Boston College football coach Jeff Hafley has seen Zay Flowers make plenty of spectacular catches throughout his career, but he had never seen one quite as astonishing as the deep ball Flowers secured Saturday against Louisville.
Early in the second quarter, quarterback Phil Jurkovec took a shot downfield into double coverage. Flowers adjusted at the last second to snare it in stride and gracefully glide into the end zone for a 57-yard touchdown.
Flowers added a 69-yard score in the third quarter, finishing with five catches for 151 yards and powering the Eagles to a much-needed 34-33 triumph at Alumni Stadium. Flowers, who moved into second in program history with 2,460 receiving yards and 22 receiving TDs, helped spearhead a dramatic victory over a team favored by 14½ points.
“He’s got to be one of the best players in college football,” Hafley said of Flowers. “I’ll leave it at that.”
Despite Flowers’s star power, BC trailed for much of the game before mounting a fourth-quarter comeback. Connor Lytton drilled a 37-yard field goal with 7:24 remaining to slice the deficit to 2, then a 26-yarder with 1:56 left to pull the Eagles (2-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) ahead for good.
The Cardinals (2-3, 0-3) had two chances late, but Jaiden Woodbey, Jason Maitre, and Kam Arnold helped the Eagles cement the victory. Arnold intercepted a Hail Mary following a field-storming gone wrong with one second on the clock. Fans had to return to their seats, and BC sealed it with one final stop.
“In the back of my mind, it was like, ‘If we lose off this Hail Mary, it’s going to be everywhere,’ ” defensive back Elijah Jones said with a laugh.
It was a back-and-forth affair the entire way. Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham scored from 1 yard out on the opening drive. BC responded with a 1-yard touchdown pass from Jurkovec to freshman Joe Griffin Jr., tying the game at 7 through one quarter.
The score was the second in as many weeks for the former Springfield Central star, a 6-foot-4-inch, 200-pound wide receiver who has impressed early.
“He’s got a chance to be a really great player here,” Hafley said.
James Turner nailed a 24-yard field goal for the Cardinals, then Jurkovec (18 of 21, 304 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT) hit Flowers for the 57-yard bomb to make it 14-10.
Nothing Flowers does surprises Jurkovec, but this one certainly caught his eye.
“I think that was the best catch I’ve seen Zay have since I’ve been here,” Jurkovec said. “It was the most proud I’ve been to have him as my teammate.”
Cunningham responded with a 6-yard score to give Louisville a 16-14 edge. Chibueze Onwuka blocked the extra point, which proved to be critical. BC freshman Alex Broome (9 carries, 83 yards, 1 TD) delivered from 40 yards out, then Cunningham added another from 1 yard to push the Cardinals back in front, 23-21, at halftime.
The Eagles primarily played man coverage against Cunningham, forcing him to beat them in the pocket and make difficult throws into tight windows. Cunningham was efficient (19 of 28, 186 yards, 1 TD; 15 carries, 62 yards, 3 TDs), yet BC never let him run wild.
BC racked up 266 total yards in the action-packed half, including 180 in the air, but committed eight penalties and turned the ball over three times. Jurkovec threw an interception on BC’s opening drive, then fumbled twice — including one play where he inexplicably threw the ball backward instead of taking a sack.
The Eagles were dynamic in stretches and inept in others, but they did enough to hang around.
After James Turner’s 48-yard field goal extended Louisville’s lead, Flowers added a 69-yard TD when he made a quick move toward the middle and outraced the defender for a 28-26 Eagles’ lead. Louisville led, 33-28 through three, thanks to a 12-yard reception from Ahmari Huggins-Bruce.
The Cardinals, playing without Cunningham for much of the fourth quarter, lost their firepower when they lost their star signal-caller. The Eagles took advantage, pressuring backup Brock Domann and punctuating their most significant showing in style.
Hafley said it was emotional in the locker room, noting that this wasn’t necessarily BC’s best win since he arrived in 2020 but that it was particularly meaningful because of what the Eagles had to endure to get it.
For a team that had struggled mightily through four games, this was a revitalizing result, and one the Eagles hope to use as a springboard when the competition stiffens significantly against Clemson next Saturday.
“Momentum in college football is a real thing,” BC linebacker Vinny DePalma said. “That’s a big-time win for us. We’re just excited, and we’ve got a big one next week.”
Trevor Hass can be reached at email@example.com.