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Rutgers uses ground game to rally past Boston College in opener

BOSTON — Al-Shadee Salaam scored on a 22-yard run with 2:43 to play, lifting Rutgers to a 22-21 comeback victory over Boston College on Saturday in the schools’ season openers.

Rutgers had lost the last 11 meetings against Boston College, which holds a 20-7-1 edge in the series. The Scarlet Knights found a way to win despite an ugly sequence that spanned from late in the first quarter into the early second quarter in which they started with first-and-goal at the 10 only end with a punt on fourth-and-goal from the 43. 

“They’re a young team and started the game with some young team mistakes and made some nervous errors, I guess,” Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano said. “It was a great lesson that if you can stay in the moment; that was the whole thing, trying to keep them in the moment. Eventually, we got there.”

Phil Jurkovec threw two of his three touchdown passes to Zay Flowers as BC opened a 21-12 lead midway through the third quarter before the Scarlet Knights rallied.

Aron Cruickshank had a 26-yard TD run and Kyle Monangai a 1-yarder for Rutgers.

Al-Shadee Salaam rushes for a 22-yard game-winning touchdown late in Rutgers' 22-21 comeback win over Boston College.
Al-Shadee Salaam rushes for a 22-yard game-winning touchdown late in Rutgers’ 22-21 comeback win over Boston College.

The Scarlet Knights got the ball at their own 4 with just under 8 minutes left and used 12 plays — 11 rushes and one incomplete pass — to grab the lead on Salaam’s TD when he busted through the line and into the left corner of the end zone.

“We practice this a lot,” said quarterback Gavin Wimsatt, who played the final drive. “We’ve been through it a lot. We feel like we were focused on it.”

Jude McAtamney’s 33-yard field had cut BC’s lead to 21-15.

Jurkovec, who transferred from Notre Dame before the 2020 season, went 23 of 41 for 283 yards with two interceptions. Flowers had 10 catches for 125 yards.

“That’s probably the most disheartening part is that they were able to run for 90-something yards and not throw the ball and score,” BC coach Jeff Hafley said.

After Jurkovec fumbled away a low snap that led to a TD by the Scarlet Knights, the redshirt senior found Jaden Williams in the left corner of the end zone, making it 21-12.

Monangai’s score had sliced the Eagles lead to 14-12 before Rutgers failed on the 2-point attempt.

“This is a hard one,” Hafley said. “I felt like we had every opportunity to take the game over. … I feel like every opportunity we had to put them away, we let them back into it.”

Jurkovec’s first TD to Flowers was an 11-yard, back-shoulder pass into the right corner of the end zone, making it 7-0 midway into the opening quarter. His second gave the Eagles a 14-6 lead late in the second when the speedy receiver caught the ball over the middle and raced into the end zone near the right pylon for a 26-yard score.

The takeaway

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights struggled most of the day on offense, rotating two QBs and threw for just 110 yards. It’s something they’ll need to figure out to be competitive in the Big Ten.

Boston College: The play of Jurkovec and Flowers will go a long way if the Eagles are to have their first season with more than seven victories since 2009. When they get into Atlantic Coast Conference play, teams are likely going to load up coverage against Flowers.

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