Hello friends! It’s pretty wild to think about, but we’re about to hit the penultimate game of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football regular season, which also happens to be the final home game and Senior Day 2022 for a number of guys we’ve grown to love watching in this program.
Last week, our Irish got out to a huge lead against a bad Navy Midshipmen team, only to squander it all in the second half and make us all nervous we might have another Marshall/Stanford situation on our hands. Luckily, they did just enough to escape with a win, get to 7-3, and earn the #18 ranking in this week’s CFP Rankings.
Now, they will play host to the 3-7 Boston College Eagles, who’ve had a season full of disappointment and injuries, but also just upset #16 NC State on the road with a dramatic go-ahead touchdown late in the 4th quarter.
So, knowing they’re hungry for more positive results and now have some confidence from beating a good team, what should Irish fans expect from this BC squad matching up against one of the weirdest and most inconsistent teams in America?
Well, since I’m no expert on BC football, I reached out to Curran Schestag, Staff Writer at SB Nation’s BC site, BC Interruption. Curran was generous enough to answer a number of questions about the Eagles and the Irish, spanning topics such as how BC fans feel about their coach, what the future looks like at the QB position, and commenting on some amazing old news articles about BC/ND match-ups well before my time.
So, let’s not waste any more time — time to dive into what Curran has to say and prepare ourselves for a cold, emotional final game in Notre Dame Stadium for this 2022 season!
1. Jeff Hafley’s first two seasons at Boston College were pretty okay with 6-5 and 6-6 records, but the Eagles are 3-7 this season in a year where it felt like they were supposed to be better, at least from an outsider’s perspective.
Were BC fans and those who follow the program closer expecting this type of season? What has gone wrong and do you think Hafley can get it turned around easily, or are Eagles fans concerned he may not be the right fit?
BC Interruption: There is no doubt about it, this season has been a disaster for Boston College. Phil Jurkovec was finally healthy, Jeff Hafley in Year 3 had most of his own players and system in place, the team featured an experienced veteran defense…and the Eagles took a massive step backwards.
The biggest issue, without a doubt, has been the offensive line. To be fair, injuries have wreaked havoc on the unit. Christian Mahogany, the only returning starter from last year’s group and a top guard prospect in the 2023 draft, tore his ACL in preseason. Finn Dirstine is also out for the year, as is Kevin Cline. Drew Kendall is currently fighting through a broken wrist, and BC has started eight (8!) different combinations along their line.
With all that said, Hafley knew his O-line group would be young and extremely inexperienced, and failed completely in preparing the unit. The result has cratered the BC offense, which features the worst running attack in the entirety of the FBS (and this is not hyperbole, the Eagles literally rank last with 61.4 YPG). Phil Jurkovec, prior to his Week 8 injury, looked like a shell of his former self. He had basically no protection, forced plays, and lacked confidence. The low point of the season was undoubtedly getting soundly beaten by a UConn team that the Eagles had never lost to before, only managing to score 3 points.
All of this has rocked the fanbase’s confidence in Hafley. The poor coaching is clearly a root issue in BC’s monstrous underperformance this season. However, the past two weeks have settled the ship, and the main reason has been redshirt freshman QB Emmett Morehead. He threw for 330 yards with 4 touchdowns in a losing effort against Duke, and followed it up with 330 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions to take down #16 NC State in Raleigh last week.
Beating NC State is without a doubt the best win of Hafley’s tenure, and I believe it bought him at the very, very least until next season to prove he’s the man to turn the program around. And I believe, if the offensive line issues can be mitigated, the Eagles have a solid offensive core in Morehead, true freshman WR Joe Griffin Jr. and true freshman RB Alex Broome.
2. Is ND fans’ favorite prodigal son Phil Jurkovec going to be healthy for this match-up, or should we expect to see Emmett Morehead on Saturday?
What does each QB bring to the table, and what weaknesses does each have that ND could attack/exploit?
BC Interruption: In his Tuesday press conference, Hafley did not name a starter and Jurkovec’s availability was not mentioned. However, he did say that Morehead would be getting more reps in the two-minute drill this week, which would seem to suggest he’s in line to draw his third consecutive start.
Let’s be honest, Morehead deserves it, too. He’s the future of the program, so the more game experience he can get — especially against stronger teams like NC State and ND — the better he will play in the future. He’s the hot hand, and he’s helped this BC offense put up some points in big spots, such as this clutch dime to Joe Griffin Jr. to give BC the lead against the Wolfpack with seconds left to play.
