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BC football: The optimists are paranoid and the pessimists feel guilty

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They are making us daffy, the BC Eagles are. They make this minute’s hot take the next minute’s bad take. They are the classic Churchillian “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

Who are they, really? The kids who exasperate us with 39 penalties in three games? The kids who spit in the eye of fourth-quarter deficits? The kids who grab facemasks, jump offside and lose their minds? The kids who amassed 457 yards of offense against the No. 3 team in the country?

The answer is yes.

The Eagles are a roadside billboard advertising that more than one thing can be true at the same time. It is absolutely absolute that there are no absolutes about BC football, 2023.

“It was obviously disappointing that we lost, but it showed us we’re a very good football team,” linebacker Kam Arnold told the assembled media after Saturday’s agonizing loss to Florida State. “There’s not a team on our schedule that we can’t beat. If anything, that should boost our confidence and have us attack our schedule full steam ahead.”

Arnold is correct. Now that Florida State has passed, there is no team remaining the Eagles cannot defeat. Now for the “two things can be true at the same time” thing. There’s no team to which BC cannot lose, either. 

This is what would happen should they repeat Saturday’s first half of five false starts, two delays of game, two holding calls, a personal foul and a pass interference. Remember, too, that FSU declined three others. BC actually committed 14 penalties in the first half, one week after coach Jeff Hafley addressed the issue passionately.

So many questions here.

Why are there so many penalties pre snap?

Can a lack of discipline get fixed?

How did it arrive in the first place?

“You can blame officials all you want, but the number of penalties BC is committing illustrates a lack of fundamentals from the coaching staff,” ESPN’s Dave Pasch said during Saturday’s game, unloading unusual candor from the broadcast booth.

Yet just when you want to hammer Hafley and his players for creating unnecessary duress, you credit them for not allowing their foibles to deter them. To wit: They erased a 14-point deficit against Northern Illinois in the fourth quarter, forced a fumble in overtime facing the fright of losing to Holy Cross and rallied from 21 down Saturday.

Again: Who are these guys?

Right now, they are the team that makes the optimist feel paranoid and the pessimist feel guilty. The optimist wants to see a dynamo in Thomas Castellanos, a bulldozer in Kye Robichaux and the general feeling that if you can gain 457 yards on Florida State you can gain 457 yards against anybody. The pessimist who wanted Hafley fired at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday has pangs of guilt after seeing a dynamo in Thomas Castellanos, a bulldozer in Kye Robichaux and the general feeling that if you can gain 457 yards on Florida State you can gain 457 yards against anybody.

But then they both meet in the middle, understanding that all the hope and wonder of what potentially exists here gets wiped out at any moment by five false starts, two delays of game, two holding calls, a personal foul and a pass interference.

Let the record show that BC’s 19 unanswered points in the second half Saturday came penalty free, at least until John Pupel, the kid who won the game by forcing the fumble in overtime last week, committed the killer facemask penalty. Still, the overarching theme: See what happens when you play penalty free?

But can they play penalty free? Are they truly capable or is a general lack of discipline in the DNA of this particular group? Remember: They’ve been flagged more than 40 times overall in three games at home. What happens when they go on the road? Guess we’ll all find out Saturday in Louisville.

Meantime, two things are sure about the BC Eagles of 2023: The next time we see Castellanos running free, look behind him to make sure there’s no flag on the field. And issue a hot take at your own risk. This minute’s exasperation could be the next minute’s celebration.

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Basketball

DiMauro: All in all, a solid year for BC sports

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If you are reading this, chances are your primary means of remaining connected to Boston College runs through athletics.

Oh, and we’ve been tortured souls, too, especially in recent years. We are idealists and fatalists, demanding yet forgiving, loyal and resilient, even if sometimes it feels as though we make the long trek up the cliff to Lovers Leap … only to get shoved.

All of which makes the sports year of 2023-24 a time to celebrate. Boston College did itself proud, no small occurrence given that in this unsteady (perverse?) time of expansion and realignment, schools like BC must always look their Sunday best, with no overt warts or love handles.

Women’s lacrosse, BC’s working definition of pride and joy, capped the sports season with the national championship Memorial Day weekend in Cary, NC. It was the program’s second natty in four years, a three-hour infomercial for the entire institution and more proof that, yes, it can be done at BC with the right coach.

Acacia Walker-Weinstein – you’ll note that only the letter “W” separates her from “Einstein” – not only hung a banner, but helped BC earn a distinction few other athletic programs in the country could trumpet. How many other schools made national championship games (both televised by ESPN) in two different sports fewer than two months apart?

Think about that one: Men’s hockey, during an otherwise memorable season, fell short in the national championship game. But the Sons of Greg Brown did the school proud all season. Not a bad accomplishment to see “BC in the national finals” on the ESPN scroll in mid-April (hockey) and late May (lacrosse). It’s hard to buy that kind of advertising, particularly when and if realignment and expansion happen again.

Football won a bowl game over a ranked team at Fenway Park, returns a dynamo in Thomas Castellanos and then made the splash of a cannonball, hiring Bill O’Brien as head coach. Three other women’s sports showed promise as well: field hockey (11-7, made the ACC Tournament); softball (30-24, made the ACC Tournament) and volleyball, which continues to improve steadily under coach Jason Kennedy, finished 19-13 and made the ACC Tournament.

