The Syracuse Orange take on Boston College tonight in the regular season finale, and we’ve got some analysis from the other side to share. Curran Schestag over at BC Interruption was kind enough to answer some questions we sent his way. Here’s what he had to say:
TNIAAM: Obviously this has not been the ideal season for you guys, but beating a longtime rival at home to close out the year can take away some of that sting. What does BC need to do to end on a high note?
BCI: Offensively, the Eagles need to get Emmett Morehead and the passing game in rhythm. In the close loss to Duke and the upset win over NC State, Morehead threw for over 300 yards in both instances with multiple TDs as well. Even without any semblance of a running game, the offense was able to put up points because Morehead was able to get the ball to Flowers, Gill and Joe Griffin Jr. In the absolutely brutal loss to Notre Dame last week, Morehead struggled with five (!) turnovers in the first half alone, never found a groove – and promptly got shutout. Morehead has shown that he has the ability to sling the ball all over the field while also being an extremely raw, mistake-prone redshirt freshman. If the Eagles can pull out a win, expect big passing numbers from the offense.
Defensively, Boston College needs to slow down the dangerous duo of RB Sean Tucker and WR Oronde Gadsden II. Tucker is one of the top RBs in the ACC and indeed probably the country, as he’s rushed for 935 yards and nine touchdowns. Last week, the BC defense was gashed by ND’s rushing attack so watching how they deal with Tucker will be interesting. Gadsden has 48 receptions for 785 yards and six touchdowns. He has a good connection with QB Garrett Shrader, and BC’s secondary will have to focus on shutting him down.
TNIAAM: The Orange are missing some of their best defensive players, and both the O- and D-Lines have struggled at points. How can BC take advantage?
BCI: If the Orange’s D-Line is struggling, look for BC to try to establish a run game. The Eagles’ rushing attack has been the worst in the FBS, averaging barely 60 yards a game. Pat Garwo and Alex Broome have simply had nowhere to go. Yet Coach Jeff Hafley has remained committed to the running game on early downs. There’s no question that if BC’s run game gets going, the offense simply clicks better. There’s more room in the secondary for Flowers and Gill to work, and Morehead is given more time in the pocket.
TNIAAM: Syracuse will be one of your permanent opponents in the ACC’s new 3-5-5 schedule. Are your fans excited about the rivalry continuing, or are they more lukewarm?
BCI: I think fans are really looking forward to the new 3-5-5 schedule. Rivalry games like Syracuse-BC becoming permanent fixtures on the schedule every year means that these rivalries will only be more fierce. No team has played BC more than Syracuse, with Saturday being the 55th meeting of the schools. And while BC and Syracuse have been more consistent than other rivalries in playing year-to-year, knowing that it will be a guarantee going forward means that memories will stay fresh and hopefully add extra energy and meaning to these games.
TNIAAM: Zay Flowers just needs 33 more receiving yards to hit 1,000 on the season. Where would you rate him among the all-time Eagles’ greats?
BCI: I don’t think there’s a question that he is the greatest BC receiver of all time. Some other great names include Alex Amidon, Rich Gunnell and Kelvin Martin, but what Zay has done is simply incredible. Two weeks ago, he broke BC’s all-time receiving yards record. Last week, he broke the record for most receptions of all time at the school. If he catches two touchdowns on Saturday, he’ll hold the lead for most career touchdowns as well.
Aside from his on-field brilliance, though, he also deserves recognition for his leadership and off-field behavior. He was offered thousands of dollars to enter the transfer portal this past summer – and he stayed at BC. Despite being a legit NFL prospect, he’s continued to play hard when many others would rather opt out to protect themselves ahead of the draft. He’s just a great example and an elite WR, and one who should go down as the greatest in BC history.
TNIAAM: Aside from the obvious (Zay), who are some other Eagles players who have a shot at the NFL after this season?
BCI: Not many, unfortunately. One of BC’s top O-linemen, Christian Mahogany, was one of the top-rated guards in the country and would have been an early draft choice this year. However, he tore his ACL over the summer and missed this entire season. He is a name to watch in future, though, depending on his recovery.
The other big name many had high hopes for entering this season was QB Phil Jurkovec. Finally healthy after a crushing hand injury that derailed BC’s season last year, many expected him to post huge numbers on an Eagles team that was supposed to make some noise in the ACC. Instead, Jurkovec took a major step back. He seemed to lose a lot of his throwing accuracy, his decision-making was extremely questionable, and the atrocious O-line play in front of him wrecked his confidence – and then he got injured in a brutal loss to UConn. The end result is that his draft stock has plunged. I could see a team taking a late-round flier on him, but not much beyond that.
Finally, some guys who could garner interest as late-round choices or UDFAs include Josh DeBerry, Jason Maitre, and Jaiden Woodbey.
TNIAAM: This was the worst year in the Jeff Hafley era so far. What’s the fanbase’s general opinion of him right now?
BCI: This season has been nothing short of disastrous. The pieces were all in line for a breakout season: Year 3 of Hafley meant that he had time to get his recruits and system in place, his star QB was returning fully healthy alongside weapons such as Flowers and Garwo, and his defense was chock-full of seasoned veterans. Instead of finally breaking that 8-win plateau, however, everything that went wrong did. First and foremost, the biggest failure of the season has been the O-line, and that has to start with Hafley. He did not bring in a single O-line transfer, and the coaching on the line has been horrendous. Secondly, his defense and special teams – two units which have been fairly great under Hafley – both took major steps back, especially in the case of the special teams. Again, this has to fall at least partially on Hafley.
To be fair, the team has been ravaged by injuries. The O-line has had eight different starting combinations, and has multiple preseason starters out for the season with long-term injuries. Freshman standout RB Alex Broome has missed time, as has TE George Takacs, Jurkovec, CB Elijah Jones…you get the idea. But that’s not an excuse, and though Hafley keeps saying all the right things, the fact of the matter is that he just looks out of his depth.
Realistically, however, Hafley will not be fired before next season. The win over NC State – ranked 16th in the country at the time – was the biggest of his tenure, and BC has invested too much money in Hafley to simply cut ties now. With all that said, the fans’ opinion of Hafley right now is very, very low.
BONUS from Kevin: We want to bring back the Orange Eagle Trophy competition- why are you ducking us? That’s not in the spirit of great Bostonians.
I just joined BCI a few months ago, so I don’t know too much about it… but I’m also never one to duck a competition! I’d bring it back.
You heard the man... somebody will get in touch with our contact in Seattle to set it up.
In all seriousness, thanks a ton Curran for the thoughtful answers. We’ll see a handful of you guys in the Dome on New Year’s.