Undeterred by early deficit and halftime Hail Mary, Boston College rallies past Virginia

College Sports

Thomas Castellanos threw for 183 yards and two touchdowns for the Eagles.

Michael Dwyer
Pat Garwo got Boston College on the board in the final minute of the second quarter with a 2-yard touchdown run.

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When Virginia extended its lead to 14 points on a 39-yard Hail Mary pass as time expired in the first half Saturday at Alumni Stadium, it appeared as though Boston College was destined for yet another uninspiring loss.

Instead, BC played inspired football in the second half, rallying to earn a 27-24 victory. The Eagles (2-3, 1-2 ACC) scored 17 straight points to take the lead and delivered in the clutch, turning a 21-7 halftime deficit into an uneven yet necessary win.

“They just refused to lose this game,” BC coach Jeff Hafley said. “That has to be our mentality.”

Two local products helped seal the result. Leominster’s Liam Connor nailed the winning 42-yard field goal with 2:11 to play, then a former Catholic Memorial star, freshman Max Tucker of Hyde Park, made a crucial tackle on third down and the final stop on fourth down.

The Cavaliers (0-5, 0-2) outgained the Eagles, 267-120, in the first half. Boston College outgained Virginia, 266-39, in the second. The BC defense exceeded its season total coming in with five sacks and allowed none, seizing momentum and dominating the line of scrimmage when it mattered most.

“We knew we came out slow. We knew we had to pick it up,” BC quarterback Thomas Castellanos said. “That’s what we did. We just kept fighting.”

Virginia took a 7-0 edge on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Tony Muskett to Mike Hollins four-plus minutes into the game. UVA then capitalized on an interception thrown by Castellanos (16 for 26, 183 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs), as Muskett found Malik Washington for an 18-yard TD strike early in the second for the 14-point advantage.

The Eagles pieced together a five-play, 65-yard drive in just 45 seconds, capped by a 2-yard plunge from Pat Garwo, to trim the margin to 14-7 with 47 seconds left in the half. As poorly as it had played to that point, BC was down by just one score and appeared to be carrying momentum into the second half.

Then the Cavaliers drove 80 yards and struck gold on an improbable heave from Muskett to Malachi Fields. The Eagles had three defenders in the area, but Fields elevated and snared the TD reception in traffic.

“That’s a story for another day,” Hafley said of the Hail Mary.

Though the Virginia lead was just 21-7 at halftime, it felt like a backbreaker for a spiraling BC team that allowed 56 points in a loss a week earlier at Louisville.

But the Eagles responded, outscoring the Cavaliers, 17-0, in the third for one of their best quarters of the season. Connor drilled a 42-yard field goal, Castellanos found Joe Griffin for a 4-yard TD, and an Elijah Jones interception set up a 33-yard scoring feed from Castellanos to standout Lewis Bond.

Bond, who has been arguably BC’s best player to this point, continued his recent tear with a seven-catch, 104-yard performance. He helped the Eagles take a 24-21 edge into the fourth.

“We just got hot,” Bond said. “I’m telling you, we’re a good offense, we’re a good team. We just can’t start slow. We can’t get in our own way.”

A scary scene unfolded less than a minute into the final quarter. BC wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe and Virginia cornerback Malcolm Greene collided and remained down on the ground for an extended period of time.

Greene eventually walked off under his own power. O’Keefe stayed motionless for close to 10 minutes, as over a dozen medical professionals tended to him. Eventually, he was carted off on a stretcher. O’Keefe gave a thumbs-up as he headed into the tunnel.

A source told the Globe that O’Keefe suffered a suspected neck injury, was stable on the field, and was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital for more testing.

“That’s the dark side of the game,” BC defensive end Donovan Ezeiruaku said. “Praying for him. He was talking to us while he was going off. That’s our brother. We’re going to have his back.”

The mood was somber throughout the stadium. When the teams returned to action, Garwo fumbled and the Cavaliers capitalized with a 44-yard field goal from Will Bettridge that tied it at 24 with 7:10 remaining.

BC responded in winning fashion. Castellanos found Bond for a 33-yard completion, then Garwo converted on fourth and 1 to keep the drive afloat. Connor took care of the rest of the offense, then on defense Tucker finished what the Eagles started.

“He’s relentless, he’s tough, he’s not scared, he’s physical,” Hafley said of Tucker. “The guys love him because of that. For him to come in and play in his first college game, it doesn’t surprise me because that’s who he is in practice.”

The comeback from a 14-point halftime deficit was the largest for the Eagles since a rally against West Virginia in 1997.

While not a glamorous win, it was a significant one for BC. After turning around a game that went in the wrong direction with a brilliant second half, the Eagles could end up salvaging their season.