BC’s uncertain post-season future becomes more uncertain as the days goes by and more bowl games are cancelled as the Covid-19 numbers rise. Whether the Eagles go bowling or not, the regular season has come to a close and it is time to reflect and evaluate upon the season. To do so feels particularly relevant this year, as it was the first under new head coach Jeff Hafley. So let’s take a look at the positive takeaways and the negative takeaways.
Positive: BC has had only had one positive Covid-19 test since they resumed activities back in July and the Eagles were one of only three ACC schools to complete their full schedules as of this past Saturday. That is an achievement that can not be undervalued and it took a lot of hard work and discipline on the part of the players, coaches, and administration.
Negative: The Eagles defense continued to be a weak spot this year. The defense gave up 28.4 points per game, 171.4 rushing yards per game, and 245.5 passing yards per game. The Eagles defense did force 21 turnovers which was tied for the 4th best in the country and they often managed to do so at critical points in the game. But aside from the Duke game, it often felt like for the Eagles to win the game, their offense needed to score on every drive. That is not sustainable. For BC to take the next step forward the defense needs to become more consistent.
Positive: Let if fly. The Eagles went from throwing for 176.00 yards per game in 2019 to 284.18 yards per game in 2020. In college football, especially in the ACC, you need to be able to throw the ball consistently. Even Alabama, a program that was once built on a physical defense and powerful running backs, is now spreading out and throwing the pigskin all over the place. 2020 was a big step for BC as they showed they could compete in shootout-type games, something they could not do in recent years.
Negative: The elevation in the passing game seemed to come at the expense of BC’s running game. BC rushed for 253.2 yards per game in 2019 but only 101.7 per game in 2020. Whether this was due to the offensive line adjusting to a new system or whether Hafley or new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti didn’t value the run as much is hard to determine but BC just couldn’t move the ball on the ground with any consistency. Now, as mentioned an improved passing game is a good thing but having the ability to run often comes into play in very key situations (short yardage, goal-line, time of possession, running time off the clock at end of games, etc.). There must be some kind of middle ground between 253 yards per game and 102. As BC moves into the second year of the Hafley era it would be great to see a more balanced rushing attack, even if it is not the ground and pound game fans are used to.
Positive: Phil Jurkovec is the real deal. When the Notre Dame convert arrived in Chestnut Hill the question was whether Jurkovec could live up to the hype. Well, they call him Phill the Thrill now, so, so far so good. You can just look at Jurkovec’s stats and see he had an impressive season - he threw for 2,550 yards, 17 TDs, and only 5 picks. What should give Eagles fans hope is how Jurkovec looked while throwing for those yards. It was Jurkovec’s performance in big moments like against Pitt, Texas State, and even in loses against UNC, Clemson, and Notre Dame, that really stood out. Jurkovec’s athletic ability, his ability to throw under pressure, stepping into a throw even though he knows he’s going to get hit, and general toughness are things that BC can build around in a way that they haven’t been able to for a long time. BC has a chance to start climbing the ACC ladder and a big reason why is the big man at QB.
Negative: BC is losing a lot of key players to graduation and the NFL Draft: Max Richardson, Travis Levy, Kobay White, Aaron Boumerhi, and Brendan Barlow. Plus, you have to wonder if some of the redshirt juniors or juniors, such as Hunter Long, Isaiah McDuffie, Brendan Sebastian, or David Bailey will leave for the NFL Draft. This poses are greater issue for the defense than the offense as the Eagles will still have some weapons returning on offense.
Positive: Zay Flowers is the type of playmaker BC has not had in a while. We saw flashes of how explosive Flowers could be in 2019 even in Steve Addazio’s archaic offense, and in 2020 Eagles’ fans saw that potential realized.
Positive: BC was competitive against top ACC opponents even in this difficult Covid-affected season. Four of BC’s five loses came against teams ranked in the top 25, 2 of whom are going to be in the ACC championship, and BC was competitive in all of them. BC had an 18 point lead on Clemson, hung in against Notre Dame, and was one play away from overtime against UNC. In all of these games BC made one too many mistakes to come away with upsets, but 2020 shows that while BC is not a top tier ACC team yet, they are on their way.