College Sports

A silver lining in BC’s latest loss was the starting debut of QB Emmett Morehead

Mark Stockwell
If Phil Jurkovec remains out with a knee injury, Emmett Morehead (above) is ready to step in again against North Carolina State. Mark Stockwell


Before quarterback Emmett Morehead made his first career start last Friday, Boston College football coach Jeff Hafley texted him and told him he believes in him, he loves him, and he wouldn’t judge him big-picture off his performance.

“He wrote back something like, ‘I really appreciate that, Coach. That means a lot. But we’re going to score a lot of points,’ ” Hafley said. “That kind of made me smile. He’s a confident kid.”

Morehead backed it up on the field, finishing 27 of 45 for 330 yards, with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions against Duke. Though the Eagles fell, 38-31, it was a promising debut for the redshirt freshman.

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Hafley reiterated that, when healthy, Phil Jurkovec is still the Eagles’ first-string quarterback. But if Jurkovec — who missed practice Tuesday with a lingering right knee injury — can’t play at North Carolina State Saturday, Morehead will get the nod again, with Matthew Rueve as the backup.

Jurkovec has had many memorable moments throughout his BC career and entered this season with a 10-6 overall record. This year, however, he has regressed, throwing eight interceptions in eight games — in large part because of BC’s young and constantly fluctuating offensive line.

Against Duke, Morehead surpassed Jurkovec’s season highs in completions, passing yards, and touchdown passes. It all came against a defense that has allowed the most TD passes in the ACC, but it was eye-opening nonetheless.

“Emmett puts a ton of off-the-field work in, that extra work that nobody sees,” freshman wide receiver Joe Griffin Jr. said. “He’s on the field throwing after every practice, working on his craft.”

Morehead became the first BC quarterback to throw four touchdown passes in his first career start since a player by the name of Doug Flutie in 1981. Hafley credited him for moving well in the pocket, keeping his eyes downfield, and extending plays. He worked with what the defense gave him.

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Morehead said he wasn’t nervous, that he approached the game like any other. His level of execution validated that sentiment. He was dependable and poised and got into a rhythm late in the second quarter.

BC (2-7, 1-5) nearly erased a 24-7 deficit, thanks to a high-octane offense that many fans expected to see when the season began.

He consistently put balls on the money to Griffin, Zay Flowers, Alex Broome, and other pass catchers. Morehead said he admires Jurkovec’s relentlessness and tried to channel that mind-set.

“I really, really respect how he plays,” Morehead said. “I think that’s something the team really wanted out of me as well, to see some fight like that. Hopefully I showed that.”

Hafley said it’s clear Morehead throws a great ball, but the coach is most impressed by his leadership and poise in the huddle. He said that if Morehead does start, the Eagles can put “more on his plate” now that he has a full game of experience.

When Hafley first discovered Morehead, a 6-foot-5-inch, 228-pound righty from Woodside, Calif., he was intrigued by how well he could throw given how little he had played. Morehead started football late compared with his peers, impressed as a junior, then had his senior season canceled because of COVID.

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“I remember watching those films at home during COVID, and you just see this big guy slinging it, coming out of his hand, making all the throws,” Hafley said. “It was really impressive, and we decided to offer him. He committed fairly quickly.”

Morehead saw limited action last year and redshirted, and he has patiently waited his turn this season. BC linebacker Bryce Steele, a teammate of Morehead’s at Episcopal High School in Virginia, remembers him nonchalantly launching the ball 60 or 70 yards as a freshman in high school. He credited him for blossoming into a leader as a redshirt freshman in college.

“He had an incredible first collegiate start, and it’s only up from here for him,” Steele said. “I’m proud of him.”

Morehead is methodical and level-headed. He thinks before he speaks and believes in his abilities. He knows it’s not his decision whether he starts, and he’s OK with that. If he does get the nod, he has no doubt that he can deliver again.

He is grateful that all the work he put in came to light against Duke. While he has bigger goals and aspirations, and desperately wanted the win, this was close to the best individual start he could have asked for.

“Whether I start or not, or play another snap this season or not, I think I’ll be very happy with being able to feel really good about the offseason work that I’ve put in and know that it’s paid off,” Morehead said.

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