Boston College coach Jeff Hafley wants a downfield passing threat regardless of who is throwing the football.
Phil Jurkovec threw for 303 yards and three touchdowns in a 51-0 victory over Colgate in the season opener. A week later, Jurkovec suffered a season-ending right-hand injury on the opening possession of a 45-28 win at UMass. Dennis Grosel came in and threw for 199 yards and a touchdown.
The vertical passing game was nonexistent in the Eagles’ 28-3 victory at Temple. Grosel was 5-of-13 for 34 yards with a pick as BC settled into a power run scheme. But the Eagles need to revive their vertical mojo against SEC opponent Missouri at noon Saturday at Alumni Stadium.
“We are going to be a vertical passing team no matter who is playing quarterback,” said Hafley following Tuesday’s practice. “This scheme is not going to change and we have full confidence in Dennis.
“We went up so fast in that (Temple) game and I felt so good about the way we were playing on defense that we were going to run the ball. Dennis is a confident guy and if we have to throw 50 times to win then we will throw 50. If we have to throw for more than 400 yards to win, we will throw for 400 yards.”
In his only start in 2020 at Virginia, Grosel threw for 520 yards, equaling the single-game record set by Doug Flutie against Penn State in 1982.
“I think the way Temple played we were a little more underneath and stuff like that,” said Grosel. “But we are going to open the playbook back up and we know how to do it and let it fly. We have that mentality coming to this week. We were talking about it in meetings and we showed it in practice. We are going to open it up and let it fly. “
The Eagles got by with “vanilla” game plans because they took convincing early leads in all three games. That’s unlikely to happen against the Tigers, so Grosel is prepared to execute the pass plays BC practiced but left on the table.
“We still have a lot of stuff in our back pocket and plenty of stuff we haven’t even shown yet and it’s good stuff,” said Grosel.
A nickel’s worth
There is more to playing the nickel defensive back than keeping tabs on the slot receiver.
Hafley has entrusted the complex coverage and run-support responsibilities of nickelback to junior veteran Josh DeBerry. DeBerry recorded six tackles against Temple.
“Josh had one of his best tackling days and I thought all our corners tackled really well,” said Hafley. “When he is at the nickel position, sometimes he has an interior gap and sometimes he has an exterior gap. He might be the edge to the defense on some plays or if the ball gets outside, he has to set the edge and essentially be our force player. When he is in the nickel he blitzes, he fills in on run support and sometimes he’s in the box like a linebacker.”
DeBerry showed the versatility to play cover and nickel corner last season when he recorded 44 tackles, 33 solos with two TFL, two forced fumbles and an interception to earn All-ACC honorable mention. In three games this season, DeBerry is tied with linebacker Vinny DePalma for third with 12 tackles and two TFL.
“He is one of our toughest players physically and mentally on the team in my opinion and he is one of our better tacklers,” said Hafley.
Punter Grant Carlson landed two inside the 20 and was named ACC specialist of the week. Carlson averaged 51.4 yards on five punts with a long of 62 against Temple that included a remarkable flip of the field.
With the ball on the BC 14 and his back to the goal line, Carlson launched the ball 59 yards. Jadan Blue retreated six yards to create a seam, but gunner Elijah Jones dropped Blue for a five-yard loss resulting in a flip of the field of 64 yards.
“He had two huge punts that totally flipped the field and Elijah had to run like 70 yards to make that one tackle and he made it immediately,” said Hafley. “Those are game-changers. Those take points away.”
Carlson is eighth in the nation with a 45.1 net average, with five inside the 20.