Otherwise, baseball gets a pass as new coach Todd Interdonato assimilates to the ACC and establishes his culture; the soccer programs (3-9-5 and 3-9-6) were lousy; and I remain concerned about men’s and women’s basketball. Put it this way: Sure feels as though better players are leaving than are entering.

Off the field, “Friends Of The Heights,” BC’s Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) collective, grew massively, keeping BC competitive in a cutthroat environment. Friends Of The Heights also homered into the upper deck, hiring veteran athletic administrator Jim Paquette as its new Chief Development Officer. Paquette will advise the Board on overall development strategies, using his 16 years as an administrator at BC that specialized in fundraising.

BC’s overall cachet also made a splash on social media when Forbes Magazine named it one of the country’s “New Ivies.”

Based on its researchForbes, the century-old national business magazine, reported that American companies are souring on hiring Ivy League graduates, instead preferring high achievers from 20 other prominent universities – “Private and Public New Ivies.”

BC joins private school “New Ivies” Carnegie Mellon, Emory, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Rice, Notre Dame, Southern California and Vanderbilt. Ah, to be judged by the company one keeps.

One school year hasn’t produced this much for BC in years. And it’s significant. The idea now is to build, not regress.

Full disclosure: There are many things I still don’t like. I’m told Father Leahy neither attended the Frozen Four nor the lacrosse Final Four. It is disrespectful to the players, coaches and alumni to have a leader who acts as if so much about what makes BC great is beneath him. And we still seem to have these spasms of tone deafness, such as patrolling the parking lots like stormtroopers the day of the spring football game.

But 2023-24 was an encouraging year for BC in many ways. Yes, we always want more. But we were getting less for a long time. Not this year. A tip of the cap to athletic director Blake James, his staff, the coaches and the kids.

We pause now to enjoy summer and await Labor Day night in Tallahassee. Here’s to 2024-25, hollering “Mr. Brightside” again with the kids from the crowded bleachers.

Mike DiMauro, a columnist in Connecticut, is a contributor to Eagles Daily and a member of BC’s Class of 1990. He may be reached at m.dimauro@theday.com or @BCgenius 

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Football

Boston College lineman Kyle Hergel selected 3rd overall in CFL draft

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The former Eagles guard was not selected in last week’s NFL draft, but quickly heard his name yesterday in the 2024 CFL draft, going 3rd overall to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Hergel, who spent one year at Boston College after transferring from Texas State. The guard was a huge success in helping transform the offensive line play in 2023, gaining the best PFF pass block grade at Boston College (86.6) with no sacks allowed and two quarterback hits on 402 dropbacks. This was good enough to earn All-ACC honorable mention and a trip to the East-West shrine game.

Recently signing with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent following the 2024 NFL draft, Hergel will seemingly look to catch on in the NFL this summer before trekking north of the boarder to play for the Roughriders.

John Pupel gets Patriots rookie camp invite

The former safety will travel to nearby Foxboro, Ma as an invite to Patriots rookie camp. After beginning his college career at Dartmouth, Pupel joined the Eagles in 2022. Starting 11 games last year with 81 tackles, a pack break up and a forced fumble.

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Football

Boston College’s Elijah Jones and Christian Mahogany drafted, others signed: Eagles Draft Weekend Recap

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It was a rather successful weekend for Boston College in the NFL Draft, as both Elijah Jones and Christian Mahogany were taken while guard Kyle Hergel inked a UDFA deal. In addition, longtime and former BC notables Jaelen Gill and Josh DeBerry have received UDFA deals.

Jones – The first Eagle off the board this year, Jones went 90th overall in the third round to the Arizona Cardinals. He missed the final three games of the season for undisclosed reasons but had a big year that shot up his draft stock with a conference-best five interceptions while also defending 13 passes. As a member of the 2018 recruiting class, the corner tallied 60 games at BC and racked up a First-team All-ACC selection this past year.

Jones’ 86.9 defensive PFF grade was the sixth-best in the draft class out of corners and he was the 11th cornerback off the board for the Eagles.

Mahogany – Mahogany sat out of the bowl game and had some noticeable buzz surrounding his name entering the draft, but the guard fell to the sixth round to the Detroit Lions. Mahogany missed most of the 2022 season after an ACL injury but came back fully healthy for 2023, posting the 16th-best total PFF grade out of guards in the draft class.

Mahogany fell further than many, with many projections putting him as a Day 2 pick, but given he’s 24 and his scouting reports present some clear downside, it’s not all that shocking that he fell all the way to the sixth round.

Hergel – Hergel didn’t exactly have any buzz surrounding his name but he managed to grab a UDFA deal with the Saints. He was a four-year starter between North Dakota and Texas State before he was a fifth-year transfer to BC, and he put up a solid enough season to get signed.

DeBerry – DeBerry signed on with the Cowboys, as he transferred to Texas A&M for his fifth year after four seasons with the Eagles. He was a big loss for BC’s secondary, as he started seven games this year for the Aggies and grabbed two interceptions.

Gill – Gill put up huge numbers for Fresno State this past year after three seasons with BC. After an initial start to his career at Ohio State, he transferred to the Eagles ahead of the 2020 season and through three years he put up 1,092 yards. He put up basically half of that in just one year with the Bulldogs, tallying 516 yards on 49 catches and six touchdowns.

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