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Jeff Hafley: ‘I’m really proud of our guys … We fought’

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A disappointed Jeff Hafley walked into the postgame media session Saturday looking defeated as ever but simultaneously energized by the effort put on display by Boston College in the near upset over Florida State.

“Very disappointed, very emotional locker room,” he said. “We didn’t come to this game to be close with them, we came to win. Thought we had a really good plan, we wanted to win the time of possession, which is kind of why we played the way we did. I was gonna be very aggressive, maybe I was too aggressive on fourth down early in the game but it worked out for us.

“I felt good going into halftime and then they jumped on us, but then we fought back — I mean man, we fought all the way back. This isn’t on one player, this isn’t on a missed extra point, we’re not gonna go down that road. We had a chance to win it at the end of the game — I wanted to drag them into the fourth … I’m really proud of our guys. It was hard in the locker room, and I think this game brought them closer together. Couple of guys spoke up in the locker room after the game, and just listening it was pretty inspiring. They’re hurt, they’re upset — trust me … This can be a really good team … And it’s not that I’m upset that we lost, I am upset that we lost, but I’m just hurting for those guys, because we did have a chance.”

The offensive line was incredibly solid, minus the penalties, which created plenty of time and space for Thomas Castellanos and Co. against one of the best pass rushes in the country. Kyle Robichaux and Castellanos rushed for 159 yards combined with Castellanos making plays left and right both with his arm and legs.

“I thought our o-line did a really good job today — that group that we blocked, you don’t even wanna look at them before the game,” Hafley said. “I mean, those guys look like NFL guys across the board. The protection was really good.”

But, the main topic of discussion and discourse Saturday throughout the ballgame was the flags by BC. Hafley was heated over last week’s personal fouls and things after the whistle — one of which being Castellanos’ penalty that he made a social media post about as well as having to call the Holy Cross Athletic Director to apoligize — and the penalties weren’t necessarily things of that nature, but regardless the Eagles still racked up 18 flags, a program record.

One of their flags, a face mask at the end of the game on third down by John Pupel, costed BC the chance at a game-winning drive and exteneded the FSU drive — where they just kneeled the clock out from there; which, all BC needed was a field goal to take the lead had they gotten the ball back.

“Today was a little different. It wasn’t the post snap, personal fouls that got me really hot,” he explained. “We wanted to take as much clock as we could. And we were doing some stuff early in the game where you saw we were standing in the huddle and then kind of running to the line, so we were taking a lot of the clock. And I think it must have been this week operationally between the quarterback and the o-line with it being loud, there were some other issues there that I tried to explain to the refs, but I’m not sure that helped.

‘We cleaned it up in second half — we cleaned that part of it so we stopped doing that. Some, it’s just, young guy in there, jumping, you know. False starts, I mean, a player reaches out and tries to make a tackle at the end of the game on a face mask. We didn’t have personal fouls. We didn’t have the dumb fouls. I gotta go back and watch it but it’s too many. We gotta clean that up. But there’s a couple today, ineligible guys downfield too that I gotta see that on tape. But the guys went into halftime and they adjusted to it. I thought the staff did a good job throughout the game, I thought it was a really good plan. We could have executed it better on both levels.”

Castellanos, just his second career collegiate start, went 20-of-33 through the air throwing for 305 yards, a touchdown, though an interception while he rushed for 95 yards on 16 carries. His numbers were fantastic and he seemed to have found his way out of every hole BC was in.

“There’s some things that we gotta clean up, he’s a young kid — he’s a sophomore, it’s his second start, probably the biggest game he’s ever played in his life, so I’m proud of him. He stays composed, he’s a tough kid, he sees down the field, he made some big throws, had some big runs, and that’s a great performance. He’s gonna be a great player.”

And as to the atmosphere put on display by the BC students and fans on Red Bandana Day, Hafley was impressed.

“I thought (the atmosphere) was great,” he said. “I saw Allison Crowther (Welles’ mom), gave her a big hug, which usually brings tears to my eyes … she’s a special woman with a special son. I thought the students were great, I thought it was loud, I appreciate them, and they need to come back. Because we’re gonna get this thing going, and I think it’s the first time I’ve felt where this team believes in each other more than they did coming into this game. And I know maybe you don’t understand why, but I felt that in the locker room. So, the atmosphere was great, I’m very grateful for that, and I hope that continues.”

How does BC build on this moving forward?

“Play clean football. Be aggressive, have a great plan,” Hafley responded. “We were inches away from knocking off the No. 3 team in the country, which I don’t think BC has done — I think it’s like 0-17 versus top-four teams at home. It was an opportunity to make history, and they came together and they fought. Like, really fought at the end and came back. Had a chance to win it at the end of the game, and if you listen to them talk, they know who they just played.”

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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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