Boston College hosted #12 North Carolina, and though the Eagles gave them a hell of a game, the Tar Heels pulled out a 26-22 victory. Phil Jurkovec (37/56 313 yards 2 TDs) went toe-to-toe with reigning Freshman All-American quarterback Sam Howell (14/26 225 yards 2 TDs 1 INT), and the BC defense did well to contain an explosive Tar Heel offense.
Alas, a late touchdown drive wasn’t enough, as UNC picked off BC’s two point conversion attempt that would have tied the game. The Eagles then appeared to have a claim for possession on the ensuing onside kick, but an officiating crew that was questionable all day awarded UNC the ball.
BC’s opening drive was stalled by two sacks, and UNC’s offense came out sharp with a 12 play 83 yard drive. Howell connected with Khafre Brown for a 24 yard touchdown pass to put the Tar Heels ahead early.
The North Carolina defense continued to infiltrate the backfield, but Jurkovec managed the pressure well, first escaping the grasp of a defender and throwing a 30 yard strike to CJ Lewis, then finding Travis Levy while taking a hit on the next play. Hunter Long absorbed a violent shot to the midsection on third down, which prompted Coach Hafley to bark, “We got a guy hurt, and they’re cheering,” presumably to fire up his own sideline. The Eagles settled for a 35 yard Aaron Boumerhi field goal to make it 7-3.
Hafley, perhaps in a stab at vengeance, called for an onside kick attempt, which went out of bounds. UNC made quick work of the 58 yard field, needing just 6 plays before Javonte Williams found the end zone from 1 yard out.
BC badly needed to get something going on the ground, and a big 3rd down pickup by David Bailey set up a play action pass to Long that put the Eagles in UNC territory. However, they settled for another Boumerhi field goal, which cut the lead to 14-6.
An inexplicable fair catch on the ensuing kickoff left UNC in the shadow of their own goalpost. Jahmin Muse came flying around the edge and got a hit on Howell as he threw, which deflected the ball high in the air, before Brandon Sebastian tracked it down for an interception. Three plays later, Bailey slipped out of the backfield towards the sideline, and Jurkovec found him for his first career TD reception.
Sam Howell’s status as a top ACC quarterback was particularly evident on a 41 yard touchdown pass later in the 2nd quarter. The BC secondary had the Heels well covered, but Howell scrambled around to buy more time, before hitting Williams for a 41 yard touchdown pass that put UNC up 21-13.
One of the most refreshing differences between Jeff Hafley and his predecessor is Hafley’s opportunistic approach to the closing minutes of the half. Jurkovec marched the Eagles 62 yards in 1:09, before missing an open Long in the end zone. Still, the aggressive approach paid dividends, as Boumerhi cheekily banked one off the upright, and BC went into the half down 21-16.
The Tar Heels opened the scoring in the third. After a pass interference call that nullified an interception and two consecutive personal foul penalties on BC, UNC kicked a field goal to take a 24-16 lead.
Carolina had a chance to put the game away late in the 4th, but their 47 yard field goal attempt missed wide left. Just three starts into his career, Jurkovec already appears comfortable with the game on the line. He led BC down the field on a 15 play, 69 yard drive. After a big completion to Zay Flowers put BC at the 10, Jurkovec connected with CJ Lewis in the end zone, however it was called back on a questionable offensive pass interference. Lewis would get his revenge a few plays later, hauling in a slant for a score that made it 24-22.
On for the two point conversion attempt, Jurkovec faked the hand off and rolled to his right, but couldn’t find an open receiver. Trey Morrison intercepted the desperation pass attempt and returned it the length of the field to put the Tar Heels up 26-22. I’m still a bit mystified by the officials ruling on BC’s onside kick attempt, but so it goes.
A hard fought loss drops BC to 2-1 on the season. They’ll host Pitt next Saturday in Chestnut Hill.