He has more pure arm talent than Jurkovec does, has done a better job of taking what the defense gives him, and he just seems to fit better in McNulty’s offense. On the other hand, the past two games have been the first he has started since his junior year of high school. The inexperience is definitely a factor; he threw two red zone picks against NC State that almost (and likely should’ve) cost the Eagles the game.
Jurkovec has that experience that Morehead does not (even if he has not necessarily played like it). His biggest advantage over Morehead is likely his toughness. He has an NFL physique at 6’5 and 214 pounds, and he is more willing to put his body on the line to extend plays. Also, it is his homecoming — should he draw the start he’s likely to play with an extra edge. Unfortunately, he just simply has not played like the star that BC was hoping coming into the season. Obviously the abysmal O-line in front of him has contributed, but even with decent protection he’s missed open receivers and made some terrible decisions.
3. Let’s use this question to do two things:
- Brag about how awesome Zay Flowers is, and what makes him special...
BC Interruption: Zay Flowers leads the ACC in receiving yards with 921, is second in TDs with 10, and is second in receptions with 67. He just became the Boston College all-time receiving yards leader last week. The guy who has him beat in TDs and receptions is Josh Downs, who has Heisman candidate Drake Maye throwing to him. What Zay has done this season is ridiculous. In a lost season, on an offense that has struggled mightily, Zay has consistently produced. This is even more impressive when considering that he’s a senior and easily could opt out of playing to prepare for the draft; instead he is playing harder than ever.
He is simply always open. Even though defenses have been keying on him all season long, he is always open. NC State features one of the toughest defenses in the country, and Zay gashed their secondary for 130 yards and two touchdowns. All seven of his catches went for a first down. He is extremely quick, and makes defenders miss in the open field. He’s a lock for the All-ACC team and likely will be one of the first WRs off the board come this year’s draft.
- Inform ND fans on what other names they should know on the BC offense
BC Interruption: In the WR group, true freshman Joe Griffin Jr. and senior Jaelen Gill are the ones to know. Joe Griffin Jr. is a massive target at 6’4”, and he’s shown great chemistry with Morehead. He went off for over a hundred yards and two touchdowns against Duke, and made a one-handed grab to give BC its win over NC State.
Gill is a steadying presence in the group. An Ohio State transfer, he has come up with some huge plays to keep the chains moving. With defenses focusing on Zay, he’s found space for some explosive plays. He’s got good hands and is great at contested catches for his smaller 5’11” stature.
I’ve already touched on BC’s horrendous struggles in the run game, but one RB who’s shown promise this year is Alex Broome. He showed his ability for chunk plays on a 40-yard touchdown dash against Louisville, and he’s carved himself a major role in the offense as the season has gone on.
One last name that you ND fans might recognize: George Takacs, the TE who transferred this past summer. He’s been huge in shoring up the O-line while also providing a safety blanket for whoever’s behind center in the passing game.
4. Which position groups on the BC defense are their relative strengths, and which ones are most likely to be exploited by ND OC Tommy Rees? Do the Eagles match up well anywhere on defense in this one?
BC Interruption: The BC defense, just like the offense, has also had its share of injuries. Starting CB Elijah Jones has missed time, as has nickel Josh DeBerry and CB CJ Burton. Senior DE Marcus Valdez is basically playing with two “bionic arms,” as Hafley put it. Like BC as a whole, this unit has had its ups and downs. Recently, it has taken the defense a few possessions before settling into the game. They gave up a touchdown to UConn on the first drive of the game, allowed Duke to walk all over them in the first half, and gave up two quick scores to NC State to open the game. In each scenario, they settled in and made the stops to give the offense a chance to win or tie. Noticeably, they also shut down Clemson for a half, allowing only a field goal and last-minute touchdown in the first half.
I like BC’s secondary against ND’s wideouts. Elijah Jones has been targeted a lot by opposing sides, but I think ND lacks that true gamebreaking WR1. Guys like Jones, DeBerry, Cole Batson and Amari Jackson have stepped up their level of play, which gives me a bit of confidence. Now, of course, Michael Mayer is one of the best tight ends in the country. Dealing with him will be the secondary’s challenge.
In terms of whom Rees will target, I worry about BC’s ability to stop the run. The Eagles pass rush is much more effective than last year’s, primarily thanks to the emergence of sophomore DE Donovan Ezeiruaku, who has six sacks and three forced fumbles.
However, this is a defensive line built prioritizing speed and quickness, and they give up a lot of size. Against ND’s massive offensive line, I think stopping the run could be a serious issue.
