The Boston College Eagles will be the Senior Day opponent for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish this season, with the Irish hoping to win their ninth straight game in this series. Notre Dame holds a 17-9 edge over the Eagles, who dominated from 1999-2008, with seven wins in eight matchups.
Jeff Hafley is entering his third year as head coach at BC and is hoping to have a breakthrough season after 6-5 and 6-6 seasons the past two years. The Eagles have either hovered around the .500 mark or simply been bad for more than a decade. Taking that next step means winning in the challenging ACC, an outcome that’s largely eluded them for years.
Boston College Offense: The Look of the Irish
Former Golden Domer Phil Jurkovec’s fractured hand kept him out for the first half of the 2021 season, a stiff blow after he had an outstanding season the year before. He’ll have to adapt to a different setup under new offensive coordinator John McNulty, the former Irish tight ends coach, Any absence by Jurkovec this year likely dooms the Eagles, considering the limited depth behind him.
The absence of Jurkovec did improve BC’s running game, with Pat Garwo’s 1045 yards and seven leading the way. He’s not really an option when it comes to receiving, but he could have a big impact if he can keep opposing defenses honest by maintaining the 5.1 yards-per-carry he had last year.
Jurkovec’s main target through the air will be wide receiver Zay Flowers, who’s caught 122 passes during his collegiate career. That number dipped somewhat last year, but he’s got big-play potential. Jaelen Hill and Jaden Williams should team with Flowers in the three-receiver set, with yet another former Irish connection in the form of TE George Takacs handling the tight end spot.
The offensive line needs to rise above the challenges the unit faces this season, a task made even hard after the recent season-ending ACL injury to right guard Christian Mahogany. Right now, tackles Jack Conley and Ozzy Trapilo are the only BC linemen to start a game and should be joined by huge Finn Dirstine and whoever ends up as Mahogany’s replacement at guard. Versatile Drew Kendall is expected to handle the center role.
Boston College Defense: An Uptick That Needs Some Tweaking
Hafley’s forte is on defense and this side of the ball saw improvement in 2021. However, putting a tighter clamp on opposing running games and collecting more sacks is a necessity for success this year. That might be asking a great deal due to the departures both upfront and among the linebackers.
Marcus Valdez and Shittah Silah will again man the ends after combining for 11 stops behind the line last season. Valdez led the team with five sacks, with tackle Cam Horsley and Chibueze Onwuka back on the nose hoping to plug the interior line. Onwuka missed last season due to an Achilles injury.
At linebacker, the weakside will be handled by last year’s leading tackler, Kam Arnold, with Vinny DePalma taking care of the middle. At the strongside spot, sophomore Bryce Steele is hoping to build on a strong first year.
The strength of the BC defense is in the secondary, with corners Elijah Jones and C.J. Burton combining for nine pass deflections last year, though neither picked off a pass. Strong safety Jaiden Woodbey hits hard and returned a fumble for a score in 2021, while free safety Jason Maitre will be aided by standout nickel back Josh DeBerry.
Boston College Special Teams: Potent Legs Ready to Go
The placekicking for the Eagles will again be handled by sophomore Connor Lytton, who stepped in due to an injury and showed off a strong leg. His 2021 performance led the kicker he replaced, Aaron Boumerhi, to enter the transfer portal. Among the punting options. Sam Candotti developed his skills in Australia and could deliver immediately as a true freshman unless Danny Longman beats him out. To return opposing kicks and punts, look for the duo of Alec Sinkfield and Xavier Coleman to figure prominently.
The Last Time Notre Dame Faced Boston College
During the chaotic 2020 season, the Irish improved to 8-0 with a 45-31 win over the Eagles, Notre Dame bounced back from an early 10-3 deficit to run off 35 of the next 41 points, with Ian Book doing the damage on 285 yards passing, 85 yards rushing as well as three touchdown passes.