When asked earlier this week about his team’s upcoming trip to Boston College, Missouri football coach Eli Drinkwitz called it a “tremendous test” but indicated it wouldn’t be his first choice of opponent or location.
“If I had my pick of it, I would love to play a regional matchup that was maybe more of a rivalry game,” Drinkwitz said. “That would maybe be a little bit more exciting to recruits to watch from a TV perspective, or maybe playing in front of your family. I don’t know the last time Missouri signed a kid from the great state of Massachusetts.”
BC coach Jeff Hafley said “about 500 people” sent him the clip, but he doesn’t think Drinkwitz meant anything by his remarks. Hafley said the Eagles didn’t mind playing at UMass or at Temple, that they would have gone to Colgate if Colgate had asked, and they would be happy to play at Missouri.
As long as the Eagles are playing football, Hafley said, he has no complaints. He said the Eagles are eager to host Missouri this Saturday at noon, but if the roles were reversed — as they will be in 2024 — that would have been fine.
“If he really didn’t want to come to Boston, he should have called me up and asked me, and I would have gone on a plane and gone out to Missouri to play,” Hafley said Wednesday. “I don’t care where we play. I don’t.”
Drinkwitz’s comments — whether or not they were intended as a not-so-subtle jab — added another wrinkle to a matchup that already was one of the most compelling on BC’s schedule. The Eagles (3-0) steamrolled Colgate, UMass, and Temple to start the year, outscoring them, 124-31. This will be their first major test, against a 2-1 Missouri squad with a potent offense capable of putting up points in a hurry, much like BC’s.
This will be the first time since 1987 that a Southeastern Conference school visits Alumni Stadium and the Eagles’ first clash with an SEC team since 2008. They’re looking for their first victory over an SEC foe since they beat Georgia in the Music City Bowl in 2001.
Hafley said it doesn’t matter to BC what conference the opponent comes from, and he believes he’d be a bad coach if he treated this game any differently from the first three.
“People will make it a big deal,” Hafley said. “They will. It’s just not how I handle things. No disrespect to that, or obviously the SEC, but we’re not going to talk about that.”
Hafley did say he’s expecting a great atmosphere, and he encouraged students to tailgate early.
The Eagles are downplaying the stakes, but make no mistake, this one means a great deal to those involved. Cornerback Brandon Sebastian said he’s looking forward to his first matchup against an SEC team.
“I feel like the atmosphere for this weekend’s going to be really, really crazy,” Sebastian said. “I have a bunch of family coming to the game, and I’m definitely looking forward to the fans in the stadium, having a packed crowd.”
It’s likely the Eagles will open up their playbook and get more creative. Hafley said they’ve chosen to stay relatively vanilla thus far on both sides of the ball, but this may be an opportunity to bust out some more innovative plays.
Specifically on offense, quarterback Dennis Grosel estimated that the Eagles haven’t shown 75 percent of their repertoire to this point. The offense leaned heavily on the run game against Temple, in large part because the score was lopsided, but this week could be a different story. Hafley said the Eagles will still be a vertical passing team regardless of who’s playing quarterback.
The defense will face its toughest test yet against quarterback Connor Bazelak and an offense that’s putting up 40 points per game — one that Hafley called one of the most explosive in the country. Sebastian said Bazelak has a strong arm, but the Eagles believe they can make him uncomfortable by getting him out of the pocket.
Saturday’s showdown will likely reveal a lot about this BC team. If they knock off Missouri, the Eagles could be ranked heading into a showdown with Clemson next weekend.
“It will be a big test,” Hafley said. “I’m excited for it.”