5. Who on the ND side scares you the most heading into this game? Is it mostly the match-up in the trenches, or do you think the BC offensive and defensive lines can compete with the Irish’s big beefy boys?
BC Interruption: Isaiah Foskey is undoubtedly the guy I am most scared about. BC’s O-line has shown marginal improvement, but this is one of the top pass-rushers in the country, and one who will certainly have a future in the NFL. BC has a strong WR core and Morehead can sling the ball, but if he’s running from Foskey all game long I don’t like our chances.
Offensively, the double-headed monster of ND’s run game in Audric Estime and Logan Diggs are frightening. I just discussed how BC’s D-line will be giving up a lot of size in taking on the Irish O-line, and if Estime and Diggs can consistently find room to run, the Irish will dictate the clock and wear BC’s defense out.
6. FAN QUESTION:
Do BC fans reminisce about 93 or do they not even care, those bastards— Xavier Bloodsaw (@wadeup1) November 13, 2022
BC Interruption: Oh, we care. That was a sweet one.
I’m sure you all remember, but that ND team had just defeated FSU in a #1 vs. #2 matchup, and then they ran into Tom Coughlin, Glenn Foley, and Co. ND’s perfect season was destroyed in front of 60,000 fans by David Gordon’s field goal.
How could we forget?
7. FAN QUESTION:
“If you could hire any former Boston College player to be the team’s head coach, regardless of qualifications, who would you pick and why?”— Ryan Kennedy (@RyanKWrites) November 14, 2022
BC Interruption: Since we’re disregarding qualifications, I’ll go with Luke Kuechly. One of the greatest players in the history of BC football, he holds the BC and ACC record for all-time tackles at 532, and was the ninth overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
Through his nine-year NFL career he won Defensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and was a five-time 1st-Team All-Pro, as well as twice being a 2nd-Team All-Pro honoree. He was one of, if not the, best linebacker of his generation and it would be pretty cool to see him come back to the Heights.
8. FAN QUESTION:
Hey, not a question, but I was looking into past ND-BC games and the 1983 Liberty Bowl seems like it was pretty funny.— John Macke (@JohnPMacke) November 14, 2022
Apparently it was 11 degrees in Memphis, and ~20% of ticketholders didn't bother to show up...and the ones that did were lighting fires in the stands? pic.twitter.com/nhSlHTNqDD
Also, same article in the Boston Globe refers to Doug Flutie as "the little gremlin of Boston College". pic.twitter.com/wATwmEOEhI— John Macke (@JohnPMacke) November 14, 2022
Editor’s Note: please comment on/react to the above in whatever way you so choose.
BC Interruption: Well, BC lost that game (by a point) so not one I like to remember. ‘93 was more fun for sure.
I honestly have no clue why the Globe referred to Doug Flutie as “the little gremlin.” I think we can agree that was pretty odd. I will say that he was the MVP of that bowl, and he probably silenced that guy a year later when he won the Heisman.
9. Alright, time to get down to it: what’s your prediction for this game? Who wins, what’s the final score, and give your reasoning why.
BC Interruption: I think the Irish take a close 24-21 contest. Notre Dame will score a touchdown or two in the first half, leaving BC chasing the game. I think that BC’s defense eventually finds a way to stuff the Irish run game and give Morehead & Co. the opportunity to put some points on the board, but ultimately fall just short of completing a comeback.
Can BC win this game? Absolutely. ND has shown that they play down to their level of competition, and BC is the sort of trap game that they have lost this season along the lines of Stanford and Marshall. If Hafley and his staff can have their team ready to play from kickoff and have an answer to the Irish run game, watch out. Drew Pyne isn’t that guy — and if Hafley can pull out another win, all of a sudden this season has some sort of positive narrative to build on.
I want to give a massive shoutout to Curran for answering all our questions, including the prompt that asked him to comment on Doug Flutie being called a “little gremlin.” I mean, he is, but I appreciate a fan and follower of Flutie and the Eagles putting up with us saying so.
I encourage you all to head over to BC Interruption ASAP in order to check out all their excellent content over there and a pretty darn engaged reader/commenter base that reminds me a bit of OFD’s — let’s have some fun chirping at each other as the only two Catholic teams in the FBS, folks! Also, Curran’s got a Q&A of his own with yours truly, so be sure to check that out.
I also insist you all go give BC Interruption a follow on Twitter for any pregame, during-game, and postgame analysis and insights and news and notes from the Eagles’ side of things over the next few days. These fellas do some excellent work and they’ve had a rough year covering a really rough team/season.