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Three Stars: Boston College vs. Louisville

Three (or four) players who weren't terrible against Louisville for the Boston College Eagles

The Boston College Eagles dropped their third consecutive game, losing 28-14 to the Louisville Cardinals. On the road, the Eagles’ offense continued to sputter, scoring on their second drive but failing to score again until late in the fourth quarter. The turnover bug bit both teams, with Louisville turning the ball over four times to BC’s two. But the Eagles’ defense struggled to contain Louisville’s Malik Cunningham for the vast majority of the game. Cunningham reawakened the nightmare of Lamar Jackson for the Boston College defense, rushing for 133 yards and three touchdowns.

At 4-3, Boston College’s dreams of an ACC title are far away in the rearview mirror now; getting to a winning season might be in doubt. But we press on here, as we’ll talk about three (or four in this instance) players who acquitted themselves well for the Eagles on Saturday. Before that, however, we need to discuss one player who contributed the most towards the loss.

Black Hole: Dennis Grosel - 17 completions, 32 attempts (53%), 141 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 1 fumble

For weeks, here at BC Bulletin, we’ve defended Dennis Grosel as the only viable option at starting quarterback. He brought significantly more experience and a deeper understanding of the offense than any of the other quarterbacks on the roster. Unfortunately, against Louisville, our faith in Grosel was betrayed. In the previous two losses, there were mistakes by other players and units that prevented Grosel and the offense from moving the ball. Against Clemson, there were too many pre-snap penalties; against NC State, too many drops.

But this week against Louisville, it would be unfair to blame anyone else. While there were a few drops and a few bad penalties, there were infinitely more inaccurate passes and back-breaking mistakes by Grosel. Furthermore, where NC State and Clemson sported excellent defenses, Louisville brought one of the worst passing defenses in college football. Yet they still confused Grosel and stymied the BC passing offense. Even before the rain started, Grosel repeatedly missed his receivers, held onto the ball too long, and took bad sacks. The defense finally found their turnover magic again, but Grosel couldn’t do anything with it until the game was basically out of hand.

Many people already hopped off the bandwagon but this might be the straw that broke the camel’s back for anyone else. One of the arguments for keeping Grosel in was that benching a respected veteran leader could fracture the locker room. Now, after that debacle, it might fracture the locker room to keep Grosel in. It could be argued that the second half of the NC State game and the first half of the Louisville game were the worst four quarters of the Hafley era. With the number of winnable games left of the schedule dwindling, a change could be in store.

Third Star: Jaden Williams - 3 catches, 27 yards (9.0 YPC), 0 TDs

Jaden Williams had the worst game of his career last week against NC State. He couldn’t catch any of his targets, multiple of which would have converted first downs, and one of his drops turned into an interception. He struggled to deal with contact from defensive backs, especially off the line of scrimmage. This is a typical issue for younger smaller receivers, so it made sense that Williams’ snaps would decrease this week.

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However, thanks to injuries to CJ Lewis (and to a lesser extent, Kobay White), Williams took the field again as one of the primary wide receivers for the Eagles. While he did not catch all of his targets, Williams made some clutch, difficult catches that required concentration and toughness to bring the ball in. With sheets of rain coming down in the second half, it got even harder. But Williams made plays when called upon, showing important signs of progression for a young player.

Second Star: Jaiden Woodbey - 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery

I’ll start with the bad news for Jaiden Woodbey. When Woodbey came to BC, he was part of a revolution on the defense aimed at stopping, or at least slowing down, mobile quarterbacks. As a dynamic athlete that could play safety or linebacker, Woodbey figured to be an important piece in the changes on defense.

However, against Louisville, it was clear that the Eagles still had lots of work to do. Malik Cunningham torched the Eagles on the ground, rushing for 133 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. Cunningham repeatedly juked out BC defenders, including Woodbey at least once, and the Cardinals’ running game, in general, was basically unstoppable. He also made a huge mistake on one of Louisville’s final drives, committing a questionable facemask penalty; after the play, Woodbey got into a bit of a spat with the other safety, Jason Maitre, and Jeff Hafley seemingly had to get between the two to settle the matter.

Now, moving onto the positives, Woodbey made some huge plays. He recorded his first interception as an Eagle, Cunningham’s second of the day. He also recovered a fumble in a key situation, giving Boston College the ball back in great field position after an interception in the red zone by Dennis Grosel. Woodbey clearly has a knack for finding the ball in crucial situations. Hopefully, he can continue making plays like that throughout the season.

First Star(s): Patrick Garwo - 15 carries, 86 yards (5.7 YPC), 0 TDs; Alec Sinkfield - 9 carries, 53 yards (5.9 YPC), 1 TD

One could argue that each of these players should receive their own stars individually. But given that they affected the game in similar ways, and their contributions are almost equal in my eyes, it made the most sense to give them both the highest honor. Both running backs were integral to BC’s success early in the game and during their brief comeback bid.

We’ll start with Pat Garwo, who led the Eagles in rushing. Garwo has been excellent throughout this season, pounding the rock between the tackles and generating yards after contact. He did not play as consistently, in terms of snaps on the field, as he had in previous weeks. But when called upon late in the game, he delivered, consistently ripping off big chunk runs to get the Eagles in scoring position. Unfortunately, Garwo could not get in the end zone this week and he ultimately couldn’t contribute as much, due to BC being forced to throw the ball.

Alec Sinkfield also had a great game, perhaps even better on a rep-by-rep basis. Sinkfield got BC on the board early in the game with an 11-yard rushing touchdown. After that, he only played sparingly, but he made the most of his carries. Sinkfield provides a perfect complement to Garwo, bringing more explosiveness and elusiveness than the stronger, more powerful Garwo. Sinkfield has excellent vision and instincts for when to cut runs back and find open holes. As BC might lean even harder into the running game in the coming weeks, both of these running backs will be crucial for any success the Eagles may have.