LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- The game was there for the taking. Louisville trailed Boston College only 20-13 late in the third quarter and the Eagles had just lost their starting quarterback, Phil Jurkovec, and their battering ram running back David Bailey to injuries.
But typical of what has happened throughout a bitterly disappointing season, the Cards (3-7, 2-7 ACC) were in a giving mood again and couldn't take advantage, leaving Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Mass., Saturday night with a 34-27 defeat.
And if you have followed UofL's sagging football fortunes all year, you can probably guess the factor that played a big role in the loss. Yes, turnovers. The Cards entered the game with 18 of them according to the NCAA statistics and 21 by the school's count. Either way, they are now last in the country after committing three more against BC (6-4, 5-4).
The final one came at midfield as the Cards were trying to mount a last-gasp, game-winning drive. BC sent a seven-man pass rush at quarterback Malik Cunningham and his attempt was batted up in the air and landed in the hands of defensive end Shitta Illlah at the 1:42 mark. Game over.
UofL also lost two fumbles -- one each by running back Hassan Hall and wide receiver Tutu Atwell -- that led to 10 points for the winners.
UofL coach Scott Satterfield called the last turnover a fluke. I call it business as usual. So does Cunningham.
"Turnovers have put us behind the eight ball all year," he said. "They kill drives, kill momentum and put a lot of pressure on us."
UofL fell behind 34-20 with 4:36 remaining when backup quarterback Dennis Grossel threw the second of two touchdown passes, this one a 21-yarder to Jaklani Galloway.
But on Louisville's first play following the kickoff, Dez Fitzpatrick gave his team new life by taking a screen pass from Cunningham and racing down the left sideline for a 69-yard touchdown. When the defense forced BC into a three-and-out, an offense that had moved the ball well got another chance, but its nemesis struck again.
"It might be guys pressing," Fitzpatrick said. "We’re all playmakers, and we want to make plays, but sometimes it’s not a smart play. Sometimes we can’t be Superman; we’ve just got to do our one part. That’s something we’ve got to learn."
Cunningham nearly willed UofL to victory single-handedly, accounting for 424 of his team's 493 yards. He completed 19-of-31 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 133 yards on 17 carries.
In addition to turnovers the Cards also had other problems. BC came into the game No. 116 nationally in rushing with an average of 104 yards per game, yet was able to rack up 188 yards on the ground, much of it up the middle where it was able to exploit the absence of nose guard Jared Goldwire and backup Desmond Tell, who were out with injuries.
Jurkovec was successful in the passing game, too, throwing for 200 yards before he left with a knee injury. And Grossel, who came off the bench and threw for three touchdowns in a 41-39 loss to UofL last season, didn't miss a beat even though he had thrown just one pass all season. He completed 4-of-7 and two of them went for TDs, the first on an 11-yarder to C>J. Lewis that gave BC a 27-13 cushion early in the third quarter. The 6-1 junior also gained 49 yards on just two carries.
UofL struggled to get touchdowns in the red zone, too, settling instead for field goals of 24 and 44 yards after driving to the six and 19, respectively.
"I thought our guys played hard all the way to the end and gave ourselves a chance there on the last drive," Satterfield said. "We felt we could have scored. I think overall we moved the ball great, I thought Malik played well. Again it comes back to the turnovers. Our losses have been turnovers. The first one, Tutu just tried to tuck the football, something he's done 10,000 times in his life and the ball just comes out.
And Hassan was trying to get extra yards and the guy strips him.
"Another key was when we get down in the red zone we need to score touchdowns instead of field goals. That was big. But at the end of the day it comes back to not protecting the football. But I was proud of our guys for fighting all the way to the end. We just came up a little short."
UofL will now be idle for three weeks before ending the season at home against Wake Forest on Dec. 19.
BURKLEY OUT--Satterfield announced before the game that starting running back Maurice Burkley would miss the BC game and is out for the rest of the season with an injury. The redshirt senior and former walk-on had gained 180 yards with one touchdown this year, moving into a starting role for two games when Javian Hawkins opted out and Hall was also unavailable.
Hall started against the Eagles and Jalen Mitchell also saw action. They combined for 74 yards on 17 carries. Mitchell scored on a 2-yard run.
Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at email@example.com.