When Boston College cornerback Brandon Sebastian elevated in the end zone to pursue a deep ball from Missouri quarterback Connor Bazelak in overtime, Eagles coach Jeff Hafley initially was unsure whether Sebastian came down with the interception.
He optimistically hoisted his hands in the air, craned his neck, and hoped for the best. Moments later, he had his answer.
“The next thing I know, there were like 500 people on my back,” Hafley said. “It was a blur.”
Sebastian’s acrobatic pick sealed a riveting 41-34 victory for the Eagles and capped the most significant win of Hafley’s tenure at BC. The triumph was BC’s first against a Southeastern Conference opponent since 2001 and its first such win at home since 1987. The Eagles celebrated with their fans on the field after moving to 4-0 for the first time since a Matt Ryan-led squad started 8-0 in 2007.
BC racked up 275 rushing yards, including 175 and two touchdowns from Pat Garwo and a go-ahead score from Travis Levy with 25 seconds left in regulation. Harrison Mevis connected on a 56-yard field goal for the Tigers (2-2) as time expired in regulation, then Dennis Grosel hit Zay Flowers for a 10-yard touchdown in OT to set up Sebastian’s heroics.
“It was a great day for the Commonwealth,” Hafley said.
▪ The Eagles and Tigers traded scores in an action-packed first half, heading into the break knotted at 17. Garwo provided the highlight when he zigzagged past several defenders and took it 67 yards to the house. BC freshman Jaden Williams added his third receiving touchdown of the season and freshman Connor Lytton drilled a 49-yard field goal with five seconds left in the half.
Grosel threw an interception on a deep ball on the Eagles’ first offensive play, then he and the rest of the offense settled into a rhythm. BC leaned heavily on offensive linemen Tyler Vrabel, Zion Johnson, Alec Lindstrom, Christian Mahogany, and Ben Petrula, and pieced together several lengthy and methodical drives. Grosel took occasional shots to keep the defense honest, but it was no secret what the offense was going to do.
“I almost cried after the game because I was so proud of everybody on the offensive line,” said Lindstrom, the center.
▪ The Eagles amassed 219 yards in the first half. The only problem was that Missouri posted the same total. Bazelak finished with 182 passing yards before the break, finding Barrett Banister for a 9-yard strike in the first quarter and setting up a 4-yard TD from Tyler Badie five minutes later.
Bazelak, a quarterback Hafley called one of the best in the country, came out firing and completed his first six passes. The Eagles struggled to slow him in stretches, but early in the second half they barely let him see the field.
BC possessed the ball for 13 minutes, 42 seconds in a dominant third quarter, taking a 27-17 advantage on a 3-yard run from Garwo and 31-yard field goal from Lytton. Bazelak underthrew a receiver and Josh DeBerry easily made the interception, and the Eagles cruised into the fourth with plenty of momentum.
“We were getting the feeling that we were wearing them out,” Garwo said. “We knew we could just pound it, pound it, pound it, and that’s what we were doing.”
▪ Missouri responded with back-to-back touchdowns to take a 31-27 edge, then the Eagles pieced together a 15-play, 60-yard drive that spanned nearly six minutes and was a microcosm of how they played all day. Levy’s 5-yard touchdown appeared to clinch the win, but Mevis’s improbable kick sent the game into OT and gave Flowers a chance to deliver, as he has consistently throughout his career.
“He’s like a dog with a Frisbee,” Grosel said of Flowers. “You throw it up there, he goes and gets it.”
Grosel said the Eagles felt as though the Tigers were “on the ropes” for the entire second half. They suspected that if they kept the Missouri defense on the field, eventually momentum would shift their way for good. It ended up taking overtime, but the result was as glorious as they could have hoped as their deliberate approach paid dividends.
▪ Sebastian called the interception a top-two football moment he’s had, along with his 97-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Clemson last season. With this spirited win behind them, the Eagles get another crack at the Tigers in Death Valley on Saturday.
They believe they’ve found the formula to contend in the Atlantic Coast Conference as they prepare for their biggest test of the season.
“It’s a special place right now, and we’re coming,” Hafley said. “It’ll take time, but this thing’s going to build. I saw it today, and I’m so grateful for how loud it was.”
Trevor Hass can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.