Boston College will play old regional rival Holy Cross.


Boston College needs a bounce-back game in a big way.

The Eagles rallied from 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter only to flatline on both sides of the ball in overtime during last Saturday’s 27-24 loss to Northern Illinois in the season opener at Alumni Stadium.

The mathematical truth is that 50 percent of teams lose in the first week. But the vast majority of the teams that are favored to win their opener, as a rule, generally do.

BC should not have allowed a team with the second-worst record in the MAC in 2022 to enter an ACC domain and exit the field feeling good about themselves.

The Eagles have a strategically scheduled opportunity to reverse course when they engage long-time regional rival Holy Cross (1-0) on Saturday (noon) at Alumni Stadium.

“First you look hard at last week’s game and you recap the things you did well and you recap the missed opportunities, the penalties and you’ve got to fix it,” said BC head coach Jeff Hafley.

“We have to make it about ourselves first. There were multiple opportunities to make plays and we have to make those plays. We practice them and we have to make them in the game. There is obviously some stuff we have to do better coaching.”

The Eagles suffered a similar heartbreaking loss in last year’s opener and never recovered from it en route to a 3-9 mark, the only losing season on Hafley’s watch. Rutgers mounted a 12-play, 96-yard, scoring drive late in the fourth quarter to secure a 22-21 victory. The bad OT loss to NIU reopened that old Rutgers’ wound.

“I think it is a little different this time,” said Hafley. “When you put on the (NIU) tape, there were so many plays we left out there.

“There were 10 or 12 of them out there and our guys are capable of making those plays, they have done them. Then you show them the plays they did make and there needs to be more consistency. It is still a confident group.”

The late rally was orchestrated by Thomas Castellanos, a 5-10, 190-pound, sophomore dual-threat quarterback who made his BC debut on the Eagles’ third possession.

The transfer from Central Florida replaced Emmett Morehead, an accomplished incumbent with ACC experience. Castellanos began the comeback with a 2-yard scoring run to make it 21-14 with 5:59 to play.

Castellanos completed the comeback in regulation with a 30-yard throw to Jaden Williams with 1:44 remaining. He finished 13 completions for 138 yards with two touchdowns and one costly interception. Despite taking the majority of the snaps, Hafley was not ready to name Castellanos the starter against Holy Cross.

“We have an idea but I am not going to go down there yet but there will be a time when we let you know,” said Hafley. “We thought they both deserved to play and we wanted to see how they both would play.

“Obviously Thomas played more and I though he did some good things with his legs and made some nice throws. For the first time him playing, I thought he did some really good things.”

A Cross to bear

The Holy Cross Crusaders are not your average FCS program. The Crusaders enjoyed a historic run in 2022 by going undefeated in the regular season, winning a fourth straight Patriot League title, and then advanced to the quarterfinal round of the FCS playoffs with a school record 12 wins.

Holy Cross had 11 preseason All-Patriot League selections and five preseason FCS All-American picks on the gridiron when it beat Merrimack, 42-20, in the season opener on Saturday at Fitton Field

Hafley began his career at the Division II level at Worcester Polytech in 2001 and followed that with five years in the FCS at Albany.

“They are a really good team and last year they had a heck of a run,” said Hafley. “I coached at that level and we played teams at the FBS level. You get good players and they stay there and you get a lot out of them. They play with a chip on their shoulders.”

Dirty dozen

Graduate Vinny DePalma, a six-year veteran of the program, is a thinking man’s MIKE linebacker who plays the position from different locations along the Eagles’ front seven.

DePalma was the dominant defensive presence in the NIU game on either side. He finished with six solo tackles and six assists against a team that rushed the ball 48 times. Defensive end Donovan Ezeiruaku was second on the team with eight tackles and one tackle for a loss.

“He’s our middle linebacker but sometimes it might look based on motion or shifts that he is on the outside,” said Hafley. “Vinny played a solid game, tackled really well, communicated really well and just what you would expect.”

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