College Sports

BC’s Emmett Morehead made a statement in his first start, but the defense couldn’t hold up against Duke

Making his first start in place of an injured Phil Jurkovec, redshirt freshman Emmett Morehead threw for four touchdowns and more than 300 yards. Barry Chin/Globe Staff


 

 

“This game to me, I really felt the same throughout the week,” Morehead said. “My preparation was the same, as it’s always been.”

Morehead did everything he could, but this marked the fourth straight loss for the struggling Eagles (2-7, 1-5 Atlantic Coast Conference), who fell to UConn for the first time last week. Opponents have outscored the Eagles 125-52 during that span, as their season has unraveled since a one-point win over Louisville on Oct. 1.

There were some bright spots Friday, highlighted by the play of Morehead and freshman Joe Griffin Jr. (5 catches, 103 yards, 2 TDs) and Alex Broome (74 total yards), but the Blue Devils (6-3, 3-2 ACC) had too much firepower.

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Duke struck first when quarterback Riley Leonard broke free for a 60-yard scamper three minutes into the game. BC coach Jeff Hafley said he addressed the slow start defensively against UConn, yet Friday was more of the same.

“It seems like we’ve been taking a drive to settle in,” linebacker Vinny DePalma said. “That’s on us as players.”

BC responded four minutes later, as Morehead hit Zay Flowers for a 2-yard touchdown to tie the score at 7. Duke’s Todd Pelino drilled a 39-yard field goal four minutes after that for a 10-7 edge through one quarter.

Boston College was in danger of letting the game spiral before Morehead found Griffin Jr. for a 2-yard score with 50 seconds remaining in the first half. They’ve developed a rapport early in their careers, and Hafley said “the connection looked real.”

The Eagles looked flat and out of sorts defensively to start the second as well, as Duke extended its lead on a 7-yard rush from Jordan Waters. Sahmir Hagans added an 8-yard TD reception, as the lead ballooned to 24-7.

Boston College was in danger of letting the game slip away entirely before Morehead found Griffin Jr. for a 2-yard score with 50 seconds remaining in the first half.

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The Eagles had regained momentum, but Duke took a 24-14 edge into halftime after dominating the possession battle, 18:07 to 11:53. The Blue Devils outgained BC, 254-145, in total yards and averaged 7.4 yards per carry.

BC’s shorthanded offensive line had its hands full. A unit that has been decimated by injuries lost Nick Thomas and Jude Bowry for Friday’s game and potentially longer.

Duke pushed the margin to 31-14 on a 24-yard rush from Jaquez Moore early in the third, then BC answered with an 18-yard strike to Flowers. He wiggled his way past multiple defenders to slice the deficit to 31-21 through three.

“We were down 17, and it could have gotten ugly,” Hafley said. “At times it felt that way, but our guys fought. They really fought.”

Morehead, who became the first Eagle to throw four TD passes in his first career start since at least 1981, was poised and didn’t try to do too much, taking what the defense gave him and making simple play rather than reaching for spectacular ones.

Hafley praised Morehead for his poise and leadership but wasn’t ready to name him the starter moving forward.

“I think that’s a fair question,” Hafley said. “Phil’s hurt right now, so there’s no decision. Phil’s our starter, and Emmett did a really good job tonight.”

Early in the fourth quarter, Moore delivered again, from 2 yards out, to extend the cushion to 17 once again. Tackling haunted the Eagles much of the night.

Dino Tomlin helped BC move downfield on the ensuing drive, then Morehead connected with Griffin for a 26-yard score to make it 38-28 with 12:07 left. Morehead called Griffin a “freak athlete” and said there isn’t a corner who can match his 6-4 stature.

“He looked like one of the best players on the field tonight,” Hafley said of Griffin. “That was impressive to watch. I think it shows you a pretty bright future with those two, which is exciting.”

BC tacked on a field goal in the final minute, but ran out of time.

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