Boston College got a big victory at a huge cost to its starting backfield.
The Eagles recorded their fifth ACC victory, the most since 2009, with a 34-27 victory over Louisville on Saturday at Alumni Stadium. BC will close out the regular season next Saturday at Virginia.
“To be 6-4 when were picked to finish 15th and to have a winning record in the ACC in our first year … ,” said BC coach Jeff Hafley. “Our foundation is strong because we have great people and you win with people and I’m very proud to be their coach.”
Quarterback Phil Jurkovec (left knee) and tailback David Bailey (upper body) both left the game in the third quarter and did not return. Jurkovec was an efficient 15-of-19 for 203 yards before being helped off the field with 6:16 to play in the third quarter. Bailey had 53 yards on 10 carries with two touchdowns.
Denis Grosel replaced Jurkovec and the Eagles didn’t miss a beat the rest of the way. Grosel completed 4-of-7 passes that included touchdown tosses of 11 and 21 yards in the fourth quarter. He also added a 44-yard run that set up a touchdown.
“(Grosel) comes to work every single day and is one of our best leaders,” said Hafley. “All he does is prepare and when his time came, he took the game over and he made huge plays and that’s such a good example for our guys to see.”
Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham had a phenomenal game. Cunningham completed 19-of-31 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 17 times for 133 yards.
“He’s a dynamic player and they threw some new stuff at us with him running the ball,” said Hafley. “We had him a couple of times and he made guys miss and he ran away a couple of times.
“We switched up the calls at halftime and I thought we did a better job containing him in the run game in the second half.”
BC (6-4, 5-4) opened the second half with a fluid, 63-yard, touchdown drive to take a 20-10 lead with 12:38 to play. Jurkovec completed three passes, the last of which was a 21-yard connection to back-up tight end Spencer Witter to the Cards’ 4-yard line. Bailey capped the trip with a 1-yard plunge for his second of the game.
Cunningham responded with an impressive drive deep into the BC red zone. The Cards had a first-and-goal from the 3, but were stoned by the Eagles front seven and had to settle for a 24-yard field goal from James Turner, cutting BC’s lead to 20-13 with 6:23 left in the third quarter.
Jurkovec, who had been playing with a tender right shoulder, took a huge hit in the pocket on the BC 32 and had to be helped off the field. Grosel took command of the offense and surprised the Cards’ defense with a 44-yard keeper to the Louisville 31. The Cardinals contributed to the drive with a pair of personal fouls that gave BC first-and-goal from the 6. Following a delay of game penalty, Grosel completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to CJ Lewis to take a 27-13 lead with 13:40 remaining.
Louisville countered with a TD as Cunningham connected with a 4-yard toss to Tutu Atwell with 7:45 to play.
BC punched back with a good kickoff return, a strong ground game and a scoring pass. BC went up 34-20 on a 21-yard hookup from Grosel to Jehlani Galloway with 4:36 to play.
The Cardinals needed just one play to make it four straight drives ending in the end zone. Cunningham completed a 69-yard catch and run toss to Dez Fitzpatrick to make it 34-27 with 4:16 to play.
Louisville forced a three-and-out and got the ball back with a chance to tie or win the game with 3:05 remaining, but BC’s defense came up big at the end when defensive end Shita Sillah intercepted a tipped pass on the Louisville 47 with 1:42 left.
“My eyes were downfield and I was watching the routes and I’m thinking, ‘Why isn’t the ball being thrown,’” said Hafley. “I looked back and saw Shita had it in his hands and it was a really great play.
“It looked like great coverage down the field and the quarterback had to hold onto the ball. That was a huge play and they have an explosive offense and we needed a stop.”
Bailey gave BC a 7-3 lead in the final minute of the first quarter on an 8-yard TD run after BC safety Deon Jones recovered an Atwell fumble on the Louisville 48, handing Jurkovec a short field to operate.
Jurkovec was given another short field when Cards’ tailback Hassan Hall was stripped by safety Jahmin Muse and the fumble was recovered by tackle Cam Horsley at the BC 44.
Zay Flowers opened the drive with 21-yard pickup on a jet sweep to the Cardinals 27, but the drive fizzled and a 23-yard field goal by Aaron Boumerhi with 6:47 left before halftime gave BC a 10-3 lead.
Cunningham bedazzled the BC defense with his footwork on the Cardinals subsequent possession. Cunningham had runs of 19, 18 and 20 yards. Cunningham was drilled at the BC 2 and was forced to leave the field. Louisville tied the game 10-10 with 3:45 to play on a 2-yard plunge by Jalen Mitchell.
Boumerhi put BC back in front, 13-10, on a 27-yard field goal with 30 seconds left before the intermission.