Yesterday’s heartbreaking loss still leaves much for BC fans to be hopeful for. After 2 strong wins to open up the season, fingers were crossed that the Eagles could pull off the upset over the 12th ranked North Carolina Tarheels. In today’s game, they were one play away from pulling it off. While it hurts to come so close, this game was an invaluable experience for the Eagles with plenty of takeaways.
- To start with a positive: Phil Jurkovec is the REAL deal. Jurkovec was 37-56 for 313 yards and 2 TDs. Yes, he threw the pick on the 2-point play that would’ve tied the game, but BC would not have been in that spot if he hadn’t led a 15 play drive that ended with throwing the TD that put BC in position to tie the game. Throw in the two-minute drill Jurkovec conducted at the end of the half that led to a BC field goal, and the QB proved he is the leader fans were hoping for. Jurkovec was able to make throws with free blitzers in his face and extend plays by scrambling or shedding tacklers. While Jurkovec is not a finished product by any means (for example, he missed an open Hunter Long for a TD on that end of half drive), but to quote Full Metal Jacket: “He’s got guts, and guts is enough.”
- A concerning take-away is how the offensive line struggled at times to protect Jurkovec. Jurkovec was making a lot of throws with defenders in his face. While he is a big, sturdy QB it is still risky to have him exposed to those types of hits game after game. It also limits the type of plays the Eagles can run. A bunch of quick throws will stack the box just as much as running on every down did. For this offense to run the way I think Frank Cignetti wants it to run, the O-line needs to give Jurkovec time to throw, which will open up the run game even more.
- Next up are two redshirt juniors to look out for. Isaiah McDuffie could be a real playmaker for this defense, along with Max Richardson. McDuffie totaled 12 tackles, including 9 solo tackles. He had one bad personal foul penalty, but putting that aside he seems like a real playmaker on a defense that could use more of them. Another player who stepped up was CJ Lewis. With the loss of Kobay White, it was clear that the Eagles were missing a playmaker on offense. While Jurkovec focused on Hunter Long through most of the game, it was Lewis who made the big touchdown catch to go along with his 30 yard reception earlier in the game.
- The last big take-away is the defense. The BC defense continues to be a bit of a head-scratcher. BC’s defensive performance isn’t great: the Tarheels gained 401 yards of offense and moved the ball up and down the field easily, especially in the first half. BC let UNC convert several 3rd and long situations and gave up multiple big plays. The Eagles also had some trouble keeping UNC QB Sam Howell in the pocket. Howell would either scramble and find an open wideout or scramble for positive yards. Howell threw for 225 yards, 2 TDs, and 8.9 yards per pass attempt. The UNC ground game was able to produce some big plays too, rushing for 176 yards on an average of 4.5 yards per carry.
But you can’t call the Eagles performance terrible either, as the second half saw improvement on the defensive end. BC held UNC to three points in the second half (excluding the 2 point UNC got from the return on the 2 point conversion) and came up with three sacks. Brandon Sebastian grabbed a crucial interception that led to BC’s first TD. The Eagles continue to have a “bend don’t break” defense. They are is giving up yards and points, but the unit has also made big plays when they’ve really needed to. This isn’t a sustainable way to run defense, but being able to hold a very talented UNC offense to only three points in the second half is a good sign. It would. of course, make things a lot easier if the Eagles could put in that kind of performance in both halves. The defense has a lot of room for improvement, but over the first three games the unit has played better than many fans expected.