As Jeff Hafley approached Alumni Stadium early Saturday morning, he made a conscious effort to soak in the moment.
The sights and sounds — from the fans buzzing around campus without masks to the band blasting music to his family greeting him — induced a sense of nostalgia and familiarity. After a most-unusual, pandemic-altered season in year one with Boston College, the head coach was thrilled to see the vibrancy he expected when he took the job. This was the Eagles’ first game with fans since Nov. 9, 2019, and Hafley was grateful for the support.
“It was kind of so morbid last year walking into a dead campus,” Hafley said. “This is what college football is all about. It takes all of us.”
Nearly 29,000 fans watched the Eagles pummel Colgate, 51-0, in a decisive and stress-free opener.
Here’s a closer look at BC’s first season-opening shutout since 2009:
▪ Quarterback Phil Jurkovec had a breakout season in 2020, but made it clear all offseason that he has room to grow.
He was effective against the Raiders, finishing 16 for 24 for 303 yards and three touchdowns, plus five rushes for 61 yards. Jurkovec connected with seven receivers in the first half, helping the Eagles take a 27-0 edge into halftime.
A strong first drive led to a 3-yard touchdown run from Travis Levy just over two minutes in. Jurkovec then found tight end Trae Barry for a 51-yard score, wide receiver Zay Flowers for a 39-yard TD, and freshman Jaden Williams for a 10-yard strike in the second. He didn’t force passes and waited patiently for receivers to get open before throwing darts their way.
Jurkovec, who didn’t turn the ball over, is now fifth all-time in program history with five 300-plus-yard passing games.
“Everybody’s talking about him now,” Hafley said. “Now there’s pressure on him. The way he handled this today says a lot about him. Just proud of him.”
▪ Flowers, coming off an all-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team season, has established himself as one of the more versatile receivers in the country.
He started his junior season with seven catches for 135 yards and the TD. Jurkovec often glances his way first, or oftentimes finds him when a play breaks down.
“He just tells us to keep moving and he’ll get us the ball,” Flowers said. “I trust him.”
Barry, a 6-foot-6, 244-pound Jacksonville State transfer, had one catch, but it was the highlight of the day as he hurdled defensive back Keshaun Dancy and waltzed into the end zone.
Wide receiver Kobay White reeled in his first reception since 2019 after missing all of last year because of a partial ACL tear, and CJ Lewis added three catches for 67 yards.
▪ The Eagles racked up 525 yards on offense while holding the Raiders to 189.
Free safety Mike Palmer intercepted a pass in the end zone, strong safety Jahmin Muse added a 22-yard pick-6, and the Eagles won the turnover battle, 2-0. Defensive end Shitta Sillah (seven tackles and a sack) and middle linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley (six tackles) also impressed, and Colgate finished 0 for 10 on third down.
BC’s opponents converted on 40.4 percent of third downs a season ago, and its success in that area Saturday came as a welcome sight to Hafley.
“That’s one of things we talked about really early,” Hafley said. “We have to do better on third down, and we did. If you can do that on third down, you’ll win games. That was huge for us.”
▪ It wasn’t the most dramatic game, or the most telling, but it was a promising start for the Eagles nonetheless.
They only had two penalties and punted twice, scored 14 points off turnovers, and had 25 different players register a tackle. It was a prime opportunity for reserves to gain some experience. Robert Kraft’s grandson, redshirt freshman Jacob, recorded his first career catch.
▪ The Eagles hit the road to face UMass next Saturday, then Temple a week later. BC should then have momentum heading into a home game with Missouri before visiting Clemson.
Openers are rarely perfect, and there was some expected rust, but the Eagles flaunted their potential.
Said Hafley: “I’m really proud of our guys for the way we started things off.”
Trevor Hass can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.