Boston College football coach Jeff Hafley told his players all week that they were going to win Saturday’s game vs. Texas State in the fourth quarter.
Whether they were up or down at that point didn’t matter. He was confident they’d make the necessary plays to prevail.
The Eagles (2-0) fell behind by 14 midway through the third, trailed by seven entering the fourth, and were still down by seven with under two minutes remaining, but they managed to rally for an improbable 24-21 win over the Bobcats (1-3) in their home opener at Alumni Stadium. The 14-point comeback is tied for the third-largest deficit overcome in a win in BC history.
Quarterback Phil Jurkovec found Hunter Long for a 5-yard touchdown with 1:11 to go. The defense forced a quick punt, Jurkovec orchestrated another drive, and Aaron Boumerhi calmly drilled a 36-yard field goal with three seconds remaining after the Bobcats iced him three times.
It wasn’t always pretty, and in many ways BC was fortunate to escape with a victory, but the Eagles were able to play their best football in the game’s defining moments and remain undefeated.
“Our games are going to be played like that this year,” Hafley said. “I mean that. We’re going to fight, and it doesn’t matter who comes out of the tunnel. We’re going to play and play.”
All I can say is…. 2-0 https://t.co/4MtusJBuOW
— AJ “The Sauce” Dillon (@ajdillon7) September 27, 2020
The Eagles didn’t play their best early in the game.
Before the late-game heroics, BC’s offensive showing was inconsistent at best. After a dominant second half against Duke a week ago, the Eagles looked predictable and tame on offense early vs. Texas State.
Mike Palmer’s interception at 71-yard return set up a 2-yard touchdown run from Jurkovec early in the second, but that was the Eagles’ only score of the half as they went into the break trailing 14-7.
“I was getting a little bit greedy, trying to make plays downfield instead of taking what they were giving us,” Jurkovec said.
At halftime, the Bobcats had a 104-57 edge in rushing yards and a 111-52 advantage in receiving yards. Everything was difficult for BC on offense, and the Bobcats managed to zap the flow out of the game and limit the Eagles’ playmakers.
Texas State extended its lead to 21-7 with 6:49 left in the third. The Eagles didn’t sugarcoat anything after the game, and Jurkovec acknowledged they “weren’t playing well” most of the night.
The production came in flashes, but it wasn’t consistent. Then suddenly, once they started running out of time, the Eagles delivered.
“We were out of our rhythm for a while there,” Long said. “We never lost confidence. I have all the confidence in the world with Phil.”
A pivotal drive late in the third quarter set the stage for a thrilling comeback.
Down 21-7 late in the third, the Eagles were in desperate need of a score.
Jurkovec found a redshirt freshman tight end Spencer Witter for a 22-yard reception – the first catch of his career – on third and 13. David Bailey picked up a first down, then Jurkovec ran it in himself from 3 yards out to slice the deficit to 21-14 with 12 seconds left in the third.
The defense played its football best late, forcing three straight punts in the fourth quarter and giving the offense a chance.
“I knew it would come down to the defense, and I kept telling them that,” Hafley said. “We needed to get our offense back the ball quicker and get them in a rhythm. We weren’t doing that.”
The offense couldn’t capitalize initially, but with 3:15 left, Jurkovec and Co. got in a groove. Once the Eagles got hot, there was nothing Texas State could do to curb the momentum.
Phil Jurkovec orchestrated two clutch drives late in the fourth.
Hafley joked after the game that maybe the coaches need to always tell Jurkovec it’s the fourth quarter and the Eagles need to score quickly.
“I looked at him at the end, on those two drives, and said, ‘This is what we’ve talked about. Go play ball, man. Just let it rip,’ and he did,”Hafley said.
Jurkovec found Long for 6 yards, Travis Levy for 5, Zay Flowers for 5, Jaelen Gill for 11, and Long for 5, for five straight completions. A roughing the passer penalty moved the Eagles even closer, and two plays later, Jurkovec hit Long in stride for a touchdown.
Cool. Under. Pressure.
Jurkovec goes 7-for-8 on the game-tying drive with three completions to the tight end Long.#ForBoston🦅
📺 https://t.co/qi5jNURjTF pic.twitter.com/zwnw80kL2A
— BC Football (@BCFootball) September 27, 2020
Boumerhi nailed the all-important extra point, which evened the score at 21 with 1:11 to go. The Bobcats still had a chance to win it, but the Eagles ensured they never got close. Marcus Valdez applied pressure on second down, and Texas State came up short on third down, which led to yet another punt.
BC had it at its own 32 with 47 seconds left, which was more than enough time for Jurkovec. He hit Long for 14, Levy for 8, Flowers for 15, Levy for 8, and Long for 4, making his first half seem like a distant memory. Jurkovec finished 26 of 38 for 210 yards and a touchdown in the air, and 158 of those yards came in the second half and 89 in the fourth quarter.
“We got in a groove at the end,” Long said.
It came down to Aaron Boumerhi’s leg.
With the game on the line, Boumerhi got into position to kick the final field goal. Then a timeout came, and he got set up again. Then another timeout, and once more he got prepared. A third timeout came, and that one was – mercifully – the last one.
“That was something else,” said Boumerhi, who added that he’s never been iced three times at any level.
Couldn’t have done this without my amazing family, teammates, football staff and coaches! Love this team! How ‘bout a little 🧊 in September eh! 2-0 https://t.co/DyCICJOx4w
— Aaron Boumerhi (@aaron__boumerhi) September 27, 2020
Hafley said he considered approaching Boumerhi, but he opted to leave him alone because of how much confidence he had in him. Boumerhi, who underwent a second hip surgery this offseason and missed Week 1, rewarded that trust.
He drilled the kick, and the Eagles made one final play on special teams to end the game, and the just like that, the comeback was complete.
“It was pretty awesome,” Boumerhi said of the celebration following his kick. “I was on the sideline going crazy. We were all just hitting each other back and forth. I think too many guys hit me at once, and I ended up on the ground. … That was very special getting that kick. You can’t really describe it.”
WE TURNT pic.twitter.com/tQ1OtP8RGl
— BC Football (@BCFootball) September 27, 2020
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