The Boston College Eagles have an opportunity to close an open wound when they host the UConn Huskies in a regional rivalry clash on Saturday (noon) at Alumni Stadium.
BC is riding high after winning its third straight with last Saturday’s 38-23 victory over Georgia Tech in an ACC match in Atlanta. The Eagles improved to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the ACC while the Huskies are 1-6 after a 24-21 loss at South Florida.
The situations were reversed last season when the bowl-bound Huskies humiliated the Eagles 13-3. BC would lose nine games in 2022, but the Eagles’ season bottomed out in all three phases at UConn.
“We talked about it and last year there was a feeling nobody was proud of playing there and playing the way we did,” said BC middle linebacker Vinny DePalma.
“I think it is a great opportunity for us with the chance to redeem ourselves and we are going in the right direction now. On paper it is a little bit of a trap game for us. But this is about as important of a game as this team has had.”
A year ago, the BC offensive line had been totally rebuilt, had lost its only returning starter Christian Mahogany in the off-season, and was hammered by injuries in the first half of the 2022 season. BC head coach Jeff Hafley put together a patchwork line that had problems containing the Huskies’ energized front seven.
BC rushed for 76 yards and threw for 259, a total negated by three interceptions. BC starting quarterback Phil Jurkovec suffered a season-ending injury while trying to run away from pressure. When it was all added up, the BC O-line was held accountable for the fiasco.
“The O-Line took a lot of bloody noses throughout the season last year but this is a new group and this is a new team and this is a new O-line,” said Hafley.
Hafley brought back offensive line coach Matt Applebaum to reconfigure the front and his efforts were visible during the three-game win streak. BC rolled up 563 yards of total offense against the Rambling Wreck that included 308 rushing yards. BC quarterback Thomas Castellanos rushed for 128 yards and threw for 255.
In the previous win at Army, BC rushed for 321 yards on a bad weather day. Hafley said the holes the BC line opened up on the Yellow Jackets front seven were “big enough to drive a truck through.”
“I think we were rushing for 60 yards per game (63.2) last year and in back-to-back weeks we have rushed for over 300 yards,” said Hafley. “This is a totally different offensive line, a totally different quarterback, and a totally different offensive scheme.
“This is a different offense than played UConn last year and the rest of the teams that we played.”
Build A Back
BC junior tailback Kye Robichaux enjoyed a career day against Georgia Tech and made a case for being an every-down back for the remainder of the season.
The 6-0, 216-pound, junior transfer from Western Kentucky rushed for 165 yards on 21 carries with two touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 54 yards with a long of 45.
“He has the set to play in all three downs because he can protect the passer on third down because is a bigger back and he can catch the ball,” said Hafley. “We have been tying to throw screens to him and get the screen game going more and more and he’s got good hands.
“He’s a young guy that hasn’t played much so we are starting to see what he can do and he has a good skill set. I think he is going to get better and better.”
Graduate transfer strong safety John Pupel led the Eagles defense with six solo tackles, two assists and a TFL against Georgia Tech. Pupel, an All-Ivy League selection for Dartmouth before coming to BC in 2022, has been in the top three in tackles in every game this season. After seven games, Pupel is second to DePalma (53) with 46 tackles, three TFLs, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
“He is relentless to the ball, he is flying around and laying it out,” said Hafley “He plays with great effort, he’s a good tackler and he is always around the ball.”