Entering tonight's game with the football program having already achieved the first two goals of the season--win the opener and get bowl eligible--yet all but eliminated from achieving the third, stretch goal of winning the Atlantic Division, a strange feeling came over me in the hours leading up to tonight's kickoff. Something I hadn't felt in quite some time about Eagles football.
It felt like the outcome of tonight's game would determine whether the Eagles 2014 season would just be "very good"--relative to the talent on the roster and where this program was two seasons ago, anyway--or something truly special--one of those seasons that you simply never want to end a la 2007.
Boston College will have to settle for "very good" after falling to the Louisville Cardinals, 38-19, on Saturday night.
It was far from the best of starts for the Eagles. On the first play from scrimmage, Tyler Murphy's play action pass attempt to Josh Bordner was tipped and landed directly in the arms of Louisville's Gerod Holliman for his 11th interception on the year. Louisville would work the ball down to the 1 yard line, but after a false start penalty and a Will Gardner incompletion, the Cardinals would have to settle for a field goal on the drive. 3-0, Cardinals.
Boston College would answer back emphatically with a 12 play, 64 yard drive that ate up 5:31 of clock and culminated in a 1-yard Jonathan Hilliman touchdown run. The drive was extended on a 4th and 3 when Murphy found Dan Crimmins on an 8-yard strike to move the chains. Extra point...more on this below...was good. 7-3, Eagles.
On the next drive, Louisville marched 75 yards down the field to set up a 1st and goal from the BC 2 yard line. Louisville RB Brandon Radcliff fumbled the ball on a draw up the middle that was recovered by Steven Daniels at the 2 yard-line. BC and Louisville would trade possessions to end the half with BC taking a 7-3 lead after the first quarter.
If Boston College won the first quarter, then Louisville won the second with ease.
But first, early in the second, the Eagles potent rushing attack did its thing. Tyler Murphy for 28 yards...and Sherman Alston for another 36...giving BC the ball, 1st and goal at the Louisville 1-yard line. Hilliman punched it in from there for his 11th touchdown of the year (and 5th multi-touchdown game of the season). Joey Launceford's PAT was, of course, no good. BC leads 13-3.
Louisville's offense went back to work on the next drive. Between Will Gardner and Reggie Bonnafon, the Cardinals moved the ball to the BC 6 yard line. On 2nd and goal from the Louisville 6, Reggie Bonnafon scrambled and seemingly flicked the ball towards the pylon as he was going out of bounds. The referees ruled that it was an illegal forward pass--and not a fumble--which gave the Cards the ball back at the BC 7. Had the referees correctly ruled that Bonnafon fumbled the ball out of bounds, it would have been a touchback with the Eagles taking over at the 20. Upon review, the referees confirmed the call on the field.
On 3rd and goal from the 7, Gardner found Louisville star WR DeVante Parker coming back from the end zone, but he couldn't get back in. BC held at the 1 yard line. On 4th and 1, the Eagles defense stuffed Michael Dyer and took over on downs on a huge defensive stop.
Sure would have been nice to have better field position though (re: the illegal forward pass / touchback call). After avoiding taking a safety on three rushing plays from their own 1-yard line, BC punted the ball away with Eli Rogers return taking the ball to the BC 44. On 3rd and 6 from BC's 40 yard line, Gardner found DeVante Parker for a 35 yard gain, taking the ball all the way to the BC five. One play later, Brandon Radcliff walked into the end zone through a MAC truck-sized hole in the defense to cut BC's lead to 13-10.
Louisville's defense really started to buckle down after a up-and-down start to the game. After trading 3-and-outs, BC took the ball over at its own 19 yard line. A Louisville defensive pass interference call bailed out BC on 3rd and 15 to move the chains. BC could do it again, however, and on 4th and 10 from their own 29 yard line, Louisville defenders walked through the Eagles offensive line, blocking Alex Howell's punt attempt and taking over at the BC 25.
After an offensive holding call negated a big gain, Louisville only needed just one play to, who else but, DeVante Parker who pulled down the ball for the go-ahead touchdown. 17-13, Louisville at the half.
Louisville would open the second half with the ball, not with Will Gardner but with Reggie Bonnafon engineering a 14-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 7 minutes and 46 seconds (!) and ended with a 12-yard Eli Rogers touchdown strike. Bonnafon converted on all three third down attempts on the drive, utilizing his talented receiving weapons and his legs, Tyler Murphy-ing the BC defense.
Murphy would answer right back, using not his legs but his arm, connecting with Alston (20 yards), Darmstatter (42!) and Wolford (3, TD) on a 7-play, 71-yard drive that was aided by a 15-yard Louisville personal foul penalty. Down 5 points, BC went for two but the try was unsuccessful. 24-19, Louisville.
Early in the fourth quarter, Tyler Murphy picked up a big first down on a 3rd and 10 where he scrambled and juked a Louisville defender to go out of bounds right at the sticks. Three plays later on another 3rd and 10, Louisville's defense brought the house, pressuring Murphy into a bad throw and Gerod Hollman's 12th interception of the season. Hollman returned the ball to the BC 27. Louisville would need just three plays--all runs--to find paydirt, going up 31-19 with 12 minutes and change to go.
BC had the opportunity to get right back in this thing. Tyler Murphy hooked up with Dan Crimmins for a huge, 55 yard gain that put BC at the Louisville 5 yard line. The Eagles offense couldn't punch it in on first, second or third down, and on fourth, Murphy had to scramble and backtrack until a desperation heave was picked off by Sheldon Rankins in what amounted to nothing more than an arm punt.
After the defense forced a 3-and-out, Murphy, needing to throw the ball down late to move the chains, threw his fourth interception on the day to who else but Gerod Holliman--his third of the game and 13th on the season. (Just give him the Jim Thorpe Award now). Louisville's Reggie Bonnafon would then steal a page out of the Tyler Murphy playbook on 2nd and 9, faking the handoff, bootlegging and running 36 yards untouched into the end zone. 38-19, Louisville.
The usual issues--third down defense, miserable special teams and an inconsistent / nonexistent passing game--all contributed to the loss, as well as uncharacteristic (for BC, anyway) penalties. Simply aren't going to beat a team like that after all those mistakes. Louisville coach Bobby Petrino also picked an inconvenient time to figure out that Reggie Bonnafon, not Will Gardner, is the best option under center for the Cardinals.
Hats off to Louisville though, who made the Eagles pay for numerous mistakes and played, for the most part, lights out on defense. Not that it's saying much, but Louisville should prove a much tougher out than Maryland did in the ACC Atlantic Division moving forward.
The loss drops Boston College to 6-4, 3-3 on the year. Louisville improves to 7-3, 5-3 ACC. Leave your thoughts on the game below.