It wasn’t necessarily the dominant showing Boston College desperately needed, but the Eagles found a way to pick up their first win of the season nonetheless.
BC ground out a 38-17 victory over Maine on Saturday at Alumni Stadium behind a strong performance from quarterback Phil Jurkovec (25-for-37, 320 yards, 2 touchdowns).
The Eagles (1-2), who haven’t started 0-3 since 2011 or dropped a game to the Black Bears (0-3) since 1915, avoided what would have been a calamitous loss. For most of the night, it was a tight, competitive battle that was closer than the final score indicates.
They took a brief, collective sigh of relief afterward, well aware that the competition stiffens significantly at undefeated Florida State next Saturday night.
“Are there things we probably could have done better? Definitely,” BC coach Jeff Hafley said. “Were there some really good things we did? Yeah, we improved in a lot of areas. In some areas, I think we took a little bit of a step back.”
The Eagles, who entered last in the nation at 16.5 rushing yards per game, totaled 111 against the Black Bears. Their young offensive line, playing without Ozzy Trapilo and Kevin Cline, turned in its best performance to date.
Jurkovec also pieced together his best showing of the season, spreading the wealth and making smart decisions with the football.
On the flip side, BC had trouble defending the pass, allowing 289 yards in the air. The Eagles also struggled on special teams, missing two field goals, averaging 33 yards per punt, and allowing a 73-yard return.
It was a mixed bag the bulk of the way, as they never quite found the consistency they needed to put the Black Bears away in one swift, fluid motion.
“There were times where I thought we could have run away with the game, and we just didn’t finish it,” Hafley said.
Wrentham native Cole Baker drilled a 45-yard field goal to give Maine an early 3-0 lead, then Jurkovec hit Zay Flowers for a 51-yard touchdown strike to put the Eagles ahead, 7-3.
Maine answered less than a minute later on a 17-yard TD pass from Joe Fagnano to Shawn Bowman. Jurkovec then found Jaden Williams for 53 yards to set up a 2-yard TD pass to George Takacs.
The Eagles led, 14-10, through one as Maine, a Football Championship Subdivision school, held its own. BC hit its stride in the second quarter. Williams scored from 9 yards out on a jet sweep and Pat Garwo added a 1-yard score with 1:08 remaining.
Jurkovec finished the half 15-of-20 for 219 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Eagles build a commanding 28-10 cushion.
Offensively, the Eagles finished 5-of-8 on third down and got contributions from a variety of sources. Defensively, Cam Horsley, Marcus Valdez, and Donovan Ezeiruaku registered sacks, and former Everett star Jason Maitre picked off a pass in the end zone as time expired in the half.
It seemed as though BC might run away, but it never happened. The Eagles found rhythm in waves, but they couldn’t sustain it.
Connor Lytton tacked on a 46-yard field goal to extend BC’s lead to 31-10, yet Maine proved to be pesky. Joe Fagnano hit Montigo Moss for a 4-yard strike to slice it to 31-17 with 7:44 left in the third, and the Black Bears had several other chances to chip away.
“It was sloppy at times,” Jurkovec said. “We let them hang around when we had the chance to end the game in the second half.”
The Black Bears almost scored again, but Josh DeBerry recovered a fumble on fourth and 1 from the BC 9-yard line with 9:03 remaining. Kam Arnold picked off a Fagnano pass on the next drive.
“That’s our identity, and that’s what we live by, so that’s how we’re going to win games,” said Maitre. “We’ve got to continue to do that.”
Garwo scored from 30 yards out with 1:48 left to bookend a somewhat promising, yet up-and-down performance. It was far from perfect, but after a long and, frankly, surprising wait, BC delivered when it had to.
“The first two weeks, there was a lot of negativity outside of football,” the wide receiver Williams said. “Coach [Hafley] talked about staying within us. There are going to be negative people talking bad about us, but we’ve got to stay positive.”
Trevor Hass can be reached at email@example.com.