While Boston College explored the possibilities of its passing attack over the first five games of the season, running back David Bailey patiently waited his turn.
A year ago, Bailey, a 6-foot, 236-pound junior with a punishing mix of power and speed, seemed like a carbon copy of A.J. Dillon. When Dillon made the jump to the NFL as a second-round draft choice of the Green Bay Packers after rewriting BC’s record books, he repeatedly said Bailey would pick up where he left off.
But through BC’s first five games under first-year head coach Jeff Hafley, Bailey didn’t see nearly the same amount of touches. He carried the ball just 58 times for 189 yards and one touchdown.
Hafley said Bailey’s time would come. Bailey never complained. Bailey’s 13 carries for a season-high 83 yards an two touchdowns in Saturday’s 48-27 win over Georgia Teech may have been modest compared to some of his best days in a BC uniform, but the performance anchored a rushing attack that racked up 264 yards on the ground vs. the Yellow Jackets and and re-established Bailey as a threat out of the backfield.
“I gave him a game ball,” Hafley said. "And I’ll tell you, I said to the team, the game ball wasn’t just for his  yards and two touchdowns tonight. It’s for how he’s handled himself and how he’s been a great teammate. He hasn’t flinched. He hasn’t pointed fingers or come up and said, ‘Coach, why am I not getting the football?’
“Which epitomizes what this team is all about. They believe in each other. He’s going to get his touches, and he’ll probably get more and more. But some games, you know, [he] just might have to block. So I appreciate him.”
Bailey, who rushed for 844 yards and seven touchdowns last season, found the end zone for the second time this season on a 34-yard breakaway in the third quarter. It was his sixth career touchdown run of at least 29 yards.
“He’s been great with it all,” said quarterback Phil Jurkovec, who spearheaded BC’s rushing attack with seven carries for 94 yards, the most by a BC quarterback since Patrick Towles ran 10 times for 104 yards and a touchdown in a 28-20 loss to Syracuse Oct. 22, 2016.
“[He’s] always doing his job," Jurkovec said of Bailey. "He’s out there blocking, taking the check-downs, doing everything he needs [to do] just to help the offense win. He hasn’t gotten the touches he would like, but today he showed that whenever he does get the ball, he’s really hard for a defense to tackle. Credit to him, just because of the team player that he’s been.”
Scoop and score
Scooping up loose footballs has been drilled into BC’s defense so much that when safety Michael Palmer saw the ball get stripped out of the arms of Georgia Tech running back Jordan Mason early in the second quarter, he didn’t hesitate about what to do with it.
While everyone was on the ground, Palmer spotted the ball, snagged it, and sprinted 33 yards for the score.
“I was just kind of running into the pile and it happened to just kind of come right out to my feet,” Palmer said. “In practice, we talk about greedy scoops and just scooping everything up because you never know. So I just know it came to me, I scooped it up and just started running.”
Palmer, as a result, scored his first career touchdown, the first defensive touchdown of the season for the Eagles, and their first fumble recovery for a score since Will Harris ran one back in 2017 against Syracuse.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Palmer said. “Sometimes things go your way and that was one of those times where it kind of went my way. So I’m glad we practice that every day and, and practicing and finish every play until you hear a whistle.”
After every game, win or lose, Hafley has gotten a text from Doug Flutie.
“To me, it’s still like Doug Flutie shows up on my phone,” Hafley said. “I think like, I’m a kid again and that’s the coolest thing in the whole world.”
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has reached out to Hafley, too.
“He’s fired up,” Hafley said.
Both former BC quarterbacks have been keeping a close eye on the Eagles and Jurkovec, who has directed the second-best passing attack in the ACC after throwing for 1,526 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first five games.
Flutie and Ryan reached out to Jurkovec as well and the Notre Dame transfer said he could feel the support from the two BC legends.
“That means the world to me because they played here and they did great things here,” Jurkovec said. “So we’re going to try to lean on them as much as we can and take any advice and help.”
When Hafley took the head coaching job last December, one of his goals was to connect with players from past eras. The COVID-19 pandemic altered those plans, but building that bridge is still a priority.
“I think it’s important for me to reach out to the alumni and make them feel welcome,” Hafley said. "And it’s hard, right? Because like I got here and everything, my whole world got flipped upside down. But my goal in spring ball, I wanted to open this thing up to alumni.
“I wanted everybody who wanted to come back — whether you were a four-year starter and an All-American to somebody who barely played — I want them to realize that this is their team. It is it’s not me, this is their team. This is what they built. And they’ve laid the foundation, and I want those guys around. And that’s going to be very, very important for me in the future.”
BC’s secondary suffered a setback when sophomore cornerback Josh DeBerry was ejected for targeting with 11:58 left in the second quarter. DeBerry was called for his helmet-to-helmet hit on sliding Georgia Tech quarterback Jeff Sims, who made the Eagles pay on the very next play when he connected on a 32-yard TD pass to Ahmarean Brown . . . Saturday’s victory marked BC’s first at home against Georgia Tech since a 24-10 triumph at Alumni Stadium in 2007 . . . The 48 points BC represented the third-best output in an ACC game for the Eagles, who tallied 58 at Syracuse last Nov. 2, and 52 vs. North Carolina State in 2009. The 34 first-half points BC scored were the most of any half this season for the Eagles . . . For the second week in a row, BC’s offense totaled 409 yards after going for 435 last week at Virginia Tech. The last time the Eagles produced back-to-back 400-yard games was last November at Syracuse (691) in a 58-27 win and vs. Florida State (508) in a 38-31 loss . . . Junior wide receiver CJ Lewis had four catches for 58 yards recorded the first multi-touchdown game in his 26-game career, highlighted by a pair of first-quarter catches of 7 and 5 yards from that gave BC a 14-0 lead . . . Redshirt freshman running back Patrick Garwo III was listed as unavailable to play Saturday after suffering a knee injury in practice Thursday . . . The Eagles had another round of successful COVID-19 testing, with no positive results again this week. Since returning for voluntary workouts in June, BC has administered more than 5,500 tests with just one positive test result.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.