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Playing in their home state, in front of friends and family, a trio of Boston College catalysts put on a show Saturday afternoon at Georgia Tech.
Quarterback Thomas Castellanos, running back Kye Robichaux, and cornerback Amari Jackson fueled BC’s 38-23 triumph at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Eagles (4-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) outlasted the Yellow Jackets (3-4, 2-2) in a back-and-forth battle to cement their third straight victory.
“We’re turning this thing around,” said Castellanos, a native of Waycross, Ga. “Boston is back. Boston College football is back. We’re no longer the laughingstock of college football or the ACC. We’re back, and we’re rolling.”
The Eagles won the turnover and time of possession battles, and showed their versatility all game. Eight players caught at least one pass, as Boston College racked up 563 yards of offense behind brilliant line play.
Five of BC’s six games coming in had been decided by 3 points or fewer. This one appeared destined for the same, but BC showed a killer instinct and outscored Georgia Tech, 21-0, in the fourth quarter.
“It was an emphasis that we’ve been trying to work on, to finish games strong,” said Robichaux, who hails from Columbus, Ga. “Today was that game.”
The visitors held a 17-10 halftime lead, but the Yellow Jackets responded quickly in the third quarter. Castellanos drove BC into Tech territory, but Ahmari Harvey intercepted a 50/50 ball in the end zone. Tech quarterback Haynes King capitalized quickly, breaking free for a 71-yard scamper to tie it at 17 just shy of three minutes into the third.
The Eagles tried to reply, but Liam Connor missed a 47-yard field goal. After trading punts, Tech started at its own 11 and needed just eight plays to get into the end zone, when King hit Avery Boyd for a 19-yard strike. The extra point was no good, and the Yellow Jackets settled for a 23-17 lead with 2:08 left in the third quarter.
Then BC got in gear and stayed there. Castellanos found tight end George Takacs for a 27-yard gain. Moments later, Robichaux extended the ball just far enough to score from 2 yards out, and Connor nailed the PAT as the Eagles leapfrogged into a 24-23 lead with 14:24 left to play.
Eagles coach Jeff Hafley credited Robichaux (21 carries, 165 yards, 2 TDs) for wearing out opponents, and highlighted his steady improvement every week.
“Can you imagine tackling that guy late in a game?” said Hafley after his team rushed for 300-plus yards in back-to-back games for the first time since 2017. “Then you have to worry about Thomas popping off somewhere.”
The BC defense forced a punt, and Castellanos broke free for a 43-yard TD on fourth and 1 to extend the lead to 31-23 with 8:44 left. Castellanos, who led all FBS quarterbacks with 83.3 rushing yards per game coming in, finished with 128 yards and two TDs on 13 carries, while also completing 17 of 29 passes for 255 yards with one interception.
On Tech’s next possession, Elijah Jones swooped in and intercepted King at the BC 40. Robichaux busted a 57-yard run, and then scored from 3 yards out for a 15-point lead.
Jones stepped up again to put things away, picking off King again, this time at BC’s 20, with 5:42 left. BC tripled its season interception output on Saturday, while enjoying its first two-pick game by an Eagle since 2017.
The BC defense came out firing, forcing back-to-back punts to open the game. On the ensuing drive, Castellanos rolled to his left and delivered a 45-yard pass to a wide-open Robichaux. The march stalled at the Yellow Jackets’ 6, and Connor drilled a 24-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Georgia Tech answered immediately with a 10-play, 69-yard drive, with Jamal Haynes’ 16-yard run giving the hosts a 7-3 lead.
Then came the play of the day, as Jackson swatted at a King pass with his left hand, pinned it to his left hip, corralled it, and then sprinted untouched 30 yards to the end zone to give BC a 10-7 lead.
Jackson, who grew up 40 minutes from Atlanta in McDonough, Ga., provided one of the Eagles’ most significant moments of the season in front of 40 to 50 loved ones.
“It was a great feeling,” Jackson said. “We’ve been talking about this game for a while, coming back home, to put on a show and get the win for BC.”
For a defense that had just one interception coming in, it was a welcome boost.
After Tech’s Aidan Birr tied it at 10 with a 46-yard field goal with just over six minutes left in the half, Castellanos orchestrated a 13-play, 75-yard drive that spanned 5:10. He found Jeremiah Franklin for 30 yards, then weaved into the end zone from 12 yards to give the Eagles a 17-10 halftime advantage.
The Eagles welcome UConn to Chestnut Hill this coming Saturday at noon, looking to avenge last year’s demoralizing loss.
“The one thing that I know with this team is that they can go down and they don’t stop, they don’t quit,” Hafley said. “That’s different. You can see teams start fast and sizzle. Our guys don’t. They just keep going, and the fight in them is incredible.”
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