football Edit

The Timeline of Jurkovec’s Unexpected Return

Photo: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Photo: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

All signs pointed to Emmett Morehead starting Friday night against Virginia Tech. The true freshman quarterback split time with Dennis Grosel at Syracuse and completed downfield passes, which Boston College’s offense had been missing dearly since Phil Jurkovec suffered what appeared to be a season-ending hand injury at UMass in Week 2.

Morehead was trotted out to talk to the media last Tuesday, and second-year BC head coach Jeff Hafley emphasized his confidence in the 6-foot-5 gunslinger from Woodside, California.

Then came the rumors: tweets, message board posts, the whole lot. Jurkovec was cleared and set to play against Virginia Tech for the eighth-annual Red Bandana Game.

They ended up being true, but Jurkovec’s return after a six-game hiatus wasn’t close to guaranteed.

“This wasn’t something we were hiding or planned,” Hafley said postgame. “He got cleared [last] Friday and had not really practiced and, just being honest with you, called him in, and I would have said, at best, 50-50 chance with the amount of reps he was going to be to take, he’d be able to play.”

Hafley, a player’s coach, wanted Jurkovec to make the call. The redshirt junior did just that. He came to Hafley and offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. last Wednesday and said, “I’m playing.”

“‘I’m playing,’” Hafley recounted. “It was like that. And when Phil looks you in the eye and says that, you listen to him.”

Jurkovec ended up completing 7-of-13 passes for 112 yards and running for 65 more, eight of which came on the game’s opening touchdown. While he had moments of brilliance—like his 46-yard pass to Zay Flowers or his fourth quarter Houdini escape, where he dodged four Virginia Tech sack attempts before scampering for a gain of 12 yards—Jurkovec also threw one pick and could have had another.

As he said afterward, “It was a pretty ugly game.” But his presence mattered. Jurkovec’s ability to hit on deep shots kept the Hokies’ defense honest. And it opened up BC’s run game more.

So how exactly did Jurkovec make it back to the field so quickly when it was originally thought that he’d be out for the season with a fracture to his throwing hand?

“Whenever the injury first happened, I thought maybe a couple of games, but it didn’t look good,” Jurkovec explained. “The surgery went really well. … But the way the bone broke, it was good for blood supply. Like it was a good break. And it healed really well.”

Jurkovec said, a few weeks ago, the medical staff examined his hand and determined that it was improving to the point where a return was possible.

Hafley said Sunday that Jurkovec started throwing lightly with the team’s trainers, at first with a lighter ball and then with a heavier one, probably 10, 15, 20 yards, according to the Eagles head coach.

The week before Jurkovec was cleared, he moved his way up to throwing about 25-30 yards, per Hafley. Then he did some pat-and-go drills the Sunday after the Syracuse game.

“But the first time I saw him throw a ball live, a fully-inflated football live, was in practice last week,” Hafley said.

Hafley said that Jurkovec didn’t practice much Monday and then split first-team reps on Tuesday. When asked who the quarterback would have been Friday night had Jurkovec not been ready to go, Hafley declined to answer.

Wednesday, the day in which Jurkovec declared he was playing, he got all the first-team reps. And the same went for Thursday.

“We wouldn’t have let him play if we didn’t feel confident about him getting hit and getting hurt,” Hafley said postgame. “We were very confident in that.”Jurkovec didn’t shy away from using his legs in BC’s 17-3 win over Virginia Tech. He tucked the rock nine times for 65 yards. Not only did Cignetti call a handful of zone-read runs, but Jurkovec also fearlessly called his own number for a few scrambles.

Every time, Jurkovec got up with ease.

“It’s probably the most confident, fearless and the best leadership I’ve seen from him since we’ve been here,” Hafley said. “Not his best performance, but he threw some good balls. He had a different way about him today, and we all felt it.”

Like his absence, Jurkovec’s return has changed the complexion of BC’s season.