Winning just three games qualifies as a disappointment at Boston College.
Doing it while unable to run the ball is an affront for a program that likes to think of itself as “O-Line U.”
The school that has sent a steady stream of guards and tackles to the NFL — along with several of the backs they blocked for — ran for its fewest yards since at least 1955 last season. The Eagles failed to produce a single 100-yard rushing game for the first time since 1990.
“At BC you have to run the ball, and we’re going to run the ball. The key to our team, the strength of our team needs to be the O-line, and it will be the O-line,” coach Jeff Hafley said.
BC (3-9, 2-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) took a step back in 2022 after winning six games in each of Hafley’s first two seasons. And the troubles on the offensive line were a big part of the problem.
Injuries doomed a unit that came into the season with a collective experience of just four starts. In all, the offensive linemen missed a total of 33 games, 55% of all possible starts.
The shuffling gave several backups opportunities to play. And now they’re back, with game experience: As the Eagles prepare for their Sept. 2 opener against Northern Illinois, they already have 124 starts on the offensive line.
They’ll be protecting quarterback Emmett Morehead and clearing holes for Pat Garwo III, who topped 1,000 yards in 2021 but had only 402 last year. As a team, BC totaled just 759 rushing yards, or 63 per game.
“Everything that we didn’t have last year, we’re going to have this year. I promise,” tackle Christian Mahogany said. “It’s going to be nasty football. People aren’t going to like it. But I will, no doubt.”
Four years after BC fired Steve Addazio because he seemed stuck on seven victories, Hafley might need to win that many to save his job.
The former Ohio State assistant has been winning the recruiting season, with the last two classes the highest rated in program history. It’s time for that to translate into victories on the field.
Last year’s team lost to Virginia Tech and Connecticut – for each, it was their only win over a Power 5 opponent— and Rutgers, which beat only one other major conference team. The Eagles got shut out 44-0 by Catholic school rival Notre Dame.
On the positive side, the Eagles beat No. 17 North Carolina State on the road – their first victory over a team in The Associated Press Top 25 since 2014. Two of the losses were by one point, and two others were one-score games in the fourth quarter.
But Hafley’s job could be in jeopardy if he can’t translate those into wins.
After taking over for the oft-injured Phil Jurkovec in Week 9, Morehead has had a full training camp as the starter.
Jurkovec was at Boston College for three seasons after transferring from Notre Dame, but he didn’t finish any of them healthy. Last year, he was injured against UConn on Oct. 29.
Morehead took it from there, completing 103 of 171 passes for 1,133 yards for the season.
“It’s only up from here,” Morehead said. “Last year was as hard as hopefully I can go through in my career, honestly.”
Thousand-yard receiver Zay Flowers is gone, drafted No. 22 overall by the Baltimore Ravens. The Eagles hope Central Florida transfer Ryan O’Keefe can replace him.
O’Keefe had 2,002 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in four seasons with the Knights.
“I don’t want to compare anyone to Zay. Zay was special, and until someone proves it, I’m not going to make those comparisons,” Hafley said. “Ryan can fly. … He might be one of the fastest players in the ACC.”
BC will finish its season against Miami on the Friday after Thanksgiving, harkening back to the 1984 duel that BC won 47-45 when Doug Flutie threw a 48-yard Hail Mary to Gerard Phelan as time expired.
Flutie passed for 472 yards and three touchdowns in the game; Miami’s Bernie Kosar threw for 447 yards and two TDs. The play became known as “Hail Flutie,” and it helped clinch the Heisman Trophy for the BC quarterback.
Both schools were independents in 1984; now they’re in the ACC. The ’84 game was in Miami; the Nov. 24 game this year will be in Chestnut Hill, where there is a statue of Flutie rearing back to throw outside Alumni Stadium.