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No air raid, but Jurkovec’s return helped fuel the run game

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Boston College Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

At first glance, Phil Jurkovec’s return statistically speaking wasn’t the driving force behind Boston College’s bounce back 17-3 win over Virginia Tech on Friday night at Alumni Stadium.

Jurkovec only attempted 13 passes, completing 7-for-13 for a grand total of 112 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown, and had one interception (a goofy play that resulted in BC regaining the ball after a Virginia Tech fumble).

It was the run game that carried the load for the Eagles on Friday night, grinding out 234 yards and two touchdowns with a steady dose of, for the most part, Pat Garwo, who had 30 carries. BC’s ball control, time of possession, and ability to extend drives gave the once again stellar defense an opportunity to catch its breath, likely preventing some of the quick-hit collapses that befell the defense against Louisville and Syracuse.

But watching back last night’s game, you can’t help but feel like just the threat of Jurkovec and his arm made a huge difference in allowing BC to plod out yards on the ground that just weren’t there in recent weeks, when teams knew they could sell out entirely on trying to stop the run and had no reason to worry about leaving receivers like Zay Flowers open.

In particular, the 93-yard drive that started the second half and put BC up 17-0 demonstrated this effect. Jurkovec hit Flowers for a 40+ yard bomb sprinkled among a drive that featured lots of running plays, ending in Pat Garwo punching it in for a TD.

The long ball threat reminded the Hokies that a preseason all-ACC QB was under center, with the potential to continue to demonstrate growth as he settles back in. That drive was particularly crucial as going down by three scores was surely demoralizing to a Hokies team that was struggling to move the ball (a feeling Eagles fans know all too well).

In addition to Jurkovec opening up the potential for passing offense, Jurkovec himself contributed to BC’s success on the ground. He was the Eagles’ second leading rusher on the night, running for 65 yards and a touchdown. His mobility and toughness on runs when plays break down add another element teams have to scheme for and prevent the Eagles offense from being completely one dimensional, even when Garwo is getting the ball most plays.

For Jurkovec’s mere presence to continue making space for the running game, he’ll have to continue to find his throwing touch — teams will eventually adjust if it’s shown that all BC can do is pound it on the ground — but for now just having him there, as well as the versatility he offers by being able to run himself, is a major difference for this BC team that went from unable to move the ball, to in complete control last night.

BC is now 5-4 with a very winnable game on deck, followed by two home games. If Jurkovec can look like 80% of himself, the narrative surrounding this season could change entirely - even if he’s not slinging the ball all over the field.