With Boumerhi Game-Winner, BC Dodges Texas State Upset
Aaron Boumerhi paced 10 yards back and forth from the Boston College 25-yard line between three successive Texas State timeouts under the Saturday night lights of Alumni Stadium.
Jeff Hafley didn’t know if he should go out there to talk to Boumerhi or leave him be—after all, it was the 41-year-old’s second career game as a head coach.
It was a unique situation for Boumerhi, too. The graduate student had never been frozen three times in a row, not to mention that it was his first game back from a second right hip surgery. But he treated the potential 36-yard game-winner like any other kick, even the 47-yarder that was blocked in the opening quarter.
Boumerhi remained calm, practiced his steps, and checked the wind after each timeout. When the ball was finally snapped, the former Temple walk-on took three steps and swung his leg through a perfect kick. The field goal split the uprights, dividing the crowd of cardboard cutouts and helping BC complete its 14-point comeback for a home-opening victory.
“That was very special getting that kick,” said Boumerhi, who was toppled on the sideline by his jubilant teammates after converting the game-winning field goal. “You can’t even describe that feeling.”
Texas State (1-3, 1-0 Sun Belt) was awfully close to becoming the next Sun Belt team to pull off a program-defining upset in 2020. The Bobcats, who were searching for their first-ever win over a Power Five opponent, outgained BC (2-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast), 302-117, through two and a half quarters of play.
Jake Spavital’s team struck first blood late in the opening frame. Following Boumerhi’s blocked field goal, Texas State quarterback Brady McBride guided the Bobcats on a nine-play, 70-yard scoring drive. The series was jumpstarted by a 29-yard Jeremiah Haydel toss and culminated in a Calvin Hill touchdown run off an outside pitch. All in all, Texas State totaled 215 yards in the first half.
The Eagles, on the other hand, looked out of sorts on offense. While mostly accurate, Phil Jurkovec was holding onto the ball way too long in the pocket. Similar to his first-half performance at Duke, the Notre Dame transfer tried to extend plays when they weren’t there, and it resulted in a pair of sacks, as well as an interception right before intermission. Really the only way BC was moving the ball was because of play-action screen passes. Travis Levy, who finished with seven receptions and a team-high nine rushing attempts, was often the beneficiary.
BC’s defense essentially gifted the Eagles their only touchdown of the half. McBride unloaded a bomb downfield for Haydel after he thought BC jumped offside. No flag was thrown, the pass was deflected by Josh DeBerry, and Mike Palmer corralled the tip-drill interception. As soon as the ball was in his hands, the graduate safety was only thinking about one thing.
“Run,” Palmer said before chuckling. “I was a little bit surprised at first, because I looked up, and I think the closest guy was one of the linemen on the hash. I’ve never seen that much space before since I got to college.”
He took the interception 70 yards down to the Texas State six-yard line. A few plays later, the 6-foot-5 Jurkovec followed his O-Line for the first of his two quarterback sneak touchdowns.
Then things got ugly for the Eagles. Jahmin Muse was ejected for targeting, Hunter Long was sandwiched by three Bobcat defenders on an ill-advised throw down the seam, Maryland grad transfer Deon Jones left the game with an undisclosed injury after trying to make a tackle, and DeBerry dropped an easy interception. BC’s secondary was hurting.
A late second quarter drive that included a McBride hurdle to move the chains and a barreling, 20-yard Jahmyl Jeter run, was wrapped by a one-handed, Marcell Barbee touchdown grab. It’s become a weekly theme for the junior, who finished with four catches for 45 yards and two scores. Barbee beat Elijah Jones off the line with a stutter-step move before spotting up for the touchdown on the goal line fade to give Texas State a 14-7 lead prior to the half.
Zay Flowers and Long combined for one first-half reception, David Bailey—who was used sparingly all night—only had 20 rushing yards, and BC, as a team, was being held to 3.9 yards per play. Once again, the Eagles had their work cut out for themselves going into the second half.
To make matters worse for Hafley and Co., Texas State stitched together a 13-play, 87-yard touchdown drive on its first series of the third quarter, one that spanned 6:04. Looking like a magician at times, the elusive McBride found Barbee on a screen pass near the goal line for six. Barbee made the catch and juked out Brandon Sebastian before reaching the paint.
Facing a 14-point deficit against a three-score underdog, the Eagles were in trouble. On the ensuing drive, however, tight ends Spencer Witter and Long teamed up for three receptions to finally get the gears churning. In the waning seconds of the third quarter, Jurkovec piled forward for another rushing touchdown to make it a 21-14 game.
“I knew it would come down to the defense,” Hafley said. “And I kept telling them that. We needed to get our offense the ball back quicker and get them in some rhythm.”
The Eagles made their head coach proud.
BC came up with critical stops on four consecutive drives. True freshman Kam Arnold was at the heart of the first two, forcing an errant McBride throw and then stuffing Bobcats running back Brock Sturges two yards behind the line of scrimmage on a 3rd-and-1. The third was an Isaiah McDuffie sack that set the stage for BC’s game-tying touchdown.
Following the quarterback takedown, Jarron Morris was flagged for targeting on the ensuing Texas State punt. That penalty, along with a roughing the passer call inside the red zone, played a big part in the Eagles’ touchdown drive, which ended in a five-yard pass to Long.
Jones stopped Barbee short of the 1st Down marker on the next Texas State drive to round out a quick Bobcats three-and-out, giving BC close to a minute to march downfield for a game-winning score. It was a two-minute drill sequence that Long says BC ran more than a dozen times during training camp.
The Eagles’ execution was undoubtedly convincing. Using the short-to-intermediate passing game, BC methodically pushed the ball into Bobcat territory. Jurkovec, who completed 12 of his final 14 passes, including 5-of-6 on BC’s last drive, was dialed in—as was Long, who clocked out with a career-high nine catches for 81 yards. The redshirt junior reeled in the final completion of the night, inching Boumerhi closer to his eventual 36-yard game-winner.
When all was said and done, the Eagles walked off the field with a mere 297 total yards of offense to their name. And that was against a Texas State defense that came into this week ranked 47th of the 52 participating FBS teams, having allowed an average of 495.7 yards per game through three weeks of competition. It wasn’t pretty, but that doesn’t bother Hafley.
“I don’t care how we win games,” the rookie head coach said.
“I want to get better, and we’re going to coach better. Trust me. But I’m not going to make an excuse ever for winning a game. I told the guys in the locker room, this is what our team is. They’ve been up against it. And we don’t flinch.”