Football

BC football notebook: Fenway Bowl Media Day, Jeff Hafley, Vinny DePalma

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BOSTON, Ma. — Boston College and No. 17 SMU had their Wasabi Fenway Bowl Media Day on the top floor of the Boston Museum of Science Wednesday morning, as the two sides prepare for the final matchup of the season at Fenway Park.

Finally getting to play in a bowl game, BC hasn’t played a bowl game under Hafley — and BC itself hasn’t played a bowl game under normal circumstances since 2017.

Under Steve Addazio in 2018, the Cotton Bowl against Boise State was abruptly canceled halfway through the first quarter due to weather/lightning concerns. The following year in 2019, Addazio was fired ahead of the bowl game and they got blown out of the water without a head coach. In 2020 they opted out of the bowl game, and in 2021, 40 players tested positive for Covid just days before the Military Bowl against East Carolina. Last year, they had just three wins.

“This means we’re close,” Hafley said while chuckling on media day Wednesday. “I’m going to maybe just go lock myself in the hotel room so nothing happens and I get a chance to coach in the game tomorrow, and these guys get a chance to play.” (Editor’s note: he did not, I happened to see him in the concierge lounge of the Copley Marriott shortly after)

On SMU joining ACC and playing BC next year

One could think of this as a home-and-home between SMU and BC — the two sides play each other next season in Dallas with the Mustangs joining the ACC next season along with Cal and Stanford. And while it’s obviously a bowl game and it’s not at Alumni Stadium, it’s still in Boston.

“Normally in bowl games, you don’t play conference foes. And while we’re not yet, we basically are now,” Mustangs head coach Rhett Lashlee.

SMU comes in 11-2 and riding a nine-game winning streak, taking down No. 17 Tulane in the AAC Championship despite quarterback Preston Stone breaking his leg in the matchup leading up to it. Tulane just lost 41-20 in the Military Bowl to Virginia Tech.

SMU had hopes of a New Year’s Eve bowl after winning the American but as one reporter pointed out, being disrespected by the selection committee likely because of an injured starting quarterback is the perfect way to enter the ACC.

“We’re trying to set a tone for the ACC. It just really is showing a sense that we belong,” said SMU quarterback Kevin Jennings, who is Stone’s backup and made his first career start in their AAC championship win.

DePalma prepares for final BC game

Vinny DePalma will finish his six-year Eagles career Thursday against SMU, as it’ll put a wrap on a very respectable tenure with BC. Redshirting his freshman year in 2018 after three games and suffering an achilles injury that forced him to miss all of 2020, DePalma finishes with over 40 career games played at Boston College.

He had been getting playing time as soon as he got to Chestnut Hill in his freshman year, but he got his first start in 2021 after some injuries in the linebacker room. He started from there on out for the Eagles and was an All-ACC Honorable Mention in 2022 before earning Third Team honors this season.

After ACC media day Wednesday, members of the media were able to speak 1-on-1 with the four representatives at media day from each school (Hafley, DePalma, Donovan Ezeiruaku, Drew Kendall). We spoke with DePalma shortly afterward.

Asked about why he’s stayed at BC all this time, especially with a coaching transition amid his tenure, DePalma responded by talking very positively of Hafley.

“When a new coach comes in, the roster usually turns over a bit,” Depalma said. “Coach Hafley is a defensive guy so he spent a lot of time with the defensive guys. He’s a (New) Jersey guy, I’m a Jersey guy so I think we connected in that sense off the field … We’ve had the same defensive staff for four years and the coaches have been awesome.

“(Hafley) is such a great coach but also such a great person. He’s one of the more genuine guys in the business,” he continued. “He goes out of his way to talk, care about you, I wanna coach one day so we’ve been able to talk about that, and he’s really, really involved in the players’ lives. That is invaluable — not only to have a coach that wants to see you perform well but also cares about you and wants you to see you do well off the field as well. It goes a long way.”

And as for what’s next in store for DePalma, that’s still being figured out — though as mentioned in the previous quote, coaching is something the 5-foot-11 linebacker plans on doing.

“I’m not sure yet, I gotta figure that out. I’ll be in football in some way, playing or coaching,” DePalma said. “I’ll sit down after the game and try to figure it out. Pro Day, whatever it is, and I’ll go from there.”

Going for it on fourth

Going for it on fourth down has been a common theme for Boston Colege this season. It arguably put them back into the oh-so-close loss against Florida State while also giving BC memorable moments such as Sam Candotti’s fake punt, but has also obviously given teams the ball back in less-than-ideal moments — but not nearly as much as other teams have on fourth down.

BC is 28-of-37 (75%) on fourth down this season, which is actually very good — like, best in the country good. No other team in the country with 30 or more attempts surpassed 70%, and Temple was the only team in the top 10 of fourth down attempts to surpass 50%. Quite impressive from Hafley and his staff.

“It’s just been our style of play this year,” said Hafley. “I try to be very calculated on first down. I usually make the decision on first down — if you get me to such and such we’re gonna go for it … It’s really how I’ve tried to play the game for most of the year which has been different than in my past. It’s just based on who we have up front, my belief in those guys, and how I feel we need to steal some possessions and use some clock to find out the best ways to win games.

“I think sometimes I’ve been a little too risky looking back. You have to be careful because if you don’t want to turn over and if you turn the ball over your territory is points. So you can’t be reckless,” Hafley added. “I studied it a lot once the season ended.”

Game notes

  • Christian Mahogany won’t be playing, read more about that here
  • BC is wearing maroon-on-maroon for the first time in the Adidas era
  • 11am kickoff on ESPN, we’ll have live on-site coverage as always

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