge of the Duke logo, and the sophomore wideout went to work.
Flowers immediately broke a leg tackle, then pumped the brakes before juking out Blue Devils safety Michael Carter II and cutting back inside. Just when it looked like Flowers was gunning for the middle of the field, he stopped on a dime, turning around a lost Carter, and then pivoted in the other direction. Marquis Waters joined in on the chase, as did Duke cornerback Mark Gilbert, but neither could bring Flowers down. In fact, Flowers simply ran around a Gilbert arm tackle, even going backwards a few yards, like a kid playing football at recess.
The video game run ended with one last juke at the Blue Devils’ 15-yard line. All in all, it was a 40-yard pass-and-catch, but Flowers probably covered 50 yards of ground on the play.
After that, the Duke secondary started to key in on the shifty 5-foot-11 playmaker. He added one more reception before intermission, yet it wasn’t until the second half that he blew the top off the Blue Devils’ defense.
“Zay is just a guy that is good at the line, he can accelerate, he’s got good shoulder movement, and then he can run away from people,” said Hafley, who was impressed with the way his staff came up with ways to put Flowers in 1-on-1 situations in the second half.
Following a missed Duke field goal, Frank Cignetti Jr.’s offense changed the game. The momentum-shifting, four-play touchdown drive began with a 27-yard Flowers hookup. Once again, though, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. native did a lot of the work himself.
Pre-snap, Flowers motioned left before faking the jet sweep and veering toward the sideline. Jurkovec rolled right, while the entire O-Line moved left, setting up shop to block for Flowers as if he was returning a punt. Jurkovec planted his feet, fired a pass across the field to Flowers, and the sophomore flew up field like a pinball in a pinball machine.
Two plays later, Flowers hauled in a pass just beyond the sticks on an out route. After regaining his balance, the show stopping wide receiver sidestepped Duke cornerback Leonard Johnson. He then sprinted forward to cap another gain of 27 yards.
Maybe the highlight of the day came on the next series. On the first play of the drive, actually.
Jurkovec faked the handoff and rolled to his right. There it was. Flowers and a sea of green. After the game, Jurkovec walked reporters through his thought process in the moment.
“Get him the ball! Jurkovec said excitedly. “Throw it, and he’ll run under it. Just lead him. Throw the ball—it doesn’t matter really what angle you put him at, he’s going to be able to run under that. Just get him the ball as quick as possible.”
That’s exactly what he did. Jurkovec stepped into a 61-yard bomb to Flowers, who caught the pass cleanly and trotted his way into the end zone for his first score of the year.
“I already knew nobody was there,” said Flowers, who talked postgame about how he’s using his hands and double moves to create more separation off the line this year. “I hit him with the 1-2, and I already knew I was out. It was over.”
The 61-yard play made Flowers BC’s first wide receiver to eclipse the 150-yard mark since 2012 (also Alex Amidon). Perhaps the craziest stat is that Flowers, despite a hot start to the 2019 season, only had 108 combined receiving yards over the course of the final seven games of last season. On Saturday, he bested that total by 54 yards.
“To be a part of this offense, I get to show what I can do now, instead of just taking handoffs the whole year. I get to actually run routes now—show everybody I can run routes, that I’m not just a jet sweep guy.”