Win or lose, Boston College football games have been undeniably entertaining this season. The Eagles held off Malik Cunningham and the Louisville Cardinals 34-27 in Saturday night’s home finale, and improved to 6-4 (5-4) on the season. BC overcame game-ending injuries to their starting quarterback and running back to gain bowl eligibility, and won five conference games for the first time since 2009. Let’s take a look at some keys to the game:
Dennis Grosel - Pressed into action with just one snap under his belt all season (a clutch 4th down conversion mind you), Grosel rose to the challenge. Coach Hafley extolled the leadership of his backup quarterback, which was on full display as he helped the Eagles stave off Louisville’s unrelenting offensive attack in the 4th quarter.
Grosel’s first full drive covered 84 yards in just 8 plays, and two of those plays were cut for the highlight reel. First, Grosel flipped the field with an unexpected 44 yard scamper:
Then he threw a nice ball to CJ Lewis in the back of the end zone, which Lewis managed to snag with one hand after untangling from the defender:
David Bailey/Offensive Line - In our game preview, I wondered if Travis Levy might start seeing more of the running workload, but Bailey put up a very solid 10 carry 53 yard 2 TD line before going down with injury.
The offensive line not only opened up holes, but seemed to relish out-muscling the Louisville front, and pushed entire piles forward on several occasions. The line also shined in pass protection: Louisville did not record a single sack or QB hurry.
Defense - BC always struggles with dual threat quarterbacks, and Malik Cunningham was no exception. Cunningham accounted for 427 of Louisville’s 493 yards. He finished 19/31 294 yards 2 TD 1 INT passing, to go along with 17 carries for 133 yards. The Eagles again struggled to get off the field on 3rd down (The Cardinals were 7/12), and didn’t generate much of a pass rush.
The most egregious defensive lapse occurred late in the fourth quarter. After Grosel connected with Jehlani Galloway for what seemed like a game sealing TD that put BC up 34-20 with under 5 minutes remaining, the Cardinals scored on their very next play from scrimmage. Cunningham hit Dez Fitzpatrick on a screen pass, and poor angles of pursuit, lack of speed, and good blocking led to a 69 yard touchdown that made it a game again.
Louisville Turnovers - It must be positively maddening for Louisville fans to watch an offense with so much fire power continue to plague themselves with turnovers. This team has way too much talent to be 3-7. The Cardinals now hold a -1.4 turnover margin, which ranks 123 out of 127 FBS teams. BC, on the other hand, ranks 20th with a +0.9 margin, and that was ultimately the difference in this game. While BC’s lone turnover was costly (a Jurkovec fumble inside the UL 3 that you could definitely argue should have been blown dead), the Cardinals seemed to cough it up without much coaxing. BC capitalized with 10 points off of the two fumbles, and Shitta Sillah’s interception was a game-ender.