BOSTON (AP) — Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi recognizes Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec from his time as a Western Pennsylvania prep phenom.
“He’s confident like he was in high school,” Narduzzi said this week as he prepares to take the Panthers on the road for the first time this year, to Chestnut Hill to face the Eagles on Saturday. “He’s exactly what you thought.”
Jurkovec has thrown for more than 300 yards in two of his first three games at BC, completing 37 passes against North Carolina on Saturday. That’s second in school history only to the 40 passes completed by Matt Ryan against Wake Forest in 2006.
It’s no surprise for those in Pittsburgh who watched Jurkovec lead Pine-Richland to a 16-0 record and the state Class 6A championship in 2017, passing for 8,202 yards and 71 touchdowns in his high school career. His 11,144 yards total yards from scrimmage are second in Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League history.
“I’ve played against a lot of (Pitt) guys (in high school),” Jurkovec said. “So it will be a little weird at first, but it’s going to be fun.”
To keep it up, Jurkovec will go against a Pitt (3-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) team that flopped last week in its bid for the program’s second 4-0 start in 20 years. The nation’s top-ranked defense let North Carolina State go the length of the field twice in the fourth quarter for the upset, the game-winning touchdown pass coming with 23 seconds to go.
“I don’t know if I’ve been in a team meeting where they were as quiet as I’ve seen, which tells me it hurts,” Narduzzi said. “I think that’s what you want as a coach.”
BC (2-1, 1-1) is also coming off its first loss. The Eagles had a chance to tie the game against then-No. 12 North Carolina after Jurkovec drove them for a touchdown with 45 seconds left. But his 2-point conversion attempt was intercepted by Trey Morrison and returned for a score.
A week earlier, BC fell behind Texas State — a three-touchdown underdog — by 14 points before scoring 17 straight points to win.
“What you saw, you saw Phil play a more complete football game, start to finish,” BC coach Jeff Hafley said after the 26-22 loss to the Tar Heels. “He’s got a chance to be a special player. He’s going to learn, and he’s going to go through some ups and downs this year.”
Here are some other things to look for in Saturday’s game:
Hafley spent some time in Pittsburgh as an assistant coach on Dave Wannstedt’s staff from 2006-10, working with current BC offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti the last two of those seasons.
Hafley said he could talk for hours about his memories from Pittsburgh and noted that it’s where he met his wife, Gina.
“Let’s keep that on top,” he said.
As for football memories, he said it was probably beating No. 2 West Virginia 13-7 in the 2007 season finale. He also listed coaches he worked with on the Pitt staff, including current assistant head coach Charlie Partridge.
“Guys who influenced and changed my life, truthfully, because without them I wouldn’t be here right now,” Hafley said. “Some of the greatest people I met.”
Jurkovec isn’t the only quarterback in Saturday’s game who’s been lighting it up so far this season. Pitt QB Kenny Pickett leads the ACC with 1,123 passing yards and is coming off a career-best 411 yards against N.C. State.
In fact, only Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence (282.7 yards per game) has been more productive than Pickett (280.8) and Jurkovec (274.3).
The game also features the conference’s two top pass-catchers: BC tight end Hunter Long (25 receptions, 90 yards per game) and Pitt receiver D.J. Turner (319 receiving yards).
One of Boston College’s problems against North Carolina was penalties. The Eagles committed 12 of them for 110 yards on Saturday, including five false starts.
“They were drive killers,” Hafley said. “It’s third-and-1 and we’re going backwards?”
The game also got a little chippy after Long took a hard hit going across the field in the first quarter. The hit was legal, but North Carolina players could be heard cheering when he remained on the turf.
“We’ve got a guy hurt, and they’re cheering,” Hafley could be heard as saying on the broadcast from the empty stadium.
In the third quarter, BC was called for 15-yard penalties on three straight plays — pass interference, unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecessary roughness — moving the Tar Heels from their own 37 to the Eagles’ 18.
“It can’t happen,” Hafley said. “We need to do a better job of cleaning that up and we will.”
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